Tuesday, February 2, 2010

mud ovens and squid balls

This past weekend I had the privilege of experiencing an authentic rural Taiwanese barbecue.  Not knowing that it would take place in the middle of an old rice paddy in Hsinchu County, I donned a casual dress and hoodie (dress not a good choice) and headed off with my friend and his friends to enjoy the beautiful sunny day.

As we approached the site, I felt a little trepidation as I saw a bunch of people clustered around a grill near some fields, all staring at the newcomers pulling up in the van.  Number one, my Chinese is bad.  Number two, my Chinese is bad. Number three, I only knew one person.

Nevertheless I had a nice time.  Though I was a little quiet, and understood little of what was being said (I did eavesdrop and catch a few random things here and there) everyone was very nice and some people went out of their way to throw in the random English word or joke here which was very kind.  I also got to witness something very cool...a unique way of barbecuing.

How it seemed to work:

Parts of the field were dug up with a hoe and constructed into mud ovens.  After heating them for some time, various foods wrapped in tin foil were added to holes in the center of the ovens.  The foods included yams, corn, chicken, and fish.  Eggs wrapped in tin foil and sealed in mud were also placed inside.  After this, everyone stomped on the top of the ovens, crushing the dirt down to seal the heat around the food.  I contributed a stomp or two as well.:)

The food was then left to heat for two hours.  Unfortunately something went awry and the tinfoil around the chicken and fish melted, leaving mud covered, charred chicken and fish.  Sadly.:(

However, the vegetables and eggs turned out well and I enjoyed some mud baked corn and part of a yam.  I also have a new favorite food...squid balls on a stick.  Normally, I loathe the squid here.  That could be partially due to the presentation...most places I've seen just stick the whole creature on a skewer and cook it.

However, barbecued squid balls are very tasty and I couldn't eat enough of them.  It was a great day and I'm glad I had the chance to witness a  rural tradition and meet some nice people.  Some pictures:








Totally inappropriate attire to be doing this type of work but



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