Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A-tai introduces us to Chia-yi


A-tai came to pick us up on Sat. morning at 9:00am to take us on a tour of the area. The first thing A-tai showed us was the building that marks the Tropic of Cancer. It looks like a museum, but we didn’t get out of the car to explore it because of the rain.  There was also a "bridge" that followed the actual line of the tropic latitude. Very cool.

Marker for the Tropic of Cancer (picture taken on a subsequent sunny day)

A-tai then took us to a popular place on the edge of town that used to be the sugar cane factory. Now it’s a historical place that explains the industry with a museum and outdoor activities. It also has a little open-air store like Tom’s Farms in CA or the Apple Orchard in MN that sells many products.  Its specialty is ice cream. We didn’t go in the museum, but we did get ice cream.

Factory floor at Singform

We then went to SF where A-tai and Jane showed the guys around the plant, and I tagged along. I got to see them coating the carpet with the vinyl backing. That was a process that Harry outsourced, so I had never seen it done. It was very interesting! The guys walked around the prospective area where the machines will be installed and talked about their concerns and plans. It is going to be a huge project. Mike was quite overwhelmed. He doesn’t want to come back after Chinese New Year, so that means he and Donnie need to be done with their part of the project in 3 weeks. It really does seem impossible. Time will tell. The men were all about the job they had ahead of them, while I enjoyed watching the making of carpet matting.

Once everyone seemed satisfied they had seen everything they needed to see, we hopped back in the car and went to have lunch at a local place where they make good dumplings, a favorite Taiwanese dish. This time Jane did the ordering. Apparently you choose the number of dumplings everyone in your party wants and mark it on the order slip. Jane and A-tai said they eat 20 each. Based on that, I said 10 for me. The other choice to mark was beef or pork. I chose pork. In all, they ordered 100 dumplings, some beef and some pork! While the dumplings were being made by the lady of the establishment in the kitchen at the front of this sidewalk restaurant, we went to the condiment counter to choose the kind of sauces we would like with our dumplings. Soy was the only one I recognized and the only one that didn’t look spiced with peppers. I filled my tiny saucer with soy sauce while the others made several selections each.

When we returned to our table, we had no sooner sat down than a waitress came with a heaping communal plate of cooked vegetables. I would call them generically “greens.” I did recognize one that I was curious about. We had seen it at a street vendor the day before. When whole, this vegetable is shaped like a large cucumber but its peeling is rows of “bumps”. On this platter, there were cooked slices that were obviously from this vegetable because they had those very distinctive bumps. Ironically, I looked up at the TV in the restaurant and there was a lady demonstrating how to cut, core and slice this vegetable. I tasted it. It didn’t have much taste, but it sure looked cool. I think I now know everything about this vegetable except its name.

I took A-tai and Jane literally when they said they were taking us out for dumplings, thinking that the dumplings would be the meal. Then the plate of vegetables was brought out. Next came the soup. I drank the broth of the soup and left the tofu pieces that looked like chicken. You can’t fool me…anything that looks like meat and is chopped in perfect cubes is tofu, not chicken.

Finally, the dumplings arrived on 2 huge platters; one beef, one pork. They were bite-sized dough wrapped around a piece of meat and boiled…dumplings. I dipped some of mine in the soy sauce I had gotten from the condiment counter and also ate some plain.

Donnie Gray; dumplings are white, piled on the far platter.

I ate almost the entire 10 dumplings that I had ordered. They were good, and I felt good about liking them. Apparently the beef was not as good as the pork because there were many, many left on the platter at the end of the meal. Dumplings are a very common Taiwanese food…and I like them!

A-tai had been a wonderful tour guide today introducing us to all of Chia-yi county!

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