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Nantouhe Sesame Oil in Meinong/美濃「南頭河」芝麻油

 

Nantouhe Sesame Oil in Meinong

◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi 


  Nantouhe is a sesame oil mill that has been a trusted supplier of high quality sesame oil to Meinong residents for generations. This family business is currently managed by the fourth-generation owner, Mr. Wu Jheng-sian.

  It surprises many that this oil mill has been a side business for all four generations of owners; each handed over the business to the following generation only when their successors promised to always run the business with dignity. The key stipulation is that everything must be done by the book; no short cuts are allowed. If the business cannot be sustained this way, then it should be closed. Mr. Wu's full-time job covers the family's living expenses, and so his main aim when producing sesame oil is not to make money, but to keep memories alive.

  In the old days, many of Meinong's youngsters left the town to seek a better future elsewhere. When they departed, they always took a couple of bottles of sesame oil with them. Mr. Wu says that he has been watching his father make oil since he was a child, and his childhood memories mostly feature the oil mill, a place where everything was a glossy black, polished by layers of oil. The business was supposed to go to his second elder brother, but he died unexpectedly, around the time their father suffered a stroke. He was faced with a choice of picking up the torch, or closing the shop. He chose the former because he simply could not allow a 130-year-old family business to die in his hands. Nor could he bear the thought of dis-appointing the old customers who continue to buy their oil from the shop. Because he works outside Meinong, he spends his weekends in his hometown making sesame oil.

  The Wu family makes their oil semi-manually using the cold press method. This is to avoid any elements that could ruin the quality. Mr. Wu says each batch requires 50 kg (110 lbs) of sesame seeds, and it takes about 3 kg (6.6 lbs) of seeds to produce 600g (1.3 lb) of oil. Not only that, tremendous precision and experience are required.

  The first step is roasting the sesame. This is where you can tell if someone is a true master: If the seeds are overcooked, the whole wok is ruined. If they are undercooked, the signature aroma of sesame does not come out. Throughout the process of roasting, Mr. Wu keeps taking a small pinch of seeds and rubbing them between his fingers to determine if they are ready. When the sesame seeds are roasted to Mr. Wu's satisfaction, the next step is spreading them out on the ground so they can cool quickly, and not be overcooked by residual heat which may turn them bitter. Unlike the bold richness of the finished product, the production process is actually very subdued. At the beginning, a mere hint of sesame scent swirls delicately in the air; this comes to full bloom as the process approaches completion. When the seeds have cooled, they are milled and then steamed in a double boiler at about 60–70 degrees Celsius (140–158 degrees Fahrenheit), as this significantly increases the amount of oil that can be produced. After that, the ground sesame is made into flat, round cakes which are wrapped in pieces of cotton. These are piled up in an oil press, and sesame oil slowly oozes out as pressure is applied.

  Mr. Wu says the sesame oil he makes is not only fragrant, but has a superior taste. He says he has really given his all to keep this family business running, and has been instructing his nephew in the art of sesame oil making. The boy is his sister's son, and is currently in junior high school. Mr. Wu says he hopes to install a sense of identity with the oil business in his nephew. The boy can now tie up sesame cakes with precise and practiced moves; his palms and the bottom of his feet are tinted black by sesame oil, a stamp that marks his inheritance. The torch is slowly being passed down to the next generation, which certainly comforts Wu Jheng-sian's father, who always sits aside watching them making sesame oil.

   Nantouhe Sesame Oil 07-6814795       


美濃「南頭河」芝麻油

◎文/侯雅婷

 

  美濃「南頭河」是當地人信賴的芝麻油油行,現由第四代吳政賢接棒經營。吳家四代製油皆為副業,製油態度始終嚴謹,長輩告誡子孫,製油得循規蹈矩,不得動手腳,做不好就收起來。吳政賢直言,他的正職工作足夠支付家用開銷,販售芝麻油營利不是首要考量,而是多了一份鄉愁。從前美濃子弟外出打拼,總會帶幾瓶芝麻油,他談起,自幼看著父親製油,童年是在黑壓壓的製油廠渡過,在面臨原本繼承製油家業的二哥驟逝和父親中風,他不捨家族傳承130年的製油事業中斷,也不忍上門買油的老主顧空手而歸,於是在外地工作的他,週末回家製作芝麻油。

  吳家採半手工、近低溫的方法製油,避免破壞芝麻油品質。吳政賢說,一次製作50公斤芝麻,每5台斤芝麻僅能製成1台斤的油,且製油工序每個環節都得到位。先炒芝麻,炒芝麻可是師父功,火候全憑經驗,炒過頭了整鍋芝麻都付之一炬,倘若炒得不足,芝麻香氣又出不來,炒的過程中不時得捻著芝麻,觀察芝麻熟度,由於每家油行炒芝麻的手法不同,芝麻油也會呈現略為不同的風味,之後得迅速將炒好的芝麻鋪在地面散熱,避免芝麻呈現苦味,讓人有些意外的是,製作時空氣中瀰漫著芝麻細緻的香氣,麻油香味在濃郁和細緻間轉換著,呈現豐富的層次,冷卻後再將芝麻碾碎,使其製作芝麻餅時較結實,再隔水加熱至60~70度,蒸煮碾碎的芝麻,提高出油率,蒸煮後的芝麻綑成紮紮實實的芝麻餅,再將芝麻餅置於炸油機上,慢慢瀝出芝麻油來。

  吳政賢表示,他們家的芝麻油不僅聞起來很香,吃到嘴裡更是香氣四溢。他們戰戰兢兢地經營著家族的百年產業,他邊做、邊教導姊姊就讀國中的孩子,希望建立姪子對製油的認同感,只見大孩子捆著芝麻餅架式十足、毫不含糊,而手上和腳底沾上芝麻油的那一抹黑,正是傳承的印記。薪火相傳讓吳家週末飄起陣陣麻油香,寬慰了靜靜坐在一旁關注的老父親。

   「南頭河」芝麻油 07-6814795