Sunday, June 2, 2013

Puli Water Bamboo

Beautiful Mishimae inlet where I marked sheaves of growing water bamboos as mine.
Alas, I haven't time to crop up as yet! (#07-1348)
三島江の玉江のこもを標めしより己がとぞ思う いまだ刈らねど - 万葉集

She suggested Mishimae Inlet journey for water bamboos.
Hurray, she might have got the thing in me! (#11-2766)
三島江の入江のこもを刈りにこそ 吾をば君は思いたりけれ - 万葉集

You've probably heard about Hakka*1) and Hakka cuisine in Southern Asia, especially in Guangdon, Fujian, Taiwan, Singapore. They are Han Chinese, but speak Hakka Chinese, a subdivision language of Chinese. Taiwan Toastmasters have an independent Taiwanese Speech Contest in a variant of the Hakka language, resembling other variants of Hakka spoken in other parts of the world but differs vastly in terms of pronunciation.

Hakka, "Keijia" in Mandarin, literally means guest families, whose ancestors immigrated out of China and settled wherever they are now. During my April trip to Puli, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Taichung to see Jelly Fig farms *2) accompanied by my Taichung friends,I was treated at Ya-Zhou, one of the famous local Hakka restaurants, which was very close to the famous Puli Brewery *3), the sightseers' spot.

Chang Meili suggested that I order "Makomo", popular Puli produced water bamboo or water oats. The scientific name is zizania latifolia. Puli is known for the quality of its water, as is the capital of Taiwan, Shaosingjiu.

I was served half a dozen fat Makomo served on a bamboo basket. I enjoyed them, peeling green skins, eating a mouthful of white roots. I remembered that I picked up the unique city brochure (see photo) of Puli some years ago inviting long-term Japanese visitors to stay and savor water bamboo touting its healthy qualities.

Containing lots of water, water bamboo helps clean the bowels. It also contains calcium, Vitamin B, black lead and is good for diabetes, insomnia, gout and high blood pressure. Upon my return, I learned that Puli *5), produces close to 90% of Taiwan's water bamboos. No wonder they are so proud of it and hold a special festival to choose an expert to grow it annually. Puli promotes sales and export, including to Japan, with fancy names such as "beauty's rich thigh", "Sweet smelling beauty" *5).

Hakka dishes are excellent, added with the rural entertainment atmosphere of separating groups of guests by tables. I thanked my host Tonyo Tsai for this induction. He is a retiree from the Governmental Agricultural Experiment Station.

Japan had produced and is still producing "Makomo" or "Komokusa" since the olden days of Manyo, on occasions related mostly with divine affairs. Komono in Mie Prefecture, for instance, advertises its Makomo and Makomo tea sales. Komono seems to present its first crop to the "Ise Grand Shrine" annually as a Shinto ritual. It's also used in dishes prepared with medicinal herbs.

Komokusa grows 1.5 or 2 meters long, and the dried Komokusa is said to make huge straw festoons for Shinto shrines, such as the "Izumo Grand Shrine" in Shimane Prefecture.

Looking more into historical notes, I dug up two poems quoted above from Manyoshu, the Anthology of Myriad Leaves, compiled in mid 700C. Both poems, whose authors are unknown, refer to the water bamboos and to the same Mishimae River Inlet. Mishimae is an old name in the suburban area of Kyoto along the Yodo River, and amazingly, if you follow it downstream, you’ll reach southern Takatsuki City in Osaka, where I spent my college days. Back then, I crossed the Yodo River to Hirakata to see the famous Chrysanthemum Dolls Festival there in the mid 1950s. I rambled on foot along long dusty roads with my classmates. Mishimae, Tamae or Ichinoe are seemingly popular boat ride stops along the Yodo River. Makomo led me to these “golden” names of place, which we can only find in the 7th century Anthology (Manyo - shu) or Collection of Poems of Ancient and Modern Times (Kokin - shu).


1) Hakka
Some notable Hakka descendents:
Den Xiaoping, China
Lee Teng-hui, Annete Lu, Chen Shui-bian, Soon May-ling; Taiwan
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore
Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra; Thailand

2) Puli Jerry Fig Farm (Gaolin Jaboticaba Farm)
I saw the neighboring ferry fig farm surrounded by wire fences. The altitude is about 700-800 meters above sea level. The fig trees were quite tall, 4-5 meters. They barely had figs yet. Too early for the season.

3) Puli Brewery
During the Japanese colonial days, Sake Brewery was established here. Chiang Kai-shek ordered change to Shaosing Brewery, right after World War II. Shaosing in Japan mostly comes from Puli. "Chen-shao" meaning Shaosing stored for more than 7 years. They are highly craved for.
Puli Brewery Website

4) Water Bamboo Nutrition Table

5) Water Bamboo merchandising
Example 1
Example 2

6) YouTube cooking demo

No comments: