A Sketch of Neimen: Town of Chefs(a)|『追寻总铺师之乡——内门』


  Like the head chef in a top restaurant, a bando(台语:办桌)chef is responsible for the entire meal, from purchasing ingredients, designing the menu, and cooking the food all the way to controlling the timing of the banquet. Geographical and environmental factors have contributed to the reputation of the Neimen district as the home of Taiwan's bando chefs.

  Compared to neighboring districts such as Meinong, which has flat and fertile land suitable for rice, and Chishan, known for its banana exports to Japan, Neimen lacks such resources. The area is not suited to farming because of its chalky, highly alkaline soil, and when the rains come, the soil is often washed away, leaving only muddy rocks. Therefore, the locals have traditionally harvested bamboo to make baskets and containers and sold their products to the banana farmers in Chishan.


  From the 1960s, however, Chishan's farmers replaced their bamboo baskets with cheaper packing materials like cardboard and plastic, so Neimen's economy was hit hard. At the same time, the bando business was growing, and it soon became a major career path for local residents.


  Over the past 40 years, as people in Neimen tried out different ways of making a living, the bando business has taken root and become a way of life for many locals. Chef Xue Qing-ji, who can boast four decades of experience in the bando business, says that in the early years, bando didn't have the same division of labor that it has today. Chefs weren't really qualified, and they were in fact often the host's relatives and friends who happened to be good at cooking. They would come to help, cooking simple dishes like fried noodles.

 

追寻总铺师之乡——内门


  从采买食材、设计菜单、掌厨料理到掌控宴会的所有流程,『总铺师』要负责整场宴席,就好像高级餐厅的主厨一样。而内门之所以会成为台湾总铺师之乡,有其地理及环境上的因素。


  比起邻近的乡镇,象是拥有平坦肥沃的土地,且相当适合栽种稻米的美浓,以及以香蕉外销日本而闻名的旗山,内门的资源可说相当匮乏。当地由于地属高碱性白垩土质,而且每逢降雨冲刷,便会造成岩泥裸露,相当不利农耕。因此,当地居民传统上都会采收竹子并加以编制成竹篓及竹器,然后再将这些产品卖给旗山的蕉农。


  然而,从 1960 年代起,旗山的蕉农改以较便宜的材料,象是卡纸和塑胶来取代竹篓,因此内门的经济大受冲击。在此同时,办桌行业兴起了,而且很快便成为当地居民的主要就业管道。


  过去四十多年来,由于内门人尝试要以不同的方式来谋生,因此办桌行业已深植人心,并成了许多当地居民的谋生方式之一。拥有四十多年办桌经验的总铺师薛清己表示,早年的办桌行业并不像现在分工这么细。那些所谓的『总铺师』并非真正具备厨师资格,而通常只是主人的亲友,刚好很会做菜而已。他们会前来帮忙料理炒面等简单的菜色。




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A Sketch of Neimen: Town of Chefs(a)|『追寻总铺师之乡——内门』