Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hsinchu Rice Noodle & Meatball Festival 2009

Today we had the opportunity to meet another American couple, Susannah and Aaron, who arrived in Hsinchu just a week before us. We planned to meet up downtown and head to the Hsinchu Rice Noodle and Meatball Festival. Hsinchu is famous for their rice we felt this was a must see. Especially because we had heard that there was the "Longest Noodle" - a 39,000 mm long rice noodle.

After about an hour of walking - in various directions using our tiny map - we stumbled (literally) upon this very hidden festival. Upon arrival, we were greeted by some organizers who were surprised that we had found this festival and asked how we had heard of it. Apparently, while it's an annual festival, few know about it and it's a ways out of town (we later found out that the location is next to the rice noodle factory). They were in the middle of what we would call a "rice noodle cook-off". University cooking students were making beautiful culinary creations! Later we returned for the judging...

The festival consisted of a few stalls of delicious rice noodles and meatballs. As we walked past these stalls, we were handed meatball after meatball on a stick to try. We were asked by a reporter to pose beside a sign for her newspaper. We are celebreties!!

After the meatballs, we bought some rice noodles to try and sat down to relax while we ate. As we were talking, we noticed that a woman was circling us with a video camera - so we waved and said hello, but she didn't leave. Soon after, another woman invited us to watch a video of how the noodles and meatballs are made.

We were introduced to Michelle, Susan, and a few other women who were the makers of the video. They were super friendly and made some meatball bread for us as well as a delicious fruit drink. Michelle is a videographer, but also teaches a cooking class. She told us about her cooking, the bread, and the drink that she made with fresh fruit. Then she said that she knew the owner of the rice noodle factory and could take us to see the "longest noodle". We had heard about this noodle so were very excited about getting to see it.

When Michelle took us to the factory, we ran into the man who was behind the production of the longest noodle. He gave us a tour of the factory, which consisted of one machine amidst a warehouse of noodles and corn startch!? He happens to also be the artist who created the dragon head and tail that was a part of the longest noodle presentation (pictured at the beginning of the post). Apparently, it took over 300 students to hold the noodle as it came off of the machine!

After our tour, he wanted to show us another piece of his artwork, and lead us to the temple outside the factory. As we sat there, he pulled our scissors and black paper, and asked us to sit still. He was going to cut our profile! He was quite talented...completing each profile in less than 90 seconds! What a great surprise!

Back at the festival, things were beginning to close down. We told Michelle and Susan that we were going to head home. They said that if we would stay a bit longer, they'd drive us home! What a great offer, as we had little idea where we were and the distance back to town where we could catch the bus was quite far. We stayed a while and helped to decorate their stall. Meanwhile we were bombarded by a number of young Taiwanese students who were interested in speaking English with us. They spoke to us for a while and timidly asked for email addresses to continue to practice their English. Before they left, they insisted that we take a photo with them - it's unfortunately a bit blurry, but what a great memory! After this photo, we followed the youth to one of their parent's food stalls and posed for a picture as though we were serving the food!

We are so thankful for our new friends Susannah and Aaron and for such an amazing night. Everyday brings a new adventure and things to learn!

*for more photos from our day at the Rice Noodle Festival, go to the photo's page at the top of the blog!

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