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好香， 好香： Cold Pressed Oils and Stone Ground Sesame Pastes
New products from Dong He, a 100 year old oil and seed mill in Chiayi Taiwan
This is Yun Hai Taiwan Stories, a newsletter about Taiwanese food culture by Lisa Cheng Smith, founder of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry. If you found your way here but aren’t yet a subscriber, sign up here.
Exciting News! This month we are undertaking the biggest Yun Hai launch ever: thirteen cold-pressed oils and sesame pastes from Dong He Oil, a 100-year old seed mill and oil press in Chiayi, Taiwan. Read all about it below.
Introducing Dong He Oil
Dong He Oil is a traditional producer of cold-pressed oils and stone-ground sesame pastes located in Chiayi, Taiwan. The oil mill was founded 100 years ago in 1921, during Japanese rule. They are still operating the original wood-beamed, brick building with much of the original machinery, and have upheld their traditional craft principles for a century across four generations. Now managed by Grace Huang, the granddaughter of Huang Li Yu (pictured above), the brand has transformed with updated packaging, a move to glass bottles, and new product lines. They continue to produce their original cold-pressed sesame, peanut and camellia seed oils today, and have added stone-ground sesame pastes, peanut butters, and a line of specialty sauces featuring house ingredients and family recipes.
Their century-long mission has been to produce the highest quality cooking oil and sesame pastes, using only low heat mechanical processes to keep nutrients, fragrance and flavor as intact as possible.
Today we are introducing thirteen of Dong He’s products. I’ve been working on this for two years, first meeting them in June of 2019. So, here goes nothing…
Stone Ground Sesame Pastes
White Sesame Paste
Black Sesame Paste (Unsweetened and Lightly Sweetened)
Mixed Sesame and Peanut Paste
Specialty Oils and Condiments
Frizzled Ginger in Sesame Oil
Bullet Sesame Oil Chili Crisp
Process: Cold Pressing and Stone Grinding
How does Dong He extract oil? First, they toast the seeds over a carefully controlled wood fire, which improves digestibility and flavor, then steam and grind them into a mash to prepare for pressing. This mash is shaped into a paper wrapped oilseed cake with a mold and a hydraulic press, as seen in the video above. These cakes are then stacked and compressed using slow pressure only—a true cold press with no added heat.
The pastes and nut butters are also carefully toasted and milled in small batches, with mechanically powered stone grinding wheels, then directly bottled. Watch this process in our video below (you can hear the observer say 好香，好香 so fragrant, so fragrant, the ultimate Taiwanese stamp of approval). Marvel at the primordial sesame mud and imagine the perfume.
Dong He sources only the best quality seeds, and persists in their century-long goal to provide healthy, extra-virgin oils and pastes produced in the traditional way. Their artisanal products are the result of an accumulation of four generations of wisdom and traditional craft knowledge.
Dong He is as meticulous about sourcing ingredients as they are about processing them. Below, I share some of the images and background information we’ve gathered from them over the past year of working together.
For their cold-pressed peanut oil, they use Tainan #9 peanuts, locally farmed in Taiwan and known for their aroma and flavor. It’s a variety only available in Taiwan, which would explain why it tastes just like eating a Peanut Candy in Penghu.
They work directly with local Taiwanese farmers to produce a black sesame oil made with single-origin sesame seeds. These are grown on small farms in Chiayi county using traditional fertilizer-free practices. To harvest them, they bundle the stalks to let them dry, then hit them with a wooden stick over a tarp to get all the seeds out of the pods. The taste is magical. When you smell oil made from these seeds, the heady fragrance coats the entire throat.
Camellia (Bitter Tea) Seeds
The Camellia Seeds Dong He uses for their Taiwan Alpine version of this oil is collected in Ren’ai, an indigenous mountain township. The seeds (top) are left to ripen on the tree and fall into nets stretched below them. They are then sun-dried on the ground, as shown. No fertilizers are used in this process; the harvest happens just once a year. Camellia oil made from these seeds is extra-delicate, with an asparagus-like high note and absolutely buttery in its finish.
We’re so happy to be working with Dong He and are grateful for all the time and attention they dedicate to their products and helping us prepare it for export. We hope you will love and enjoy their products as much as we do.
I owe a very big thanks to the growing Yun Hai team: Feng and Lillian as always, but also to new team members Cat and Jonathan. You’re bound to continue seeing their names here in the future.
And, of course, much gratitude to you, our fans, who keep this little operation going.
Needing Water Because of All the Black Sesame Paste I Just Tried,
Lisa Cheng Smith
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