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Quince

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fruits, Desserts, and Other Sweet Foods

Fall Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(3) page(s): 13 and 14


Ernest Wilson, writing in The Naturalist in Western China in 1976 advised what many did not know that quince has grown in Central China for a long time, mainly the Yangtze valley and around Anhui. Others did know that as there are reports about this fruit as early as in Tang Dynasty times.

The Chinese quince, member of the Rosaceae family and called Cydonia sinensis, has an aroma resembling the common quince of Europe and the Middle East; and it is related to them. It is also known as Cydonia oblongata, and there is a japonica variety, too, which is popular in the Honan area. To make things more confusing, botanists disagree about the genus; some call it Cydonia while others refer to it as Chaenomeles. There are other confusions, too.

When the Chinese speak of kua, they include the quince, reason unknown, yet this word really refers to foods in the curcubit family. Twenty years ago, a researcher saw this confusion when using the ideograph as one of the one hundred thirty-two food items she used on a written questionnaire. Seeing odd-ball results in different regions, she queried some of those responding. In one area said they meant quince while others in another said they were discussing the zucchini.

Confusions on her food list may have also happened because of lack of familiarity because the quince is mainly an ornamental in China and used as a medium for carving. It is known, also as various medicinals which use the seeds, twigs, leaves, bark, and the root. All of these uses are more popular than the fruit itself, yet there is adoration for the quince. It is loved for its aroma, adored in Tiger Tendon and Quince Wine, appreciated when candied particularly at New Years, and popular in stuffings and pastries.

Called wen po, the fruit can be the size of a cherry, twice that large, or the size of an apple. It is related to the medlar and loquat, looks lumpy, and in some ways the whole fruit resembles a pear but unlike one, is rarely eaten raw. A popular expression about the quince says that it is 'especially good for making wine go down properly.'

When ripe and depending upon the variety, quince can be yellow or green, and on rare occasions it is orange. The seeds inside resemble those of the apple, though in a few fruit, they are round. This fruit grows on a shrub that can reach heights of twenty feet when unpruned, has been cultivated throughout Asia for at least a thousand years, and we know that not every variety bears fruit. Those that do, produce a very acidic one that when cooked, turns pink. Alone or with other fruits such as the apple or the pear, quince can make a beautiful presentation. Alone it does, too, as do its flowers used on scrolls, embroidery, and paintings. Also known as the 'Cydon apple,' quince is loved for its flavor and for other things. Taoists use the green fruit to make an incense that they say is agreeable to the gods. The Portuguese loved it, knew of its high pectin content, and called it marmelo--the origin of the work marmalade. Others love its antacid properties, and still others advise that soaked in oil it can 'cure' grey hair. Whether preferred for these, as a fruit, or for its pink or white flowers, its delicious fragrance lasts about a month.

Quince is often found on alters in homes or temples. Thereafter, or when picked, it can be made into something to eat. The Chinese use it cooked in pastries and when precooked with a little sugar, they stuff it with other ingredients into chicken and duck, use it in syrups, and use it in a dessert compote with or without white fungus.
Quince Stuffing for Poultry
Ingredients:
4 cups cored then chopped quince
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh ginger, minced fine
1/2 cup rice vinegar
Preparation:
1. Put all ingredients in a wok and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for half an hour, at which time all the liquid should evaporate. Cool and use all of this alone or with other stuffing ingredients such as a ten preserved dates, twenty lotus seeds, two cups of cooked glutinous rice, and other items of your choice.
2. Mix and put all of the above into put into the cavity of a chicken or a duck and cook as directed.
Chicken with Pears and Quince
Ingredients:
1 quince
1 pear
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 green pepper
1 chili pepper
1/2 pound chicken, white meat preferred, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon corn oil
1 Tablespoon yellow bean paste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons cold water
Preparation:
1. Core quince, dice and simmer for half an hour, then drain. Then core and dice the pear and mix both with the vinegar.
2. Seed and dice the green pepper and the chili pepper.
3. Mix the chicken with salt and sugar and set aside.
4. Heat oil and fry chicken until just before no longer pink, then add peppers, quince, and pear, and stir-fry for half a minute.
5. Add all other ingredients and stir-fry on high heat until cornstarch water clears, then serve immediately.
White Fungus and Fruit Compote
Ingredients:
1 quince, cored and diced
2 teaspoons blanched almonds
2 teaspoons cooked lotus seeds
1 apple
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 ounce white fungus, previously soaked for one hour
Preparation:
1. Simmer quince, almonds and lotus seeds for forty minutes.
2. Dice apple and add with the sugar and the soaked fungus. Simmer all the ingredients an additional ten minutes, cool, and serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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