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TOPICS: Snake root alert; XO sauce; Bell fruit; Shark's bone

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Newman's News and Notes

Fall Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(3) page(s): 27 and 28


HERBAL ALERT: For those who did not hear, the New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that the Chinese herb Aristolochia fangchi has been shown to cause kidney failure. This has been reported in several countries in Asia and Europe. You may know this herb by other names, the most popular is 'Snake Root.' It can be a component of other herbal mixtures. Do read labels and consult the Food and Drug Administrationís ĎWhatís New sectioní of their web site: www.fda.gov

XO SAUCE is an item frequently discussed, often incorrectly. It is time to set the record straight as to its origins, how to use it, etc. Lee Kum Kee, several years ago brought this new product to market; it has been imitated since. One purchases theirs in a tiny bottle that holds but a few ounces of it. It originally sold for eight dollars, when you could find it. Now it has come down half dollar to a dollar, at most. As the alcoholic beverage it was named after, this is a premium and pricy product, and to make matters worse, it is best used consuming at least one-third of this small bottle in any one dish. Somewhat akin to 'sa cha' sauce, also known as 'barbecue sauce,' this top of the line food-flavor enhancer is in the fermented seafood family. It is 'in' to find it on a restaurant menu and in a cookbook recipe, even more so to cook with it at home. Try it in any sauce in place of sa cha or hoisin and see for yourself; or try this recipe.

BELL FRUIT, also known as a water apple, is another item sparking interest. It has other names and looks like the fruit where a cashew nut hangs downward from its wider end. There are very few reference books that discuss this fruit. Those that do, show disagreement as to the correct botanical name. Consulting the best in the field for what is correct provides just a little clarity. For example: Stephen Facciola, in Cornucopia II published by Kampong Publications in 1998, says water apple is Syzygium aqueum. Karen Phillips and Martha Dahlenís Guide to Market Fruits of Southeast Asia published by the South China Morning Post in 1985 says the botanical name is Eugenia aquea and that there is a Malay apple, Eugenia malaccensisi which is a different shaped fruit. Julia F. Morton, in Fruits of Warm Climates which she published in 1987 pictures and discusses a bell-shaped fruit. She says it is a Malay apple, also known as a cashew apple, even a water apple. She offer its botanical name as Syzygium malaccense, and she reports that it has even more English names including French cashew (in Guyana) and Otaheite cashew (in India). She indicates these names are because of its resemblance to the cashew fruit. We, too, originally thought it a cashew fruit, and only recently learned differently. However, we are still unsure of its botanical name. If you know of other sources of information, do advise us. What is known, is that in the United States in Chinese markets, this shiny bell-shaped fruit is available in late May and early June on the east coast, earlier and sometimes again in the fall on the west coast. The fruit is quite fragile, has many uses, and most sources say it was first known in Malaysia. Chinese immigrants in most South American countries, especially in Brazil, have used it for several hundred years. Recipes calling for bell fruit are beginning to appear in Chinese fruit cookbooks, though they are rare.

SHARK BONE makes a wonderful broth and in turn a soup that is loved in winter as a tonic food. The flesh, liver, brain, and ovaries of the shark are also used as food and medicine; and sometimes some or all of them are used in this soup. As they are harder to locate, with them the soup is very special, indeed. Shark meat and soup from just the bones are thought to enrich one's qi and tone the five viscera. Chinese medicinal texts also suggest shark relieves swelling and treats blood stagnation. Shark and shark bone are believed salty/sweet in flavor and neutral in nature. Some countries, mainly South Africa, are exporting frozen shark bone, but we have never found any in the large Chinese supermarkets we shop in. However, one is able to buy shark bone dry in herbal stores, and it is possibleto purchase it fresh from large fish markets. Should you get more than you need, freeze the excess in water an empty rinsed cardboard juice or milk container.
XO Sauce with Tofu
Ingredients:
2 pieces firm tofu
1/2 piece silken tofu
2 Tablespoons XO sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 eggs, beaten until light
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons minced Chinese chives
2 Tablespoons peanut or corn oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon water
4 Tablespoons minced coriander
Preparation:
1. Cut firm tofu into one-inch pieces and mash the silken tofu mixing both with the XO sauce, salt, and sesame oil. Then add the beaten eggs, broth, and chives.
2. Heat peanut oil and add the egg mixture and stir as it starts to set. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture and the coriander and cook until it thickens, about a minute--but no more than two. Serve immediately.

Shrimp with Mango and Bell Fruit
Ingredients:
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons corn oil
1/2 green pepper, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 bell fruit, cut into one-inch cubes, seed area removed
1 almost ripe mango, seed removed and cut into one-inch cubes
Preparation:
1. Mince shrimp, mix with salt, pepper, and sesame oil and make into one-inch balls.
2. Heat corn oil and gently fry the shrimp balls for one minute or until almost but not totally cooked through.
3. Add pepper and fry another half minute.
4. Mix broth and cornstarch and add with the bell fruit to the shrimp ball mixture. As soon as it comes to a boil, add the mango pieces, cook for half a minute until this fruit is warm. Teh serve.

Shark Bone Tonic Soup
Ingredients:
1 to 2 pounds shark bones, chopped into two-inch pieces
1 pound spare ribs, pre-cut into two-inch pieces
4 slices fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, do not peel
4 tablespoons wolfberries
1 spring celery, Chinese celery preferred, tied into a knot
5 Chinese chives, tied in a knot
1 small Chinese yam
1/2 black bone or regular chicken, cut into four pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried lily bulb petals
Preparation:
1. Bring large amount of water to a boil, add shark bones and pork ribs and blanch them for one minute, remove, drain and discard this water.
2. Bring 10 cups of water to the boil, reduce heat and add the bones and all other ingredients except the lily bulbs, and simmer for four hours. Remove the chicken and ribs and take meat from the bones and set aside. Add the lily bulbs and cook the soup for another hour and strain, reserving them and the wolfberries.
3. Add the meat, lily bulbs and wolfberries to the remaining stock, heat thoroughly, then serve.
Note: If you can not locate wolfberries, also known as goji berries, dry cranberries are an acceptable substitute, but use only half the requested quantity.

                                                                                                                                                       
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