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TOPICS INCLUDE: Hezhen ethnic minority; Chinese restaurant Top 2013 Awards wall; Mintz corrects sugar information; Yikou not a food but Qikou is; Pickled Vegetables

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2014 Issue: 21(1) page(s): 7 and 8


DEAR EDITOR: My NAME IS HEZGOU:
name is Hezgou and I am from a very small Chinese ethnic population, the Hezhen people. We eat lots or rice and wheat, raise many dogs, and live along many rivers. Will you ever discuss our and other small minority populations?
HEZGOU: Your ethnic population is indeed very small, one of the five smallest government recognized minorities in China. Most of your group live in the northeastern corner of China. The 2010 national census reported some five thousand or so Hezhens, better known as the Hezhen Zu people. Most are fisherman; and most live along the Heilongjiang and Songhua Rivers. We are told you eat lots of carp, salmon, and other fish, and have them with wheat or rice. We did ask a friend from the Dongbei region who does have a few Hezhen friends, and she told us most of your people love to roast the fish they catch doing so over an open fire. We read that your group also hunt and eat meat raw and seasoned with salt, ginger, scallions, and other seasonings. That source said Hezhens dry it and dry the fish they catch, too, and that most of your people put them away to use when the catch is small or non-existent. The only other thing we read is that you look to the west and respect the west, and hang pictures of your ancestors on western walls. That, and you use dogs for transportation, not for food. As we are a food magazine, we do hope you will send us some meat or fish recipes made Hezhen-style.

FROM LOUISE AND LESLIE via e-mail: Enjoyed the item you provided from Chinese Restaurant News on their wall at the most recent Top 100 Chinese Restaurant Awards event. It told us lots about early Chinese restaurants but not the oldest one in continuous operation in the USA. Do you know on which coast it was?
LOUISE AND LESLIE: We have read, but not visited the eatery said to be the oldest Chinese restaurant in the US. Credit for advising about it goes to Asian Restaurant News. They said it is Pekin Noodle Parlor on South Main Street in Butte, Montana, there since 1916. The ownership remains in the same family. They said there was a small Chinatown in Butte, but is no more, and that this old place is said to have been, in its former life, a brothel. They still serve Chop Suey, a neon sign advertises this, and they report it is up a rickety flight of stairs, still has curtained booths that are perhaps leftovers from its predecessor. Chop Suey, Chow Mein, and Egg Foo Young are still served and popular, and available in many variations. By the way, Butte did have a small Chinatown then but most Chinese and other Asian restauranteurs have passed away, moved away, or simply closed.

SIDNEY MINTZ in BALTIMORE MD writes:
The summer 2013 article on sugar on pages 21-23, did briefly discuss an important subject–Asian attitudes toward sweetness, and sweetener consumption. It had recipes for several sweet dishes. However, please note there is one error of fact I want to make note of, though calling attention to the benefits of a subtler historical approach. I have no need to comment on the history of sugar in China. That subject was splendidly documented in Duke historian Sucheta Mazumdar's book Sugar and Society in China copyrighted in 1998. Of greater importance, Prof. Mazumdar notes this writer's serious omission–Asia when discussing the history of sugar.

An error of fact I also wish to note is the assertion that I refer to honey in my 1985 book, Sweetness & Power as coming from the Canary Islands or Madeira. I never wrote that, and it is quite wrong. Except for a couple of lengthy endnotes, honey is hardly mentioned by me in that book because I knew relatively little about it. The Canary Islands and Madeira are mentioned, but always in connection with the early spread of sugar cane cultivation and sugar production, not honey.

A little more care for chronology is my other comment. I assume Eugene N. Anderson to be the senior author of 'Anderson and Anderson' and that refers to their article on food in South China in K.C. Chang's edited book, Food in Chinese Culture.

I do not doubt that the article refers to the Chinese as having little diabetes and not being heavy consumers of sugar, because in 1977, that was certainly true. But it is not useful to imply that the article is in any way not true. It was true when it was written; it simply is not true now. Chinese sweetener consumption has indeed risen sharply in the last 40 years. Even so, it remains far below that of its neighbors as recently as 2012. This is not meant as a consolation, though.
PROFESSOR MINTZ: Thank you for these corrections and comments. They are most appreciated and do offer better education about sugar than we provided.

FROM LOUISE and LESLIE:
Enjoyed the item you provided from Chinese restaurant News on their wall at the most recent Top 100 Chinese restaurant Awards event. It told us lots about early Chinese restaurants but not the oldest one in continuous operation in the US. Do you know on which coast it was?
LOUISE and LESLIE We have read but not visited the eatery said to be the oldest Chinese restaurant in the US. Credit for advising about it goes to Asian Restaurant News (ARN) who told us it is Pekin Noodle Parlor on South Main Street in Butte Montana. It has been there since 1916, and the ownership remains in the same family. They said there was a small Chinatown in Butte, but is no more, and that this place is said to have been in its former life, a brothel. They still serve Chop Suey, a neon sign advertising this, and they report it is up a rickety flight of stair, they still have curtained booths, perhaps a leftover from its predecessor. Chop Suey, Chow Merin, and Egg Foo Young are still served here, in many variations. By the way, Butte did have a small Chinatown but most Chinese and other Asian restauranteurs have passed away, mover away, or simply closed up.

HARRIET via e-mail:>
What is a Yikou; and do you have a recipe or two that uses this food item?

HARRIET: Try as we might, we could not find one, perhaps because no one ever heard of this food. Did you mean Qikou which is not a food but a scenic area about twenty-five miles southwest of the city of Ningbo? This port city, in the south of the Yangzi River delta region, does have several touristic attractions including the Siming Mountains. It is in the Eastern Zhejiang Province. Several folk we queried suggested that some eateries there might call their foods Yikou or Qikou. The name of this city, the birth place of Chiang Kai-shek (1887 - 1975 CE), who was the head of the Nationalist government from 1928 to 1949 is what may have been meant. This city where he was born was famous long before his birth. This city where this leader who fled to Taiwan in the late 1940s came from, actually became famous during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE).

FROM XIHOU on our website:
When visiting a family friend in Canada’s Vancouver BC, we had a pickled crisp white vegetable with tiny minced red vegetables; and it was delicious. Can you tell us about it and locate a recipes so that we can duplicate it?

XIHOU: We think you had some pickled radishes as an appetizer. They get salivary juices going and arouse ones appetite before a meal. A Chinese friend told me her Mom serves it often and told her she could have her Grandma’s recipe. We do not know, nor does she, if this so-called miracle medicinal food really prevents or cures cancer, as her Grandma said, but we do know it is delicious.
Pickled Radishes
Ingredients:
1 large white radish, the kind Japanese call daikon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
15 medlar which are wolfberries, also known as goji berries
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1/2 cup Chinese rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot oil
2 Tablespoons honey
Preparation:
1. Peel, then shred the radish in fine strips.
2. Mix radish with salt, and set aside for one hour, then rinse and dry these strips with a dry dish towel.
3. Finely mince the goji berries and mix them with the sugar and set them aside in a separate bowl for half an hour.
4. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot oil, and honey to the dried radish strips and mix them, hen allow to rest twenty to thirty minutes before adding the minced goji berries and serving it.
Note: This pickled vegetable dish can be made the night before or earlier in the day; and it can be made using carrots, potatoes, lotus, or other roots or rhizome food items.

                                                                                                                                                       
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