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TOPICS include: About swamp cabbage; Goose at weddings; Hand-torn cabbage; Uygur food; Oysters and their sex changes; Duck feet; Mushrooms and pork belly; Meat pies; Fried bamboo fungus

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(1) page(s): 7 10, and 18

From RAMON vie E-mail:
A friend told me that swamp cabbage is a Chinese vegetable; is that so, and if so, what is its name in Chinese?
RAMON: This green leafy vegetable is also known as morning glory leaves and as water spinach or as hollow stem vegetable. The large stems are, as the name suggests, hollow. This popular Chinese vegetable was once called oon cai and own choy. It is a member of the Convolvulaceae family, its botanical name is Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. What many do not know is that it is related to the sweet potato, its nature is cool, and that it affects the stomach and large intestine. Traditional medical doctors tell us they know it can cool a fever, moisten internal organs, disperse poisons, and stop or retard bleeding. There are several varieties, most grow in swampy and any on moist land, some are called shui seng. The Chinese like to prepare theirs steamed, and with garlic and pieces of chili peppers. Westerners like them because they have lots of iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

You write little about goose, yet I am told that at weddings it was almost always served because it symbolizes marital harmony and fidelity. Is this true? I love this bird. Do you also have an easy Chinese recipes to make it?
BEATRICE: Many weddings did or do serve this bird, particularly those from Guangdong, and Chaozhou. My family roasts one every New Year’s Eve, and I also love it stewed. Made that way there are even fewer recipes, but here is one from Chaozhou called lushuie. We serve it annually, and again the next day to any guests still here from out of town before they leave to go home. For your pleasure, there is an article about geese in Chinese cuisine and culture; recipes, too.

On Long Island, we had a simple but simply delicious dish called Hand-torn Cabbage. Two questions, where in China is it from, and do you have a recipe so we can make it at home.
LEE: We have had it at Yao’s Diner in Centereach on Long Island, elsewhere too. It is popular and so named in China’s southeastern region. Below is a recipe to make it in your home.

From UULA via e-mail:
Recently we ate in an Uygur restaurant and had some delicious kebabs and a large piece of roast pig with root vegetables. The meat was so tender we were encouraged to tear it apart with our fingers. Others were doing so at a nearby table. Can you tell us about these people and their foods?
UULA: This magazine has written about Uygur people several times. They are China’s fourth largest minority population. Read about them in Volumes 11(1), 18(2), 18(3) and 21(4). The most recent Chinese census, done in 2010, reports there are more than ten million Uygur people in their country. Most live in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as do many other ethnic groups. They live elsewhere throughout China, though in lesser numbers.

Uygur people adore roast mutton made in large pieces or on kebabs; they like roast fish, too, and they eat their meat with their fingers, prefer it slaughtered young at about age two, and many call it mutton and not lamb. What is unique about their meat is that they roast it coated with a mixture of eggs, minced ginger and scallions, also flour and ground black pepper before roasting it in large pieces. They do not do the same with their kebabs. These are seasoned after cooking them, and with salt and pepper before serving them.

The Uygurs also boil mutton and add onions, chunks of ginger, turnips, carrots, and tomatoes when so doing. They serve this stew on a huge deep platter, and before doing that, they thicken the liquid before adding it to the platter. When eating it, they dip the pieces of meat torn off, and they salt it heavily. yes, they do eat the meat and the vegetables with their fingers and not ith chopsticks. They prefer it with rice or Nang, their pancake-type bread baked on a flat griddle. Nang is most often made with wheat, corn, or sorghum flour, whichever they prefer and some prefer all three mixed together. They mix the flour with sesame seeds, minced onions, eggs, oil, butter, salt, and sugar, and then they grill these flat pancakes on both sides until done. We have some Uygur friends who mix their cooked mutton with salt and pepper and wrap it in thin dough and roast it or put it into their dumplings. These, too, they eat with rice or Nang, and with their fingers, no chopsticks.

From BETSEE via e-mail: Understand an upcoming issue will be about several sea creatures. Hope you will tell us if it is true that oysters change their sex when growing up, how long the Chinese have been eating them, and much more. I love congee and have a good recipe to make my own in the microwave, can I put oysters in it?
BETSEE: We suggest you see the article about oysters in this issue beginning on page 29, it is titled Sae Creaures. As to sex changes, we did not mention that and should have. Most oysters are born male and in their first year change and become female. Those that live long enough, often change back to being male. Did not learn, nor have we since checking again, about where, when, and why, except that during the warmer months most Ostrea oysters change back and forth repeatedly, some do so more than once in a single season, at least once a year and usually during the warmer months. One more item learned, ‘artificial oyster beds’ did exist in China long before the Greeks or Romans ate any oysters. What specific years were not mentioned in the item we read, but what was, is that the Chinese in those early days rarely ate them raw and did eat lots of them cooked.

From: KHAN-TI in Tangra:
Loved the newest article about unusual foods. While looking for one I once ate, I never did find a recipe; it is for Cold Duck Feet marinated in alcohol. Can you? Also, in your article about Uygur foods in Mongolia; do you have one for their Chuchura, their dumplings?
KHAN-TI: First we started looking in Chinese-Indian cookbooks for those duck feet, but no luck. Did assume you were Indian or with Islamic roots. Was wondering where you had these duck feet; do hope you will advise? Until then, here is the only spirited dish that may bring tastes you recall.

And as to the Uygur recipe they call Churchura, they look like an ordinary wonton, and I do assume you can make both dough and the stock. For the former, the Uygur use flour, egg, salt, and water; for the stock, they like theirs with onions, tomatoes, turnips, salt, and water. For the filling to complete these Uygur wonders, see the recipe below.

Editor, a query from TONY in Taipei:
Appreciate all articles and recipes, especially the latter, about Taiwanese food. Can you share the origin of the Three-cup Chicken recipe from Taiwan?
TONY: Once read, and did keep a copy of that old lady’s recipe, that in 1278 CE, a lady went to the prison to visit Wen Tianxiang, the Ming Dynasty general captured by Yuan forces. She brought him a chicken stewed with one cup each of pork fat, cooking oil, and soy sauce; hence the recipe’s name. The prison guard, after Wen was executed, went home to Jiangxi and cooked that dish every ninth day of the lunar calendar’s twelfth month. Doing so, he did remember him being put to death after his battles with those troops, did appreciate his loyalty, and did call that delicious dish ‘General Wen’s Chicken.’ However, in Taiwan it is more commonly known as Three-cup Chicken. Others remember and honor his heroism and that he did not give in to his captors even though he knew he would eventually be put to death. Now many make this dish and remember this general.

From: MANNY by e-mail:
Particularly appreciate your mushroom recipes and the very few articles about those popular in China. Do you have one with belly pork that the Chinese call ‘niu gan jun?’ The second part of my question is: What are they called in English and where did you locate the information?
MANNY: This genus is very popular and wikipedia does have sixteen pages about them with seven listing references for them. Called porcini, penny bun, and/or cep, these fungi are found in Asia, North America, and in Europe. Botanically known as Boletus edulis, they grow in deciduous and conifer forests and can be called ‘hog’ mushrooms. Common names for many food differ by region. Suggest you check into this free on-line web encyclopedia. You might also want to pick some. We were told that there are no known poisonous ones in this family. However, we are no mushroom experts, so check that out with those you trust.

Another great fungus is the Phallus indusiatus, more commonly known as the bamboo pith mushroom, the long net stinkhorn, and the veiled lady. It is found in southern Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. We once wrote an article about them so do look them up in our index listing under vegetables. They are beautiful, and are now placed in the Dictyophore genus, and but its name can be in either location. The can be up to ten inches tall, the white lace hiding its hollow stem. If you see one, gather it when fresh and use it quickly, they do not last long. Some smell bad but still taste fine. Dowager Empress Cixi and many other Imperial Palace residents did love them. They have lots of protein, and some carbohydrates and very little fat; and years ago they were said to cure some illnesses such as fever, feebleness, and low urine output. Some have written that when fresh they can trigger spontaneous orgasms in women, but not the ones found in China, only found in Hawaii.

In a past issue, and I did give mine away, you mention meat pies; can you provide a recipe for those who would like to make them Chinese style; also a recipe for shredded potato and pickled mustard greens that came from the same northeastern corner of China?
ALISHA: Here is a recipe popular in China’s Dongbei region.

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