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TOPICS INCLUDE: Wood ear fungi; Sandpot cooking; A Chinese Food Encyclopedia; Our Water Shield recipe; Pig's Knucles; Crocodiles; Oyster Purse Omelettes; Pork Tendons; Wine-lees; Stewed Kidneys; Ketchup; Restaurants in Flushing

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Summer Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(2) pages: 7 to 10

The girl at the next table was eating back ear-shaped things; the waitress said they were wood ears and healthy. Never saw them before and she did give me one. Can you tell me about them and what they are good for?
DANA: The Chinese call them mu er, They are thin and translucent, and black when dry, which is how I purchase them. They seem brown and a little reddish when soaked in warm water for half an hour. They can be use cut up, and are said to remove blood in the stool. As to cooking them, stir-fry them cut up with fresh vegetables. TCM doctors say they have some protein, carbohydrate, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins B1 and B2. Women take them after childbirth to reduce cramps and numbness. They soak them in equal parts vinegar, sugar, and honey. He also said for those whose menses have stopped, they should soak them in equal parts with wine. For blood in one’s stool, simmer them for an hour with granulated sugar and water and swallow several tablespoons every day for a week.

Do the Chinese really use sand in their cookery? If so, please send me that recipe as we live on the beach and too much sand is at our front door.
CAREN: No, they do not use sand. Perhaps you heard they use ‘sandpot cookery.’ They make soups and stews in these sand-pots. They come in many sizes and shapes, most are glazed and brown on the inside, and have a rough sandy texture on their outsides. Good ones can have a wire frame on the outside which reduces breakage which happens when they are heated too quickly. Do not put them on direct heat when empty or if taking them out of the refrigerator. These cooking devises mimic medicine cookers that are taller and more bulbous. Those were used to make potions for healing, and were popular in the Southwest of China. Here are two recipes to use them.

FROM MISHNA in ISRAEL: Any truth to a Chinese Cuisine encyclopedia coming out soon?
MISNHA: Yes, but how soon is not known. We recently met with the boss of Berkshire Publishing; they are working on this item intended to be five volumes. A month ago we did see a picture of them, the ISBN is 9781614729020; and the advertisement said it was to be “a cmprehensive resource on the world’s most complex culinary terrain” and that it would include “cuisines, cooking and eating, food in history and food in culture.” We join in salivating at the thought, not the anticipated price of $895. Also siad that this set of books will include “food lore, food history, culinary concepts and techniques, dishes and their variations, and biographies of famous chefs, gourmets, and writers, along with immigrant Chinese food and home cooking.” Since then, we have been invited, as have a host of others, to be an honorary editor/advisor.

FROM SUSAN via E-Mail:
I have enjoyed receiving your journal for many years; have learned a lot, and also tried many recipes. I enjoy the historical research found in many of them. Thought you would want to know that in the recipe about Moon Cakes, it is titled incorrectly, and Water Shield Soup, Part 2 has been omitted. This is not a criticism, just a helpful bit of information. Do keep up the wonderful job you do; I read each issue from cover to cover.
SUSAN: Thanks for the compliments and the corrections. The second part of the Water Shield recipe was not omitted, it says “continued on page 37.” As to the incorrect title; awaiting word as to what is the correct one. That recipe came from a friend’s printed source tht we botched; awaiting her correction.

Did appreciate your update on unusual ingredients but there was none for pig’s knuckles. Do you have a recipe for them?
LEI-LEI: Rare is the person who cooks them, though many do order them in restaurants. Should you do that, have your butcher saw them into two-to-three inch pieces to make this recipe, see below.

Can you share some information and a recipe or two about the Chinese consumption of crocodiles, and how they eat them>
HENNIE: In your country there was and still may be a crocodile farm or two. They are called eyu in Chinese, and the Chinese do like to eat this meat in fall and winter when it is cold outside. Though we never did visit such a farm, several soldiers wrote to tell us they did; but their mail had no return address. Those soldiers told us crocs lay eggs that hatch in about eighty days, the babies needing six years to mature and then they weight abut one hundred eighty pounds. They harvest liver, gall bladder, and the meat which the Chinese find strengthening, and that they call o yu. It is also popular in Taiwan where they also use them to rid their waterways of dead fish. What we did not know was they do artificially inseminate them. They sent along one recipe; and we have ever seen another.

Thanks for telling us about mustard greens; any pictures of them pickled?
YANNY: Sorry but no. They can be purchased canned and fresh, are cholesterol-lowering greens, second only to Brussel sprouts in terms of their glucosamine content, and they are best chopped before cooking them.

Loved your article about oysters, once ate something called Oyster Purse Eggs, but never found a recipe for same; can you provide us with one?
LOUIS: We have put one below.

Saw you and your husband eating pork tendons. We were at the next table and overheard him telling others they are his favorite food. Does he have a special tendon recipe to share?
BOBO: He does not, but I do. We would have been pleased had you introduced yourselves. The answer to your query would have come faster.

We read about why all wine-lees products are loved for adding color, aroma, and taste to so many dishes. Can you tell me where is the best place to purchase this condiment?
WONG WANG: The condiment called wine-lees and has origins in Shao Xing in the Zhejiang Province. Made from wheat and glutinous rice and then fermented; its liquid enhances many protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable dishes. Most Asian supermarkets should carry it in your city and in every other city with a large Chinese population.

You once wrote that your daughter loves kidneys, bet you have many recipes for them. Can you share one or more?
LEILI: There is one below:

A friend told me ketchup is a word with Chinese origins. Any truth to this?
WCJ: This condiment is from the east and is written in the Amoy dialect as ketsap. The earliest reference we found was from 1711 that said it was brine for pickled fish or shellfish. Further along, it said it came in tubs, was not expensive in China, and was stocked in fashionable households. Another reference, but not dated, said it was “an East Asian sauce.” Any one know of other early Asian references?

Snowed in, as you probably are. We did look through old Flavor and Fortune magazines. I used to live near the Queens Botanical garden; and before the storm, was down to visit my parents there. Noticed you have not reviewed places on Roosevelt Avenue nor near the Botanical Gardens. My folks rarely eat out now that we moved north. Is that because there are none worth trying or eating at?
HARRIET: No. There are places near your parents that we go to eat at. Michael did eat at three that are not exactly close, but close enough and in Flushing. Check them out in the Michael Gray-authored article in this issue on page 20. We recently had very good hot pot at LAOMA MALA TANG at 136-20 Roosevelt Avenue #16. it is in the New World Mall in Flushing. Of their seven cold dishes, we devoured their marinated Chicken Gizzards and their Seaweed with Pranut (their spelling). The Hot BeeF Tendon Balls, and the Spicy Sausage were the best of them. We also loved Seaweed Knota, the Dried Bean Curd, their Flounder, and the Pigs Ears and Squid we ordered and cooked in our hot pot. Most items on their menu are three bucks or less; forgot how much the soups were; and they were not listed on their take-away menu. And we did visit SPICY ROAD at 43-18 Main Street #B, also in Flushing. Their seafood was tops, their other Chinese foods very good, too. Unfortunately, they have since closed.

Know your husband went to see the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian; did you go too, and take any photographs there? Any particular foods special in this city?
BLADE: Years ago we had a great dumpling meal in Xian called a Dumpling feast. The Terra Cotta Warriors is one place to go as a tourist. There are some eight thousand of these clay figures, every face and every hat different from all others; each horse is different, too. We have dined on many fine Muslim foods on or near the Bell and Drum Tower, actually on its north side. We love their Paumo Mutton Soup with its unleavened bread crumbled that diners tear into it. We have included a picture showing one of the three places named XIAN FENGSHANGREN. All are big and beautiful. They, and other places feature wonderful foods, their soups and breads are outstanding. So is visiting the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. In Muslim restaurants, all too often we order Lamb with Cumin; it is available in almost every Muslim eatery.
Mixed Vegetable Sandpot
5 ounces any white fish, boneless and skinless
3 ounces pork chop, fat free and boneless
4 ounces boneless and skinless chicken breast
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon mushroom soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon bouillon powder
6 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked until soft, their stems discarded, then slivered
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon chicken fat
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 ounces Shanghai cabbage
3 ounces Napa cabbage leaves
2 ounces Chinese celery leaves
1. Cut the fish, pork, and chicken breast into thin slivers, toss with the cornstarch, and set this aside.
2. Put the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine, bouillon powder, mushrooms chicken stock, chicken fat, salt, and sugar in the sandpot and slowly heat this to just below the boiling point. Then let it simmer for five minutes, add the fish and all the vegetables, and the meats and let is simmer five minutes more.
3. Now add the fish and all the vegetables, and stir carefully. Let everything simmer for three minutes, stirring it once each minute, then serve.
Chicken with Ginseng and Dates in Sandpot
4-6 chicken legs each one chopped in half
2 Tablespoons thin strips ginseng, peeled
6 red dates, pits removed and discarded
10 goji berries
4 slices fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Blanch chicken pieces in boiling water for two minutes, remove them and put them in an uncovered sandpot.
2. Add ginseng, dates, goji berries, ginger, salt, and two cups cold water.
3. Cover the sandpot and put it into a steamer over boiling water for three hours. Check the water level every hour to make sure it has not boiled out.
4. Remove the cover, then the sandpot from the steamer. Put it on a heatproof plate, and serve.
Piquant Pigs Knuckles
2 pigs knuckles, chopped or sawed into pieces about two-inches
5 scallions, each tied in a knot
1 carrot, peeled and cut into eight pieces
5 slices fresh ginger, cut into pieces
½ daikon, peeled and cut into two-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons lard
5 Tablespoons Sichuan bean paste
5 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons dark rock sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with the same amount of cold water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound ground pork
½ pound Chinese cabbage, cut into two-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons coarsely minced cilantro
1. Put the pig knuckle pieces, the scallion knots, carrots, ginger, and daikon pieces, and the lard into a very large glass or ceramic bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave it on high for five minutes, mixing it two or three times.
2. Remove the plastic wrap and add the hot bean paste, the soy sauce, and the rock sugar and stir. Cover it tightly with fresh plastic wrap and microwave another five minutes, then take it out of that oven, let it rest for five minutes and once again microwave it for five minutes.
3. Mix cornstarch mixture with all that is n the bowl, and let this rest for two minutes. Now put it in a large pot and simmer for half an hour. At this point, taste the meat around a knuckle piece and see if it s tender. If not simmer for another fifteen minutes and taste it again. It may need a third fifteen minute simmering. When it is tender, put it in a pre-heated casserole.
4. In a medium-size pot, add the oil and the ground pork, and stir it continuously for three minutes, then add the cabbage pieces and stir-fry for five minutes. Put this mixture into the pork knuckle casserole, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve.
Crocodile Soup
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound crocodile meat
½ pound roasted pork belly, sliced thin
1/4 pound fresh ginseng, sliced thin
10 red dates, pits removed and discarded
5 slices fresh ginger
6 fresh Chinese back mushrooms, soaked, their stems discarded
1 whole fried bean curd stick, broken into small pieces
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoon thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons white rock sugar, crushed
1. Heat wok, add the oil, and the crocodile meat and the pork belly slices and stir-fry for ten minutes, then add two quarts of boiling water, reduce the heat, and simmer for half an hour or until both meats are tender and can be torn apart with chopsticks.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer another ten minutes, then serve.
Oyster Purse Omelettes
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
5 eggs
5 teaspoons oyster sauce
½ teaspoon coarse salt
5 bowls freshly cooked hot rice
1. Heat wok or large fry pan, then add the oil, and finally the eggs, one at a time.
2. When the whites are set, put a one teaspoon of the sauce on top of each yolk, then fold the egg each egg over in half sealing in the sauce.
3. Put each folded egg on top of the hot rice, yolk side up, and serve.
Pork Tendons, Braised and Stuffed
1/4 pound dried pork tendons, soaked for one hour in boiling water
1/4 pound boneless and skinless minced carp
2 Tablespoons lard
1 egg white
1 scallion, minced
2 slices fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons minced Jinhua or Smithfield ham
1 sprig coriander, minced
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon chicken fat
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup cold chicken stock
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Shao xing or another Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Squeeze water from soaked tendons, then slit each one partway making a pocket.
2. Mix carp, lard, egg white, scallion, ginger, ham, rice wine, sesame oil, chicken fat, and the ground pepper and divide into as many batches as there are tendons to stuff. Put them on an oiled heat-proof plate and steam for forty-five minutes or until tender. Then remove and set on a platter, and pour any liquid into a small pot.
3. Add stock and cornstarch and mx well, then bring to the boil. Stir for two minutes, then add the rice wine and the sesame oil, and stir again, then pour over the tendons, and serve.
Stewed Kidneys and Chestnuts
1 pair kidneys, their white tissues removed and discarded, then each cut into four pieces, hatch marks made on their smooth sides
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 pound chestnuts, cooked and peeled
1 carrot, peeled and wedge cut
1 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1. Mix kidneys with the salt, then rinse then thoroughly, and dry them with paper towels.
2. Heat oil in a wok or heavy fry pan, and fry the ginger for one minute, then add the chestnuts and the carrot pieces and half cup of water, and simmer for five minutes.
3. Add the kidneys and stir-fry for two minutes at most, and then mix cornstarch with the soy sauce and stir until thickened; next add the sugar and the rice wine, stir well, and serve.

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