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TOPICS INCLUDE: Religious monasteries in Mongolia; Chinese characters; Shi Jing; Information about illegal workers; Burdock; Vancouver menu exhibition; Lamb recipes; Rice cakes and potato disks

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(4) page(s): 5-7

TO YOUR STAFF: We are going to Mongolia in two months. Can you tell us where the oldest monastery is. Anything else we should know?
TO THE SIX WHO SIGNED: That monastery is ‘Erdena Zuv.’ It is in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. We have not been there yet, and do hope you get there. Then share your experiences. The newest monk is Baasan; he is their Lama, and he turned thirty-seven in 2016. If you get to eat there, tell us what you had, and if allowed, take photographs to share with us and our readers.

From ELOISA in CAMDEN: Seems there are many different Chinese written characters for the same word. Can you advise about them and if any one of them has more food words than any of the others?
ELOISA: To answer the second part first, the reply is no. These old and new written characters, all referred to as ‘great inventions,’ include the compass, gunpowder, paper, etc. If you want to learn more about Chinese writing, read: Chinese characters and Foreign Writings by Xiao Fuxing. It explains many of the special forms, sounds, and meanings. The most complex one has sixty-four strokes. Chinese writing was simplified during Mao’s time, now the most complex one in use has thirty-six strokes. That earliest one dates to Neolithic time during the Yangsho culture. That was seven thousand years ago and then there were six character categories called pictograms, ideograms, compound ideograms, phono-semantic characters, derivatives, and phonetic loan words. Addressed in the Zhou Li in English known as the Rituals of Zhou written about 1122-256 BCE, not all of them can be explained. Today, Chinese characters are written as a square, pronounced in Mandarin, and based on the Beijing dialect. They have influenced many neighboring country writings including those of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, many using some Chinese food words. In China, there are several TV programs including one called ‘Chinese Character Hero.’ Children and adults watch and learn from them, but we have never seen them. If you learn where to watch, advise.

TO THE EDITOR: With mixed information about illegal workers and the Chinese exclusion acts; can you tell us something about when Chinese immigrants could not come to the US?
TO THOSE WHO ASKED: We are not historians but Peter Kwong is. This Distinguished Professor is at CUNY’s Hunter College, and his book says there were no restrictions when Congress voted for the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. This unique US legislation was against a single ethic population, and was passed when considerable negative political and economic climate did exist. In 1924, an immigration law was still very Anglo-centric; it established immigration quotas based on how many people of each nationality were already in the 1890 US census. Many Asian populations were limited because of this older census. Then, in 1965 a new law allowed more Asians and other nationality folk to come to the US. In 1986, a still newer one allowed two million folk to become legal residents if they were in the US before January 1982, but proving this was very difficult. Today, there are some twelve million illegal men, women, and children in the US that are Asians and others. Many of them want paths to citizenship but few succeed. Peter Kwong’s book titled Forbidden Workers is subtitled: Illegal Immigrants and American Labor, and answers many similar questions.

Why did you not provide a look at the S’hi Jing’ as discussed in your article titled: Food and Ancient Therapy in the Fall Volume 23(3) on page 25 and 27?.
GOJO: Great question, our oversight. There is a tri-lingual volume of this old collection of Chinese lyric poetry; and our apologies. Here is its cover.

Heard that in Thailand, burdock is a popular herbal there and throughout Asia, and that it is related to the dandelion. One friend said that in China it is O Arctium, and a fresh green vegetable. Is this correct, and how do they use this herb?
LOH-HI Yes, they are both popular in China, in many countries in Asia, and in England, too. In Asian markets in the US, burdock is often found long, thin, and tan, sometimes hairy and with leaves. It is often used steamed as a diuretic or as a blood-purifying agent. In the family Asteraceae, when one does find its leaves, they are coarse, dark green, and heart-shaped. Its flowers provide nectar for honeybees, and we once read that birds can get tangled in them. One source said it is related to rhubarb, but we believe that not true. It can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked as a vegetable, or used in casserole-type dishes. TCM practitioners say they are used for many illnesses, and to make beer more bitter, and increase lactation in new mothers.

Yes, this exhibition that opened in Vancouver in Canada June 23, 2016 has been held over until Mid-March 2017. Many are from the largest Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. It is from the WK Gardens in Chinatown. It seated some seven hundred folk and was very popular and did host special dinners for notable figures such as former Prime Minister Lester B Pearson and Hollywood actors like Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra, among others.

Most Menus are on loan from Dr. Imogene Lim, a professor of anthropology at Vancouver Island University; loaned to the Museum of Vancouver. They were her father's menus. Her Dad owned WK Gardens. Others are those of her uncle who liked to keep close watch on the competition. Many are from the 1920s, others continue to date. Many now rest in this extended exhibit called: All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors And Their Worlds.

Professor Lim writes: "If you were somebody you dined or hosted a meal there." One of the menus is a menu from the 1965 dinner served to Lester B Pearson when he was prime minister. It includes a tropical salad called Ragout of Long Island Ducking, another menu includes B.C.Oysters with Mushrooms. It and others tell of the foods served there and elsewhere over the years. There is also the menu of the dinner hosted by John David Eaton whose family ran the Eaton's department stores; and ever so many others. This donation she calls "my inheritance." They tell the story of how immigration to Vancouver and all of Canada changed over the years, as did the foods they served. As an academic, her interest in Chinese Canadian history and in foods are shown off in these menus; they are gems!

When she was growing up, she remembers only a few vegetables used in Chinese dishes such as bok choy and bean sprouts. Now when you go into any Asian market there are dozens of other vegetables. At this exhibition, one can also hear a full audio interview labeled: History of Famous Vancouver Chinatown Restaurants. This is revealed through these collected menus. We suggest you go see and hear both.

FROM LIHOU IN HANGZHOU: Did appreciate your saying you would do an article again about lamb. Do you have a Five-spice Lamb recipe to share?
LIHOU That way to cook Lamb, Chinese style, and Cumin Lamb, also Chinese style, are two of my favorite ways to enjoy lamb. See recipes for both beow.

FROM HARRY IN OREGON: Have two requests, if I may. My wife and I have never seen a recipe for rice cakes made Szechuan style; do you have one or can you locate one for us? Nor have we ever seen a Dongbei recipe for potato disks made with dried shrimp? Do you have one of those, as well?
HARRY AND YOUR WIFE, TOO: Here are those recipes, and you are in luck, one for each; and we wish to say that finding them was no easy task.
Five-spice Lamb
2 Tablespoons five-spice powder
2 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 four-pound piece breast of lamb, bones four inches long, visible fat cut away and discarded
1 carrot, peeled and angle-cut in half-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and cut in quarters
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with same amount of cold water
1 zucchini cut in half the long way, then angle cut twice a big as the carrot pieces
2 cups vegetable oil
1. Make marinade of the five-spice powder, sugar and both soy sauces, and rub the lamb with this. Put in a bowl, cover it and refrigerate overnight.
2. Put lamb, carrots and onions in a large pot, add two cups of water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for seventy-five minutes, then remove the meat, dry it with paper towels, and cut the ribs apart, and set them aside.
3. Add cornstarch mixture to the pot and also add carrots, onion pieces and bring to the boil, then stir, and simmer until thickened before adding the zucchini pieces and remove pot from the heat.
4. Heat oil in a clean deep pot, add the ribs and deep fry them for two minutes, then remove them to paper towels to drain for a minute, then put them on a pre-heated platter, top with the vegetable mixture, and serve.
Spicy Cumin Lamb
1/2 pound thick noodles, cooked until almost soft
3/4 pound ground lamb
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons rive vinegar
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper or hot pepper paste
5 ounces chicken broth
1 cup broccoli pieces
1 cup cauliflower pieces
10 baby carrots, each cut in half at an angle
1. Heat wok, add the oil, and then the ground lamb and stir until almost browned, then drain and set it aside leaving oil in the wok or pan. Then add the vinegar, hoisin sauce, and the garlic and stir in the cu,in and the crushed pepper or its sauce and stir-fry one minute before adding the broth. Stir this for one minute.
2. Next add the vegetables and boil for one minute, then return the ground lamb to the wok or pan and fry for two more minutes. Then serve.
Rice Cakes, Sichuan Style
3 rice cakes, sliced
2 Tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked until soft
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
5 scallions, separate the green and white part, and cut each into one-inch pieces
1/2 pound ground pork
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1 cup Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1. Heat a wok or a fry pan and add half the vegetable oil, then add half of the rice cake pieces and stir-fry until brown and almost crispy before adding the drained shrimp. Stir-fry two minutes, then remove everything to paper towels and mix in the rest of the rice cakes.
2. Add the rest of the oil to the wok or fry pan, and add the ground pork and stir-fry until no longer pink. Then stir in the onion pieces and the garlic and stir fry one minute, then add the broth, soy sauce, and the chili paste and stir fry two minutes. Now add the cooked rice cake mixture and the cabbage, and as soon as the cabbage wilts, stir well, and serve in individual bowls or a large pre-heated bowl.
Potato Disks
1/4 pound ground pork
1 pound small potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 Tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked for one hour, remove and shells, then mince them
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Mix pork, shredded potatoes, softened shrimp, soy sauce, potato starch, and salt.
2. Heat wok or fry pan and add the oil and one heaping tablespoon of the pork/potato mixture, and flatten it with a spatula. Repeat until the pan has one layer and brown the disks, then turn them over and brown their second side.
3. Continue until all mixture is fried on both sides, removing them to paper-towels. Then serve on a pre-heated platter.

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