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TOPICS INCLUDE: Bobbi Reports, Ellie on Zodiac

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(1) pages: 5 to 7

From Bobbi and others: Often write an e-mail in the head, now for one on the computer. Your magazine reads deliciously; be proud of its scope. What a lovely discovery for those interested in Chinese food and the related culture. Do see why a few months ago, David Rosengarten said “it can ‘change your chopstick life.’ Hope you continue to grow as much as we have reading and learning from FLAVOR AND FORTUNE.

Thanks to Bobbi and others: Thank you. Do appreciate the composite from all of the above. Those are kind words, and we do appreciate them; and also appreciate the suggestions, subscriptions, and donations. We all work pro bono, enjoy all your comments, and all the donations that keep this magazine afloat.

From Ellie in Newport CA: A dear friend said that all over China, the Far East, too, there are twelve zodiac animals, and that all are not the same country to country. What are all their names,? And, what are double months? We are confused, please educate us all.

Ellie: To our knowledge those double or extra months are named as animals associated with them. In China, most are the same one place to another, with a few regional differences. As to the extra month, the name of the month before is usually doubled so people born in the double month have the same birth animal as those born in the previous month. Most Chinese believe the classic animal years are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog, and Pig, named by an early emperor whose name we do not recall. Most are used by the nearly nine percent of non Han but members of China’s minority populations. For some of them, several animals are different. The Chinese can call these double months lichun years. Confused? So are many of the Chinese people.

The Chinese government did adopt the Gregorian calendar since 1911. Some use both calendars, one based on the sun, the Chinese one is based on the moon; and their extra month is only in that lunar calendar. It has three hundred fifty-four days. Their calendar is the longest recorded chronological calendar anywhere in the world, and it started in 2637 BCE when Emperor Haung Ti introduced their first Chinese zodiac cycle. Early Chinese literature tells us he did this in the sixty-first year of his reign.

His calendar was tinkered with in the Shang Dynasty (1766-1123 BCE). A young man, Wan Nien, spent many years using a water clock and measuring shadows to figure out and address inconsistencies between moon and sun (solar) years. He said the best way was to add some months to keep things straight, so that is when the extra months were started.

A bit more of that story, which does include an assassination attempt with an almost fatal arrow. He was promoted to Minister of the Astronomical Bureau. The Emperor saw his logic and accepted his notion of adding what we westerners call an ‘intercalary’ month. The solar calendar is also not perfect. That is why we have a leap year every four years. They have that intercalary month once every nineteen years.

For the record, several countries and peoples believe in animal zodiacs. For example, in Egypt, they have Cat, Dog, Snake, Beetle, Donkey, Lion, Sheep, Ox, Eagle, Monkey, Egret, and Crocodile years. In an African country they have Chicken, Monkey, Horse, Ox, Rat, Hog, Dog, Snake, Sheep, Crocodile, Rabbit, and Tiger years. With roots in ancient Babylon, western astrologers developed Aires, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpi, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces nomenclatures; all animal signs. To sum things up which may confuse some folk, the Chinese have five cycles of twelve animal years, their seventy-eighth cycle began in 1984. It is quite a while until a new cycle begins; sixty plus eighty-four will get us well to the year 2144.

Editor: Absolutely love your publication; it is beautiful! Had fun traveling with all of you in Ireland. Hope to see you again; take care.

Diane: Thanks for your thanks. Hope you subscribe and then can enjoy F&F for years!

Hei wei in Shanghai Says: Was disappointed with so few sea vegetable recipes. Love using them, and wish you had provided others.

HEI WEI: Space does constrain what we can do in forty pages four times a year. However, here are two more for your wok; and do check our index listings. By the way, thank you for all those stamps, we do collect them, they were lovely, and they were much appreciated.

Grass Carp and Sea Vegetables
1/2 pound grass carp fillet
1/4 cup dried sea vegetables, soaked for ten minutes, then chopped
6 slices fresh ginger, shredded
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce

1. Place grass carp on a heat-proof plate and put the sea vegetables and shredded ginger on top.
2. Mix the heated oil and the soy sauce, and sprinkle on top of the fish filet. Cover with plastic wrap and steam for five to six minutes, then uncover and serve.
Seaweed Crisps
1/4 pound sea weed sheets cut into very thin strips
1/4 pound cabbage. Cut into very thin strips
1 cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Remove any thick stalks from the greens before shredding them.
2. Heat a wok or deep pot, add the oil, and deep fry the greens in batches until crisp or they float to the surface; then remove them with a slotted spoon or another strainer device
3. Mix sugar and salt and sprinkle on the greens, then put them on paper towels in a serving bowl, and when cooler, discard the paper towel, and serve.
Crabs, Sea Vegetables, and Yellow Bean Paste
3 crabs, scrubbed, their tops removed, the bodies chopped into four pieces; the claws separated and smashed
6 shallots, peeled and sliced
5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
1 red chili pepper, seeded and chopped
5 slices fresh ginger slivered
3 Tablespoon vegetable oil, divided in half
3 Tablespoons spicy yellow bean paste
1 Tablespon granulated sgar
1 Tablespoon Chinese vinegar
1 Tablespoon dried ground sea vegetables
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 scallions, cut into half-inch pieces
1. Put shallots, garlic, chili pepper pieces, and ginger in a blender, add half the oi, and blend well. Then transfer this into a small pot. and add the bean paste, sugar, vinegar, sea vegetables, and the soy sauce and simmer for three minutes, then set this aside.
2. Heat the wok add the rest of the oil and the crab pieces and claws and stir-fry for two minutes, then the top shell of each crab, half a cup of water and cover and simmer for ten minutes until the crabs are cooked through, then stir in the rest of the seasoning ingredients and stir-fry for three minutes before transferring to a pre-heated bowl, sprinkle the scallions on top, stir once, and serve.
Crabs and Seaweed
6 crab legs, each cut into four pieces
6 shallots, peeled and sliced
5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
1 red chili pepper, seeded and chopped
5 slices fresh ginger, slivered
3 Tablespoons minced nori (seaweed sheets) divided
3 Tablespoons spicy yellow bean paste
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese vinegar
1 Tablespoon dried ground sea vegetables
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 scallions, cut into half-inch pieces

1. Lightly smash each crab leg piece with the side of a cleaver.
2. Put shallots, garlic, chili pepper, and ginger in a blender, add half the oil and blend, then transfer to a small pot, add the bean paste, sugar, vinegar, seaweed sheet pieces, and the soy sauce and simmer for three minutes, then set aside.
3. Heat a wok or fry pan and add the rest of the oil. Stir-fry the crab leg pieces for two minutes then add half cup of water, cover, and simmer for two minutes, then stir in the seasoning mix and stir-fry two more minutes. Transfer to a pre-heated bowl, sprinkle the scallions on top, stir once, then serve.

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