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TOPICS INCLUDE: Shi Zi Bing, Eating Zodiac, Pork, Confucius, Boba (bubble) Tea,

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Fall Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(3) page(s): 5

Harley says:
You need to know ‘shi zi bing’ are persimmon cakes from the city of Xian. A recipe for them and more is at: www.travelchinaguide.com/tour/food/chinesecooking/ persimmon-cake.htm

Harley: Thank you for this information. This magazine’s readers and I appreciate it because as you know, only one recipe for this fruit did cross our desk before. We have been to Xian three times, always in either late spring or summer. We have never seen nor tasted them. Truthfully, we did not even know they existed. In addition, we never saw a recipe for them in the thousands of Chinese cookbooks in English we donated to Stony Brook University’s Special Collections. We hope to eat them in Xian if we go when they are in season. Until then, we will try to make them next Fall or Winter. Be advised that we research and write all articles, including this one, more than six months before publication: they are not in season now.

From sue-Lu in Idaho:
Do the Chinese eat any of the animals that are in their zodiac; and when did they start naming them?
Sue-Lu: The Chinese eat them all except for the dragon which is a mythical animal. You can read about the twelve Chinese Han zodiac animals, and find recipes for every one but the above mythical one, that is for the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and the pig that some call a boar. After a twelve year cycle, these twelve years begin again with the rat, and the Chinese believe that a complete cycle is five of the twelve years, or sixty years all together. Many Chinese minority populations have the same and/or other animals in their zodiac. The legend we read said these years began before measuring time many centuries ago, and that the Jade Emperor decided on a race to name these years with all animals in his kingdom invited to his birthday party. He decreed that all animals needed to cross a swift river current and get to a designated spot on the other shore That legend said the cat and the rat were good friends at that time, both the worst swimmers, so they jumped on the back of the ox. The rat was crafty and pushed the cat into the river before they got to the other side. When the ox got there, the rat jumped off and ran to the designated spot and cleverly claimed first place. The rabbit told the Emperor he thought he would win because he jumped from stone to stone. The pig who came in last told the emperor he stopped to eat as he was hungry, also exhausted after his difficult swim.

Sid asks:
You once said the main meat Chinese eat is pork, do you know how much each person eats a year?
Sid: We recently read that Chinese each eat eighty-seven pounds of pork every year. Also learned half the pork consumed in the world is eaten by Chinese people.

RhoNa of Los Angeles:
Heard that Confucius told what knowledge really was. Where is that quote? Also, which cooking methods did he think were Yin and which were Yang?
RhoNa: What he said that we think you mean has nothing to do with food. We think you mean what he said about ‘real knowledge’ was that ‘real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ As to your second question about culinary qualities, we found nothing that Confucius said about that. He did say lots about cutting food. Cooking techniques with yin qualities include boiling, steaming, and poaching, those with yang ones include deep-frying, roasting, and stir-frying.

From Jai Lee in Taiwan:
We live south in Taiwan and in the countryside. I have never seen boba tea, can you tell us about it.

Jai Lee: You may know this boba tea as bubble tea, so named for the usually black cassava bubbles; that sink to its bottom. There are a few companies making theirs in assorted colors, though as of the moment we have no color picture of them. This hot or cold tea can be had in many flavors, and with or without milk in it. Now very popular in the US, it was first was popularized in your country in the 1980s.

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