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TOPICS INCLUDE: Calendar, Nymphaea, Siracha, Cucumbers, Banpo Museum, Chinese Fleets

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Summer Volume: 2018 Issue: 25(2) pages: 5 to 7

From Jiu Liu:
When did China (and other Asian countries) adopt the Gregorian or Western calendar?
Jiu Liu: China began using it in 1912 for official and international matters and a few major Western holidays such as the New Year. That was well after other Asian countries had done so including Japan who did so in 1873. Korea began using parts of the Gregorian calendar in 1896. China still uses most of their traditional lunar calendar now called the ‘lunisolar’ calendar. It is based on positions of the sun and moon; with many cultural holidays, birthdays, and other events. Japan uses a hybrid calendar that is primarily based on Emperor Akihito’s reign mixed with the Gregorian calendar. The Korean calendar begins with the birth of its founder, Kim Il-Sung; and that starts in 1912. It mixes with many holidays on the Gregorian calendar, birthdays on either one, and holidays either Western or Korean.

Enjoyed the article about the lotus in Hebei. Can you share more about these beautiful flowers, their name in Chinese, even a good recipe or two?
Wendy: No botanists we, they do smell heavenly, grow everywhere, are in the water lily family, and are in more than one genus. We read about two of them, the Nymphaea and the Nelumbo species. Some say they are in the pea or Leguminosae genus, but we have found no proof of that. The first one mentioned was written about in one location calling it the ‘sacred lotus’ of ancient times. Some but not all of these plants are shallow-water plants whose flowers stay open until mid to late in the day. Most are white, red, blueish, orange, or pale-yellow; and they open for one to three days, are sacred to Buddhists in China, India, and Tibet, called he or lian, and were first described in the Book of Odes. Called handan if their flowers have not yet bloomed, furong if they have. Thousands of artists have painted them, each rendition different from most others.

We did read that “when water is deep, plant water chestnuts, if shallow, plant the lotus. “ Some archeologists dated their seeds more than a thousand years old, others found some almost two million years old. They were amazed that when planted, most did bloom. Historians say they are the oldest flowering plants on earth, ones whose seeds when roasted taste delicious. Some cook the parts found under water and when cooked and eaten are very special at weddings, broken in half, their sticky material binding them together symbolizing nothing can pull the happy couple apart. Thye also advise that their seeds symbolize fertility.

Lotus, Gluten, and Vegetables

1 gluten sausage, boiled ten minutes, removed from the liquid and sliced thin
3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced thin
1 teaspoon Shao Xing wine
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 lotus rhizome sections, washed, peeled, and cut in thin slices
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sa-cha sauce
½ teaspoon coarse salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ pounds snap peas, strings removed and discarded, each distinctly angle cut in six pieces.


1. Marinate the gluten sausage slices in wine, soy sauce, sugar, ground white pepper, and half the minced garlic for ten minutes.
2. Heat a wok or fry pan, add vegetable oil, and fry the mushroom cap slices until brown, then add the gluten sausage slices and the rest of the minced garlic and brown this then remove from the wok or fry pan and set this aside.
3. Add lotus slices and stir-fry them for two minutes, then add to the set aside mushroom mixture.
4. Reheat the wok or fry pan and add the other ingredients but not the snap peas. Stir-fry for two more minutes, then cover the wok or pan and cook stirring for two more minutes.
5. Take off the cover, turn heat to high, add the snap pea pieces and stir-fry two more minutes or until most liquid has boiled out; mix everything together, and then serve.

From Raoul in Boston:
Can I make a Chinese version of Siracha sauce and use it in any Sichuan dish?
Raoul: Siracha sauce is not Chinese nor Sichuan though many Chinese use it as their ‘go to’ hot sauce. Here is version to try.

Homemade Hot Sauce

8 ounces fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and minced
4 Tablespoons peeled garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 to ½ teaspoon fish sauce (optional)


1. Put chili peppers, garlic cloves, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a medium-size pot, partially cover, and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove the cover and stir for five minutes.
2.Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender, add the fish sauce and five tablespoons of hot water, and blend again for one minute, then transfer this to a glass jar.
Note: use what is needed, and refrigerate the rest. It will stay about ten days. Freeze unused sauce in an ice cube tray. When frozen, transfer the cubes into a double thick plastic bag. Take them out and use as needed.

Piquant Chicken

4 boneless chicken thighs, cubed
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ to 1 Tablespoon hot sauce (see above)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon minced scallion, green part only
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons chicken stock
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce


1. Mix chicken cubes with cornstarch, salt, wine, and egg white. 2. Heat oil in a wok or fry pan and fry the cubes of chicken in two batches, removing them when light brown and setting them aside, then fry the rest of the chicken.
3. Add the stock, sesame oil, and the soy sauce to the wok or pan, stir, then add all the chicken cubes, stir for one minute, then place in a pre-heated serving bowl.
4. Add the hot sauce, and stir-fry for half to one minute, add the stock and sesame oil, and serve.

Dear Editor Newman:
Like your recipes, particularly the unusual ones, but we have not seen any recipe for yellow cucumbers. How do the Chinese use them? Do you have a recipe called Gold Coin Soup?
Mickee: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I once did see and cut out such recipes. That article said it helps kidneys and the spleen, it also nourishes and regulates the stomach. However, I do not recall where it came from. The Chinese use yellow cucumbers with brown bean sauce. The Gold Coin Soup, the Chinese say, should strengthen women, particularly if they feel nervous.

Yellow Cucumber and Poultry Soup

1 quail, quartered and blanched for one minute
2 chicken thighs, blanched for one minute
½ duck, quartered and blanched for two minutes
1 yellow cucumber, seeded and cut in eight pieces
1 piece tangerine peel, soaked for five minutes, and cut in four pieces
5 slices peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup millet
½ cup barley
20 goji berries


1. Put all pieces of quail, chicken, duck, cucumber pieces, tangerine peel, ginger, salt, millet, and barley in a large stock pot and cover the ingredients with boiling water. Reduce the heat and simmer for ninety minutes, then remove and cool until able to handle the poultry pieces.
2. Remove the meat from bones for the quail, chicken, and duck, and do discard skin, bones, and any visible fat.
3. Skim the liquid and return it to a rinsed pot with all the poultry and other ingredients and simmer another half hour, then add the goji berries and simmer five to ten minutes. Serve in preheated bowls or a pre-heated tureen.

Yellow Cucumbers in Brown Bean Sauce

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 large shiitake mushrooms, their stems discarded, their caps quartered
½ pound pork loin, cut in small cubes
3 scallions, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
3 Tablespoons chicken stock
3 Tablespoons brown bean sauce
1 large yellow cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut in small cubes
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper or ground star anise (only use one or the other)


1. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil, and stir-fry the mushrooms, then add the pork, scallions, and ginger, and stir fry for two minutes.
2. Add soy sauce, chicken stock, half cup of cold water, and brown bean sauce and stir well, then add cucumber pieces and stir-fry one minute.
3. Mix cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water and stir this into the pork mixture and boil stirring for one to two minutes, then add the sesame oil (and the seasoning, if using), stir two or three times, then put in a pre-heated deep dish and serve.

Gold Coin Soup

2 pig hearts, veins removed
1 gold coin
1 teaspoon salt


1. Cut the heart meat, but no part with any veins, into one to one and a half inch cubes. Put them and the gold coin into a double boiler, add six cups of water, the heart cubes, gold coin, and salt, and cook for four hours. Serve meat and the soup, wipe the gold coin, and safely store it for another use.

Dr. Newman: Can you remind us of where this museum is, and what it is?
Steven in Idaho: Yes, because I do recall those many steps. It is outside of the Banpo Museum in Xian. We went there in the 1970s on our first trip to that city. I do not know if they have done any exterior renovation, but do recall climbing those many steps and spending a few frustrating hours inside; and I have not been back since. Then, all signs were in Chinese, and our guide did a poor job translating them. His English was more brief than the signs he shared. However nowadays, most museums in China have bilingual signs so poor or rushed guides do not short change the visitors as we were then.

From Delany:
Can you tell us about Gavin Menzies’ evidence of Chinese Fleets visiting California; and other items?
Delany: We have never seen any substantiation, only many disclaimers of Menzies writings. British newspapers deny his many notions. Maybe readers will react to one or all after going to see these printed items on the web, of those given at cited in: www.gavinmenzies.net/Evidence/23-annex-23-–-evidence-of-the-chinese-fleets-visiting-california/.

Where we found them on, under: 23 Annex 23-Evidence of the Chinese Fleets visiting California.

There, it says: View: Complete 1421 listings (1421 book was written by Menzies). Under that the web printout says: Posted on August 18, 2011. Then, under that is bold large type: GAVIN MENZIES. Did Menzies print this item? Advise us what may need changing and cite your source(s). The line under it says: Posted on August 18, 2011, the one above that says: View: Complete 1421 listings. What followed were twenty-one groups of items (our printout had no 22 and 23).

The first was: “Maps. California is accurately depicted on the Waldseemueller map (1507) drawn before the first Europeans reached that coast.” The second was: “Chinese Records and Claims.” Under that it says: “Further research needed.” The third item says: “Accounts of Contemporary European Historians and explorers.” Under it are several dozen items on a few pages including: “Drake chased a Chinese junk” and “Le Page du Pratz describes Chinese junks loading slaves in 1720s” and “Chinese in Barstow California from 1100 A.D.-Silver mines dug by ancient Chinese at site near Barstow” also that the “Chinese were tall (7 feet) and many spoke, or at least wrote Latin. Only the tall were permitted to have wives. They were Catholic Christians. They wrote by scratching on the desert varnish with seashells and the dates were translated from Latin. An orphan that was brought up by Jesuits and taught Latin shorthand translated these writings to English in the 1940s and we have a copy.” Also, one other line says: “Father Azura de Amata, a third order Franciscan who traveled with the Chinese, provided much of the history that was scratched into the desert varnish. It appears that the settlement began in 1102 (according to Amata’s history)...and says “some writings from 1222.” Note that it continues saying “it appears that Tenachee Matikki was also there before Columbus in 1466” and that “the Chinese returned in 1530- a Ling Foo Liming.” Other writings on these pages are from other dates, one, a 1910 item mentions “Arch-Bishop Aloysius Stanislaus; 3rd Rev.” and goes on to say “we will begin a diligent search for definitive proof of the Chinese community that started in 1102 A.D. in one month-Bob Cribbs.” Are they citing him here; but with no date or actual source? There are seven more lines following this.

Number 4 has accounts of local people. Number Five titled: ‘Linguistics’ says, among other things, “Ta Ho is Chinese for Big Lake’ and “Yo Se Mi Te” taken together in Chinese means magnificent mountain’ There are more pages and other numbered items, about half indicating a name after them, but no sources nor date, no citations and no quotations, either. Many items are fascinating; all need to be checked out. Our hope: a reader will do so.

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