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TOPICS INCLUDE: Spice Rub, Recipe Records, Supreme God, Yin/Yang Methods, Gingko, Chinatown, Sailing Ships, Marco Polo, Solstice, Duck Tongue, Soup Dumplings, Minorities

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2018 Issue: 25(4) pages: 5 to 8

I live in a small town; no store carries a Chinese spice rub. Do you have a recipe for one? Mary Anne: The one that follows is one I make. There are many others, and you can find some on the many web sites with Chinese recipes. They go by different names including Five-spice Rub. We recommend you keep it on your spice shelf, in a small glass jar. We even carry it to the dining room of the life-care community where we now live to increase the flavor of the many bland foods served for healthy seniors like us.

Chinese Spice Rub

1 star anise, broken in pieces
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon ground smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns


1. Put all ingredients into a dry clean spice grinder. Turn it on an off until no large pieces are visible, but do not grind it too finely.
2. Then store it in small glass jars in a cool dark location, and use when and as needed. We use several small jars so it is not exposed to too much air by their frequently being opened.

Are we correct that the last issue did include more recipes than any other?
An Wen: Yes, Volume 25(3), the Summer 2018 issue did have the most recipes to date, more than fifty of them. We did test most ourselves as several good friends who did help in the past moved. Therefore, I could not taste their efforts before publishing them. They were too far away to do so. I do miss their help and friendship. Years ago, several readers did complain about the recipes, but only about their font size. We did increase that which meant reducing their number in any one issue. Often did wonder If anyone noticed as not a single comment about recipes came our way until yours. Was it noticed and no one used a stamp or their e-mail to so advise?

Does China have a ‘Supreme God’; and does that omnipotent preach about food?
Leon in Colorado: The Chinese do have one and he is named Shangdi. From at least the Shang Dynasty pre-dating Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, he teaches universal love, and is not monotheistic. His rituals include slaughtering and sacrificing a bull, but we found nothing relating to a specific food.

Sisi in Malaysia:
Wonder if there are any yin/yang cooking methods?
Sisi: Among those known as yin, the Chinese include boiling, braising, simmering, stewing, steaming, and putting food in hot liquids; called ‘plunging.’ Yang ones include baking, deep-frying, grilling, roasting, sauteing, and stir-frying. The Chinese believe five characteristics are needed at every meal including aroma, taste, color, shape, and mouth-feel; they say they impact one another. We are no expert on how, but do suggest you check with a TCM practitioner or some web sites for more information on this topic.

From Jan in Boston:
Having trouble with your web site and can not find ‘ginko.’ Do recall your telling us about that animal.
Jan: Years back, we made the same spelling error. The Gingko plant is from the ‘maidenhair’ tree and called Gingko biloba. Most are not aware, as we once were not, that it is a more than one hundred million year old and the only surviving member in its botanical family. Furthermore, it is widely prescribed in China and popular there and throughout Europe, the US, and elsewhere. TCM practitioners tell us they recommend it for early Alzheimer patients, hearing problems, brain dysfunctions, macular degeneration, diabetic neuropathy, and more, and that the outer layer of its seed is a skin irritant. Many handle it with rubber gloves. The Chinese have been using it for thousands of years. Before you do, we suggest you consult a medical professional for answers to any specific questions. We are not medical doctors and do not know your specific needs and considerations.

Cristen in NY asks:
Is the Chinatown where I live the world’s oldest?
Cristen:> No. The one in Manhattan did not begin until the mid-1800s. The world’s oldest is in Manila in the Philippines and was established in 1594. The one in Jakarta in Indonesia began in 1740, the one in Bangkok in Thailand began in 1782. In the UK, the one in Liverpool began in the 1830’s; the one in San Francisco began in the 1850s; and those in the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona began in the mid to late 1800s, their exact dates are not known. In New York City, Manhattan’s Chinatown has the largest concentration of Chinese in the Western Hemisphere; but the one in San Francisco is physically larger with a smaller Chinese population. There are large Chinatowns in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and Baltimore, but when each one began we know not.

Editor JMN:
I really think F&F gets better with every issue, and I thank you for that.
Ms. Yang: Appreciate your comment, your renewal, as well. Both keep us moving forward at this, our 25th publication year. We appreciate all who renew each and every year.

Debby Asks:
Did ships sail from China and Macao with Chinese aboard in the late 1700s?
Debby: We think they did because Xie Qinggao was rescued from one of them after his was wrecked by a European vessel. He worked on it for fourteen years before that accident, used his English as an interpreter in Macao before that, and when the ship wintered there; it was known as the Felice, flew the Portuguese flag, and had forty-nine Chinese sailors helping it to sail and capture sea otters. Read more about it and him at http:// pages.quiicksilver.net.nz/jar/-vfur’l,html or in the book: Meares Voyages.

Sava and Saba Leong ask:
Can you tell us when and where Marco Polo was jailed after returning from China?
Sava and Saba: We read that Marco, his father Nicolo, and his uncle Maffeo did return to Italy via Java and Sumatra, then on to Egypt, and from there to Genoa by ship in the year 1292 (another source says 1296). Marco was seventeen when they left in 1271. After his return, he was put in prison in Genoa after battles between Genoa and Venice. His cell mate, Rustichello, from Pisa, was a writer of romance novels. He did record much of what Marco tells him while there. Later, he publishes a book, The Travels of Marco Polo translated into German (1477), Portuguese (1502), and Spanish (1503). Our shelves have three copies, all with different authors and text. We read there are more than a hundred different ones, not all telling the same stories. The one similar thing in each of them is that ‘Marco Polo’ is in their title. Many who read them are skeptical about what his cell mate writes that Marco says he saw in China. We also read that, the Culinary Historians did report that he saw and maybe ate (their Volume 7, Ann Arbor MI). It includes twelve poultry items, fifteen meats, ten fruits, seven grains, four milks, three nuts, six fish, eleven spices, three vegetables, seven alcoholic beverages, and eight as miscellaneous; including two spices and one melon.

Harry Asks:
A few questions, please, can you share anything about the Dongzhi holiday, who was the first Chinese man on earth, and which Chinese cuisine has the most chicken dishes?
Harry: That is a lot to ask. Your first query, is of the Winter Solstice Festival. In 2017, it was on December 22nd. It is always the shortest day and longest night of every year. To your second, we have no idea. As the third one, we never counted any dishes in any cuisine and know of no one who has. We do know that Guangdong cuisine has hundreds, many related to Hakka cuisine. A lady once did tell us Dongjiang Chicken is on menus in many including in Guangdong, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Yuan in Idaho asks:
Can you tell us when and where Marco Polo was jailed after returning from China, and about goose and duck tongues?
Yuan: See page 6. We know about cooking duck tongues. At our recent 65th anniversary dinner, the cold plate had five items, a lucky number, wishing us luck for more years, and five sets of items. Does a reader have a recipe for goose tongues, we do not. Enjoy the two Duck Tongue recipes that follow.

Duck Tongues with Sesame Paste

½ pound of duck tongues
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
5 slices fresh ginger, smashed
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 small lump dark rock sugar, crushed
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon sesame paste
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 or 2 cloves star anise


1. Mix the duck tongues with salt and set aside for five minutes, then rinse and simmer them for five minutes, and then drain them. Next, break each one between bone and cartilage, and discard both.
2. Then, heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, and when hot, add the ginger and the tongues and stir-fry them for five minutes before adding the other ingredients. Bring this to the boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer and stir-fry for five minutes until it thickens.
3. Remove all to a pre-heated bowl, discard the star anise, and serve.

Duck Tongues with Fermented Rice

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 small chili pepper, seeds discarded, and minced
20 duck tongues
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons red fermented rice wine
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon chicken bullion powder
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine


1. Boil duck tongues for five minutes in two cups water, then remove and discard their bones and cartilage.
2. Heat a wok or small fry pan, add the oi, and fry the duck tongues for two minutes; then discard the oil.
3. Next, add sesame oil, garlic, chili pepper pieces, and stir-fry them for one minute before adding all the other ingredients and simmering this for five minutes. Now serve this in a pre-heated bowl.

Soup dumplings are becoming popular; were they always thus, and do you have a recipe?
To all who asked: To the many who asked, there are many ways to enjoy these delights; and we often do. The recipe below is thanks to a local chef we know.

Xiao Long Bao

2 cups bread or high gluten flour
pinch of salt
2 cups gelled cold beef or chicken stock
1 scallion, minced
½ pound finely chopped pork
1/4 pound shrimp, their shells and veins discarded, then chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
small handful of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sesame oil
a few lettuce leaves to line a steamer basket
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
10 cps chicken stock


1. Mix flour, salt, and the gelled stock, then knead this until elastic, and let it rest for ten minutes.
2. Next, roll it thinly and use a very large cup or glass to cut out three-inch circles, Stack them sprinkling a little flour between layers; and let them rest for ten minutes.
3. Gently mix chopped pork, minced shrimp, scallion pieces, cornstarch, egg, and sesame oil, then take two teaspoons of this mixture and put it in the center of one circle. Lightly wet the edge and, fold it over, then make eighteen pleats to seal the dough, Repeat until all are sealed and placed on a lettuce-lined steamer basket not touching another one.
4. Steam this over boiling water for twenty-five minutes,. Serve two or three in each pre-heated soup bowl, and if desired, add some hot stock, too.
Note: As the stock will melt and be hot, be careful when biting into a dumpling as the liquid will be hot.

Dr. Newman:
Thanks for the information about ancient books; do any minorities have any?
Howie: Read about thousands of Mongolian Books in their language; the Yin have that many, too. Tibetans have many in wood blocks, and I am sure there are many others in their own languages. How many I do not know or where they may be. There are some in Tujue, Huihu, and in Dongba which is the language of the Naxi people, and the best resource might be at the History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Emperor Qian Long in the Qing Dynasty did issue an edict to collect all classical, historical, and philosophical books, and copy them. More than three hundred scholars worked on that task for ten years, their efforts including almost seven thousand volumes. They are in the Complete Library of the Four Treasures. Some passages were not copied as they were not complimentary to Qing rulers; some burned for similar reasons. We do not know if any had recipes, do you?

Just got the Fall issue; It is a doozey chockablock with good stuff.
HS: You and many others did appreciate it. Thanks to all who wrote about it.

From Min Lu:
Minority info on the web is in short supply; particularly for those in the Yunnan Province.
Sir: The last date we saw said about one third there are minorities. The Yi are the largest, followed by the Bai, Hani, and Dai; each with more than one million.. Between half and one million each are Lisu, Va, and Jingpo, and the Jinu include eighteen thousand people. The Va are one of China’s oldest minorities, their young girls comb the hair of boys they fancy singing when doing so. He can spend a night at her home but sex is a no-no and forbidden before marriage.

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