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TOPICS INCLUDE: Jews in China, Methods of Heating, God on Food, Licorice, Rhubarb, Yang Bu Wei, Soy Sprouts, Chrysanthemum Tea, Symbolic Foods
Letters to the Editor
Summer Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(2) pages: 8 to 11
You have had some letters and articles about Jews;
can you say something about the Jews in China?
Jacob: Read the article about Jews in China in this
issue. Also go to Wikipedia and other resources for more
information about this population and the one about
Leon in Los Angeles Asks:
Can you expand on Benita Wong‘s methods of heating
Leon: The ancient Chinese delineated them in the
order she does. Her list is forty, many minimally used.
Here are those most used:
Chu, the earliest and probably simplest, is cooking in
well-controlled, well-timed boiling water.
Tang is quick boiling. a variation of the previous one
but with sliced or thin-cut foods dipped in hot liquid
sealing and cooking them quickly.
Shuan is cooking food pieces in boiled liquid on a
charcoal or spirit-heated pot at the table.
Chin is cooking in boiled liquid, immediately reducing
the heat or removing it from the heat.
Chuan is bringing water or stock to a rolling boil,
adding all food, reheating to the rolling boil, and
removing the food when done.
Pao is deep-boiling, like deep-frying, but the liquid is
three to four times greater than the food in it.
Men is frying the main ingredient in little oil, adding
some liquid and bringing that to the boil, then longcooking
Lu is to boil, reduce the heat, and cook in strong
aromatic soy-herbal stock; adding herbs as needed.
Cha Shao is marinated meat cut in strips, heated
over a fire or in an oven, then roasted hanging, brushed
with marinade at regular intervals.
Cheng is steaming in an open a large container, the
liquid at a rolling boil.
Tun is steaming in a closed container, often sealed
with paper or topped with a lid.
Peng is frying on both sides until brown, adding a
limited amount of liquid, cooking it until almost dry.
Hui is cooking in thickened liquid, adding a drop or
two of sesame oil stirred into this thickened gravy.
Pan, also called ‘hot toss and scramble’, is similar to
hui but in flavor-impregnated oil.
Pao, also called ‘flash-frying’, with the food suspended
above oil, ladle splashing it with oil.
Chien is cooking in a small amount of oil, the pieces
large and cooked until done.
Do the Chinese believe there is a God; and what does
he/she say about food?
Mindy: Your questions can best be answered
quoting the first sentence in The Great Tao by Stephen
T, Chang; it was published in Tao Publishing, at 2700
Ocean Avenue, San Francisco CA 94132. It begins saying:
“Tao is God, according to the Chinese. To translates the
Gospel according to John 1:1 saying “In the beginning
was the Tao, and the Tao was with God”... then goes on
How long and why has licorice been used as a
medicine by the Chinese?
Wing WANG Wang: For more than four
thousand years in China and the rest of Asia, most often
for relieving stomach inflammations and digestion. Not
everyone should ingest this herbal because it can impact
those with hypertension and those with cardiac and
renal issues, the latter the most. Adverse effects are
from the glycyrrhizic acid in licorice. It causes sodium
retention, exacerbates the effects of a diet high in
sodium, if one ingests more than three and a half ounces
a day. The amount does differ for each person about its
adverse effects, but it does take several years to see any
subclinical conditions and these most often promote
Can you share information about Canarium alba, the
Chinese olive and about rhubarb use in China?
Mary Louise: China uses both of these food items
mostly in the south of their country, and as fruits, but
the olives are also used for varnish and for printing.
Archeologists think this variety of olive originated in
Indochina, is now popular throughout China as a fruit,
and on Hainan Island used as a final coat of varnish
on boats there. Both foods are now popular all over
China. The olive was once a tribute food at the palace
when Han Emperor Wu Ti reigned about 111 BCE while
rhubarb was always both a food and medicine in China
and in Tibet. It was loved when used as a sweet and has
been since antiquity. As a medicine, rhubarb was used
to relieve constipation, balance the digestive system, and
as a tonic. Some did use it to relieve mental disorders,
but that was not a popular use. Anthropologists believe
it native to China, Tibet, and to Russia. It was once a
luxury item, and probably came to Europe from Asia on
the Silk Road. Everyone learned quickly that one should
only consume the stems and roots, never the leaves
because they are toxic loaded with oxalic acid. There are
many kinds of rhubarb, the Chinese variety considered
best; it is botanically known as Rha barbarum and The
Chinese call it da huang, its very large leaves reminding
of its Chinese name as da means big or large in their
language. The stems, seen on page 8, are eaten in many
countries, and not new to China, they were mentioned
by Shen Nung in 2838 BCE. The stems were eaten raw
in China in the 7th century CE, and then they grew wild
in and around Beijing. The Mongols did eat them often
in the 10th century, and Marco Polo does mention them
in the 12th, and many missionaries did so then, too. This
hardy plant grows nine feet in height, and is used in China
in stews, bakery products, and many sweet and stewed
dishes there. Some did say that the Chinese did use their
leaves, but only as a purgative to cleanse the blood and
purify the system when other medicines did not do these
Can you tell us some things about the lady who wrote
‘How to Cook and Eat in Chinese’?
Ren Ren: When asked about the benefits of educating
girls, she replied: “Women are the mothers of all citizens.”
She was born in Nanjing as Yang Bu Wei and was raised
by an aunt and uncle; her early schooling there. After
that education, she went to Medical School in Tokyo and
found “Japanese food inedible” so she became interested
in cooking. She married linguist Yuen R. Chao, married
him in 1922, they had four daughters, the eldest, Rulan
Chao who helped correct her English when she began book
writing: She said “I speak little English and write less; I
cooked my dishes in Chinese, my daughter Rulan put my
Chinese into English.” In this book, she invents the terms
‘stir-frying’ and ‘pot stickers.’ Her second book is not a
cookbook; both are published by the John Day Company
owned by Pearl S. Buck.
Can you provide a Chinese stew for my new slowcooker;
and a recipe for soy sprouts?
J. K. Lee: Here are both for you to enjoy. The soy
sprout recipe is on page 10.
|Beef Noodles, Slow-Cooked|
1½ to 2 pounds chuck steak, cut into two-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon garlic chili paste
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
2 star anise (each 4 to 6 points)
½ pound dried flat noodles
2 to 3 cups cilantro or watercress leaves
3 angle-sliced scallions
1. Mix steak cubes, salt and pepper, and cornstarch.
2. Heat oil in a slow-cooker, and when hot, add the meat,
hoisin and soy sauces, the chili and tomato pastes,
minced or slivered ginger and garlic, and the star
anise pods , stir, and cover the slow cooker,
3. After four hors, stir well, and remove and discard
the star anise, and cover this once again and let it
cook about three more hours until the meat is tender..
4. Boil the noodles about eight minutes less than their
package instructs, drain them and toss them into the
slow cooker, stir and recover once again..
5. Top with the cilantro and/or the watercress, sprinkle
on the scallion slices, and serve.
|Catfish and Soy Sprout Soup|
2-pound catfish, scales, bones and insides removed, then cut into two-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 whole tomatoes, base end removed
3 cups soy sprouts
½ cup pickled Sichuan vegetables, coarsely chopped
3 cloves whole garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
3 cups hot chicken broth
1. Mix fish pieces and the salt and put them in a colander
to drain for half an hour. Then rinse and dry them with
2. Blanch the tomatoes and immediately dip them in
ice water, then remove their skin, and mash them.
3. Put a quart of water in a pot, bring it to the boil,
add the soy sprouts and blanch them for two minutes,
drain, and then discard their water.
4. Put the pickled vegetables in another pot with one
cup of hot water, add the mashed tomatoes, ginger,
garlic, chili powder, and the sugar, and bring this to
the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes,
then add the sprouts for three more minutes, stir. Then
drain putting all in a pre-heated bowl, the fish pieces
5. Add the lime juice and stir gently, then serve the
pieces of fish and soy sprouts gently mixed with the
sesame oil-soy sauce and the hot broth.
You have written lots about tea, but nothing about
Chrysanthemum Tea or about Squash Blossoms. I
love tea and flowers, please provide these recipes.
Harriet: I did drink this tea as a teen and in my
early twenties, but never ate squash blossoms, and
would love to. The tea was popular in my home and still
is in Hangzhou, but in the US it was unavailable for a few
years as they claimed it brought bugs into the country
in its flowers. Once brewed, it does keep its aroma, and
many adore it.
½ cup dried chrysanthemum flowers
rock sugar or honey, to taste (optional)
1. Put these flowers in a teapot, cover them with freshly
boiled water, stir, and after one minute, discard the
2. Refill the teapot with fresh water steeping the flowers
for five minutes. Enjoy the tea hot, cool or cold; and one
can brew it a second time after that, but after that it will
lose its flavor and aroma.
|Stuffed Squash Flowers|
10 fresh squash flowers, rinsed then carefully dried with paper towels
½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, then drained, stems discarded, caps finely minced
1 cup minced fresh pork
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
3 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
3 Tablespoons mixed light and dark soy sauce
1 piquant pepper, seeds discarded, then minced
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1. Cut away and discard stamens and the green calyx.
2. Mix mushroom, pork, garlic, scallions, beaten egg, soy
sauces, minced hot pepper, and one tablespoon of the
oil, and stuff the flowers, most of the meat mixture
toward their bottoms.
3. Heat wok or fry pan, add the rest of the oil, and put
flowers into the hot oil bottoms down, petals up, and fry
until golden. Near the end of the frying put the petal
part into the oil and fry them until the entire flower is
4. Remove them to a small plate, petal parts toward the
center, base of the flowers around the plate’s edge.
5. Mix one tablespoon of the thin soy sauce with two
teaspoons of sugar and one tablespoon of Chinese black
vinegar, and pour over the stuffed flowers, and serve.
Lee Kim Wonders:
I heard that drunken immortals in a dish always
means fermented rice in it; is this true?
Lee: Often named after these tipsy immortals, but not
always with alcohol in it, here is a popular one.
3 Tablespoons cooked barley
½ cup goji berries
3 Tablespoons soaked and drained goji berries
3 canned water chestnuts, cut into slices around each one
1 Tablespoon water chestnut flour
2 cups white rock sugar
dash of pink Himalayan sea salt
1 cup sliced banana the long way and each slice cut in half
A ripe melon cut into small balls
A ripe mango cut into balls
½ cup red raspberries
1 cup fermented rice with its liquid
1. Mix cooked barley, drained goji berries, circularly cut
water chestnut pieces, water chestnut flour, rock sugar,
sea salt, and the four fruit pieces in a pot, add 3 cups
cold water, and bring this to the boil, add the fermented
rice but not its liquid. Bring this to the boil and when
thickened, remove the fruit and let the liquid cool.
2. Return the fruit to the liquid, and serve hot, at room
temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold.
Never saw Bunun minorities; have you; and what is
their staple grain?
Folks: They are Taiwanese aboriginese people. We
never saw them either except in a magazine picture above,
but we know not from where as we never labeled it.
Ge Gao asks:
Do share some important symbolic foods many
Chinese love and use often:
Ge Gao: Eight is an important and lucky number, so
we share that many often spoken about with a few of
their symbolic meanings; the foods in alphabetic order,
not their order of importance.
Chicken means unity to most. It is a wish for families
to be together for New Year’s Eve dinner and many
other times, too. This togetherness can include their
eating a whole fish, chicken feet, and lobster.
Duck, is loved as Peking Duck and Roast Duck these
animals show and mean fidelity for life. They can be
found at New Year’s banquets; sometimes at weddings,
and if red, this is a wish for happiness.
Eggs signify and symbolize fertility. A new baby is why
they have a red egg party, and if male there will be an
odd number of eggs, if a girl it will be an even number.
Fish represents prosperity. Every family wants that for
their family members and a whole fish is often on their
table to wish for that; and not cutting into their luck.
Fruit, preferably gold-colored ones, including oranges,
grapefruits, and pomelos are symbolic of good luck
and much wealth, and seen at many New Year events.
Noodles are symbols of longevity, served as long as
possible, and found at birthday events as wishes for the
long life of the one celebrating that birthday.
Seeds be they lotus, watermelon, or any other,
symbolize wishes for many children and are popular
often repeating this wish.
Vegetables have various meanings, garlic chives
symbolize eternity, bamboo shoots stand for wealth,
sticky rice cakes for a long sweet life, and many round
items wishing for family togetherness.