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TOPICS INCLUDE: Tea’s popularity; Pan Xi restaurant; China’s first health-food place; Manchu-Han feast; Fortune cookie origins; Diseases are yin or yang; Dai ethnic minority; The Kaifeng synagogue; More about doufu; Kudos; Awards for the past
Letters to the Editor
Fall Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(3) pages: 4 to 9
A friend just told me tea is not the most common
beverage in China; if not tea, which one is?
Deh-Deh: Your friend is correct; the most common
beverage in China is soup,
often quite watery and
sometimes called ‘thin soup.’
If is is from China’s North,
it commonly ends a meal;
if from near or below the
Yangzi River it might begin,
be in the middle, or even
end a meal.
There are other important
beverages including those
made of grains such as
millet, rice, sorghum, or
wheat, and if fermented
might be called jiu. This
is commonly translated as
wine, its alcoholic content
can vary, and during
medieval times ‘burned’ or ‘roasted’ jiu was popular.
Tea did not become popular until Tang Dynasty times.
Nowadays, there are many popular beverages and
among the teas, Longjing tea often considered the
best. Coffee consumption is growing, particularly
in the Yunnan Province and by the country’s youth.
Tea is more loved by the elderly, though all Chinese
enjoy it and other beverages in local tea houses they
From Mah in Japan:
Where in Hangzhou is the Pan Xi restaurant; and
what cooking techniques and dishes are most
Mah: The web and every telephone directory says it is
in Hangzhou, some say across the street from the lake
and at 151 Longjin West Road, their telephone number:
86-2081721328. While we were there, one waiter
told us they use many cooking techniques from the
Guangdong Province, most Royal or Imperial Cooking
ways prepare their foods; but not everyone agrees. He
did say stewing was important as was cooking slowly
and gently in liquid; and he went on adding most foods
were not cooked directly over heat. We know that not
using high temperatures keeps nutrient content high,
foods most nourishing. Do read a soup recipe from
that restaurant in this issue on page 27.
Jong Bong asks:
Which is China’s first health food eatery?
Jong Bong: Many told us it is the Tongrentang
Imperial Palace in Chengdu, and that it opened in
1980 and makes foods based
on recipes from a pharmacy in
Beijing. Some said theirs is a
very extensive menu, maybe a
thousand dishes and for every
part of a meal or condition. It
is at Number 1 Zongfu Street,
and every taxi driver we spoke
to Hangzhou knew its address.
A few said if we go there, every
staff member knows every dish
and what it is for.
From Tom in NJ:
You wrote about a Manchu-
Han Feast some time ago, but
with little detail. Can you
provide more, and advise
when and where fortune cookies come from?
Tom: As to your first request, Manchu-Han meals
serve most dishes from the Manchu(rian) and Han
nationality populations; and they became popular
during Kang Xi and Qian Long imperial reigns during
the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE). Some were two
separate events later combined into one. Some early
ones included one hundred and thirty-four courses,
those from the Manchu included beef, lamb ones
often from the Huihe River area. Later, others came
from south of the Yangzi River. Now these meals show
off the best of North and South China using cooking
techniques from both of them.
As to Fortune Cookie; many say they are more
American than Chinese, and that David Jung, a Los
Angeles noodle manufacturer should get credit for
their development and early success. He borrowed
an idea from Chinese rebels who exchanged messages
in their buns, it caught on and now one company
makes most of them, at least in the Eastern part of
the US. Recently, they did contract with a Guangzhou
company to make them with messages in Chinese and
English, but were not successful in China. In the US,
the largest company making and selling them uses
the trade name ‘Golden Bowl’ and makes millions
each and every week, some dipped in Chocolate to
please the American sweet tooth.
How about an article about herbal, tea, and spices,
Larry: Thanks for your e-mail. Readers like
knowing where writers come from, so in the future,
we hope all will advise where they live or are writing
from. As to herbs, they have been part of Chinese
diets since antiquity. In the US, its Congress, in 1958,
did pass a Food Additive Amendment Act for use in
the US, pass the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act
in 1990 for those needs, and the Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act in 1994 for those. They
regulate all capsules, powders, gelcaps, softgels
and other health food and nutrition-related items;
and if you want information about them, go to:
to learn more
about them. As to tea, not always a dietary supplement,
it can reduce frequency of most chromatid exchanges
in vitro, and these free radical scavengers are useful
as drinking tea has a protective role in some diseases.
Alcohol, high-fat foods, and well-cooked red meats
have been associated with high cancer risks, green
tea no different if milk is added to it, as you and
others inquired. Spices have many roles, ginger, the
rhizome of Zingiber officinale, very popular worldwide,
turmeric related, and galangal and cardamon popular,
too. Spices can be buds, leaves, fruits, or other parts of
their plant with each one regulated differently. Many
have been used for thousands of years, suggested for
stomach aches, coughs, tonics, rheumatism, jaundice,
anemia, swellings, headaches, etc., and their specifics
can be and are very different.
Now, as to your last query about
chopsticks, these Neolithic sticks,
called kuaizi in Mandarin, were once
known as zhu. They are best held
one-third down from the top, thumb,
index, middle and ring fingers placed
on the upper stick, and it is best if
both are even at their bottom end.
Many tell us they express joy and
good wishes, and Professor Zhao says
for health reasons. add an extra pair
at your table to pick up food from a
communal plate. Each diner should
use his or her own pair to move food
into their own mouth. and, Please:
Only one or two questions in a single
Do Chinese call some diseases ‘yin’
and others ‘yang’ and what body
organs do they represent?
William: Your letter, truncated above, asks about,
cancer and menstruation; both are yin conditions,
hangovers and hypertension yang ones. Resources
such as Wikipedia and other web sites provide much
information; please use it; and thanks for your queries.
My wife is from the Dai ethnic population and seems
to know little about her food heritage; the computer
is of little help. Can you share some Dai dishes with
us and other readers?
Mr. Mercado: There is little information on the
computer about this ethnic population, few if any
recipes for their almost one and a half million people
in China. Most live in the Yunnan Province, love sour,
spicy, and crispy foods, and one Dai chap said his family
and other Dai can know
more than one hundred
different ones. As his
wife also lost contact
with family members
after coming to the US,
and as he is not Dai, he
says when he visited
her family in China, he
was served boiled sun-dried skin from cows that was
fried and delicious with a spicy sauce with charcoal-roasted
fish, piquant peppers, onions, cogon grass, and
glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes, etc.
educate us about other Dai dishes beyond the sticky
rice that was a favorite,
as were eel dishes. He has no
information about other Dai foods except to tell us he
once read an article in China Tourism, but it had no
Flavor and Fortune did write an article about
the Dai, but it had no recipes either, and
it was in Volume 24. Go to the web index at
www.flavorandfortune.com to read it.
Was disappointed with no pictures or
information about the Kaifeng Synagogue at
the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. Here are
two to share, and we hope you will publish
Wish we could include everything readers
suggest or send. We do thank you for the
Betty on L.I. writes:
Thank you and others for their many queries.
This past issue was another lovely one and I did
particularly like the articles about Jews and the city
Betty: Thanks your and everyone’s letters ; we were
pleased so many liked these articles, as you did.
We three guys wonder about the
origin of The Book of Songs, also the Records of the
Historian. What are they?
Sirs: The ancient Chinese classic called The Book
of Songs is the world’s oldest anthology; it has three
hundred and five items, some called verse, others said
to be songs. It was written in Western Zhou Dynasty
times or in the Spring and Autumn Period (1100 - 771
BCE, and 770 - 476 BCE, respectively), is divided into
Bi or simile and metaphoric types, Fu or narration
ones, and Xing or evocations of images remote from
their central subjects, and was compiled by Confucius
(551 - 479 BCE), though originally the collective effort
of musicians from the Zhou Dynasty court over five
hundred or so years, intended to inspire, communicate,
even admonish laboring people. One compiler’s son
said its three sections titled Feng, Ya, and Song did
became vehicles of protest.
The Records of the Historian was written by Sima
Qian and he was a historian who wrote about the Han
Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE). This important resource is
about ancient China’s three thousand years of political
and military life from the tribal era of the Yellow
Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wudi (156 - 87 BCE). It
is a series of biographies and essays about the movers
and shakers of their times written in one hundred thirty
sections and is about emperors, nobility, celebrities,
and ordinary folk and it stresses the complexities of
ordinary people, rulers, and human nature; and is a set
of books looking at China’s socio-economics, market,
and other regulations of its Dynasty, and the merchants
who amassed wealth making the right deals at the right
time. The author was the son of Sima Tan, the Grand
Historian of the Han Dynasty who took over his father’s
position and learned thanks to books and archives
in the Imperial library studying relationship between
man and Heaven and revealing forces behind history.
However, in 99 BCE, he did irritate Emperor Wudi and
was imprisoned and emasculated for doing so, then
was released and finished this book five years later.
In it he discusses astronomy, agriculture, finance, and
the arts, and this book is a major study about China’s
history and people.
Your doufu article was good, but too short with too
few recipes. Many friends asked for more recipes.
In response: Our mailbox had many of these
requests; here are some of them.
1 cup raw soybeans, soaked overnight with one cup cool water and 1 1/4 teaspoons magnesium sulfate, known as Epson salts.
1.Grind, then strain out the solids, then put them with
one cup cold water in a small pot and heat them at
180 degrees F for fifteen minutes.
2. Strain again,
discard the solids and use the soy milk, putting it on
and under a layer of cheese cloth with a weight on
top and set at the texture you want
3. Cover and
refrigerate overnight. When set, cut into any shape
wanted, keep cool, and use in a few days.
½ pound doufu, rinsed with boiling water
1 small chicken breast, cut in thin strips
1 small bamboo shoot, peeled and cut like the chicken breast
6 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon rendered chicken fat
1 scallion, minced
1. Prepare the first three ingredients, and put them into
the broth and simmer for fifteen minutes.
2. Add the rice wine and rendered fat, and pour them
into individual soup bowls.
3. Then, sprinkle scallion pieces on top, and serve.
|Vegetarian Stir-Fried Doufu|
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ small cabbage head, shivered, core discarded
½ pond bok cai, slivered or cut in half-inch pieces
½ cup snow peas or melting mouth peas, slivered
1 Tablespoon furu, mashed
½ teaspoon sa cha paste
1 small carrot, peeled, slivered, and simmered for three minutes
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons vegetarian broth
1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, and stir cabbage
and bok cai pieces for two minutes.
2. Next add the peas, the furu, sa cha paste, carrot,
and the cornstarch and water mixed, and stir until
3. Serve in a pre-heated bowl.
1 Tablespoon solid shortening
½ pound dried doufu, soaked until soft, the coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons furu, mashed
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 small piquant pepper, seeded and slivered
2 Tablespoons water chestnut flour
1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, then stir in the soft
chopped bean curd, the furu, ginger, sugar, soy sauce,
and wine, and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Next, add the sesame oil and stir, then do likewise
with the piquant pepper pieces and stir-fry two minutes.
3. Add a rice bowl of hot water mixed with the water
chestnut flour and stir-fry all until thickened.
4. Serve in a pre-heated bowl.
|Soy Beans, Long-Cooked|
1 pound fresh soy beans, the outer and inner shells discarded
½ pound can bamboo shoots, shredded
½ pound fresh or smoked doufu
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon each, thin and dark soy sauce
1 star anise
3 whole scallions, angle slivered
3 slices fresh ginger, slivered
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1. Put all ingredients except the sesame oil into a pot,
stir well, then add one cup of cold water and bring this
to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered
for forty minutes.
2. Now add the sesame oil, put all into a pre-heated
bowl, and serve.
|Glass Noodles, Belly Pork and Puffs|
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1-ounce packet or transparent noodles, soaked until soft, drained, water discarded
10 dried small shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft in one cup warm water, reserve the water, and cut each mushroom in quarters
5 slices fresh ginger, slivered
5 scallions, angle-slivered
10 fried tofu puffs, each angle cut in half
1 cup choy sum, stems cut into one-inch pieces, leaves separated
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/4 pound belly pork, diced into small pieces
½ cup coriander leaves
1. Heat wok or fry-pan, add the oil, then the soaked
noodles and the mushrooms, for two minutes.
2. Add ginger and scallion to the pan, and stir-fry for
two minutes, then set this aside.
3. Add taro puff pieces, and stir-fry them for one
minute, then add the choy sum stems and stir-fry for
another minute before adding soy sauce and belly pork
pieces and fry them until crisp; about two minutes.
4. Now add the choy sum leaves, and in one minute,
then return the set aside ingredients to the pan, stir
once, and serve in a pre-heated bowl.
|Black Pepper Doufu|
1 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds firm doufu cut into thin one-inch squares
½ cup cornstarch
3 Tablespoons melded lard
3 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
5 shallots, peeled and each cut into four pieces
10 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
3 piquant dried peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons coarsely ground black peppercorns
3 Tablespoons sweet kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoons granulated sugar
5 scallions, each cut in one-inch pieces
3 cups cooked rice
1. Heat wok or deep fry pan, add the oil, mix doufu and
the cornstarch and fry it in the very hot but not smoking
oil until lightly browned and crisp, then drain on paper
towels, and wash and dry the wok or fry pan.
2. Put lard in the wok or fry pan, the add the ginger,
shallots, garlic, and piquan peppers and stir-fry for one
minute or until they begin to get soft.
3, Now add the peppercorns, and the kecep manis, dark
soy sauce, and granulated sugar and stir-fry for one or
two minutes before adding the scallion pieces,
4. Pour this over the cooked thermally hot rice, stir-fry
for two minutes, then put in a pre-heated bowl, and
|Frozen Bean Curd with Mushrooms|
3 small bok cai, each leaf’s length cut in half
½ pound bean curd, frozen overnight, then cut in small rectangles
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
10 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked until soft, stems discarded, each cap cut in four
10 fish balls, each cut in half or smaller
1 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups fish broth
3 Tablespoons each, sesame and vegetable oils
1. Put bok cai in the bottom of a heat-proof casserole.
2, Put bean curd pieces on top of them, then the soaked
mushroom pieces. Now pour the soy sauce over this,
add the drained mushroom pieces, and those of the fish
3. Next, mix the sugar, broth, and both oils and pour this
over everything, and bring it to the boil. reduce the heat
and simmer for twenty minutes, then serve.
|Doufu-Stuffed Spring Rolls|
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound ground pork
5 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems discarded, caps coarsely minced
1/4 pound fresh shrimp, veins discarded, then coarsely minced
1/4 pound firm doufu, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons lotus root flour
3 Tablespoons coarsely minced water chestnuts
2 Tablespoons coarsely minced canned bamboo shoots
½ cup bean sprouts, tails discarded
3 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
10 spring roll wrappers
½ cup vegetable oil
dipping sauce (if desired)
1. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil, then ground pork,
and stir fry this about one minute until the pork is no
2. Next, add the mushroom pieces and stir-fry for two
minutes before adding the shrimp and stir-frying them
for one minute more.
3. Now add the doufu, thin soy sauce and the lotus
root flour and stir and then add the minced water
chestnuts, bamboo shoots, ben sprouts and scallions
and toss once or twice, then add the sesame oil and
remove to a large fat plate and allow to cool.
4. Put three tablespoons of the cooed mixture into a
spring roll wrapper and fold in the sides then roll but
not too tightly, sealing the edge with a little water and
put them seam side down on a clean dry plate.
5. Heat the vegetable in a clean dry wok or fry pan, add
the oil, then put the rolls seam side down in it, and fry
until lightly browned, turn them over and fry them on
the other side until lightly browned, then remove to
paper towels. Serve (with dipping sauce on the side,