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TOPICS INCLUDE: Chongking food; Bohai Kingdom; Stuffed Papaya; Foods near Yangtzi River

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(4) pages: 5 to 6

From Lee Anne:
Heard about a new eatery serving Chongking food near you; have you been there yet?
Lee Anne: Yes, a few times; also, the other newer one reviewed in this issue on see pages 15 and 16.

Dr. Newman:
Read about a Bohai Kingdom, but little information, can you enlighten us?
Larnie in Toledo OH: The people in this ancient kingdom were a minority population known as the Mohe. They took over in 698 CE. In the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE) were joined and ruled by others, and were still in existence during the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 CE), then taken over by the Manchu close to 1644 CE when they overthrew the Ming Dynasty. Before that, they conquered others who ruled the Kingdom of Zhen, were over thrown in 926 CE, became the Liao Dynasty with fifteen kings ruling in five major cities, fifteen prefectures, and one-hundred thirty-seven counties; sent ambassadors to the Tang capital of Chang’an (now known as Xian), and were famous for weaving silk and smelting iron, the latter done outside the capital of Shangjiang. More than one hundred fifty years later, they were taken over by Qitan people; and during the Liao Dynasty were ruled by others (916 CE - 1125).

Their palace surrounded by a stone and earthen wall fifty-two feet long and more than six feet high, had ten city gates, also an inner wall eight-feet long with its own gate. Around their palace were royal gardens. An excavation in the 1980s found heated beds and a Buddhist lamp (shown here) from Bohai Kingdom times on a stone lotus flower with a pole holding another flower that held a small Buddhist building with open windows and a roof. Now reconstructed, a picture of it, the first in the May 1988 China Reconstructs with a low metal fence around it; this was the first time we ever saw it, and now you can, too.

From John in Boulder:
Disappointed not to see the Salem Witch Museum. We enjoy seeing many places you write about. They help us find them when visiting later on. We are off to Salem next Spring, so can we have an early look?
John: Thanks for your appreciation. You are not the first to request exterior shots of places we tout. Did have some but forgot to include them. Here are the Salem Witch Museum is on this page, the Peabody Essex Museum on page 6, and a map of Salem below.

Know the Chinese use papayas and we do see them in their markets. What about a recipe?
Henrietta in NY: Yours is the first request for a picture and recipe of this fruit. We once stuffed one with shrimp; a fancier one follows.

Shark's Fin Stuffed Papaya

1 1/4 pound shark’s fin, cooked and diced
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled
1 scallion, knotted
3 Tablespoons skinless chicken thigh meat, diced
3 Tablespoons skinless duck breast, diced
1½ to 2 pounds of papaya, keeping stem end
1 large dried Chinese mushrooms, stem discarded
2 cups chicken broth, divided
cheese cloth and three toothpicks


1. Prepare shark’s fin, soaked in cold water over night, then in morning, drain and discard water, rinse it with fresh water, and divide shark’s fin and tie it in two pieces of cheese cloth.
2. Cut one-inch off the top of the papaya, save it, discard its seeds, and rinse again with cold water. Wrap shark’s fin pieces in two pieces of cheese cloth, then put them and half the broth, the ginger and scallion knot, and place the papaya stem end up, in a Chinese soup bowl holding it upright.
3. Put this bowl in a deep pot with two cups of cold water around it, cover the pot and bring its water to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for one hour; then discard ginger and scallion, discard the water, and open the shark’s fin bundles into the papaya.
4. In that heat-proof bowl, add one cup of water there or on the bottom of the pot, add rest of the broth into the papaya with chicken, duck, and mushroom pieces into and around it and cover the papaya with toothpicks, then cover the pot and bring it to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for half an hour, then take papaya out carefully, remove and discard top and toothpicks.
5. Cut papaya into one-inch pieces, mix it with the shark’s fin, duck, chicken, and mushroom pieces and put them into individual-pre-heated soup bowls, and serve.

Dear Newman:
Read that foods from around the Yangtzi River are unique; what makes them so?
Charlie from Beijing: More than any other part of China, here are many vegetarian followers of Mahayana and others Buddhists from Fujian, Huai Yang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, or Zhejiang. They make and use lots of red wine lees, use it to season pounded pork shank called ‘swallow skin’ the Chinese call yanpi, and pound it paper-thin and cut it into wafer-like pieces. One recipe we read calls it Drunken Scarlet Eels, and marinates the skinless eel pieces in this red wine lees with five-spice and curry powders, drains them, dips them in batter, and fries them until they are light tan, then eats them.

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