What is Flavor and Fortune?
How do I subscribe?
How do I get past issues?
How do I advertise?
How do I contact the editor?

Read 6923686 times

Connect me to:
Book reviews
Letters to the Editor
Newmans News and Notes
Restaurant reviews

Article Index (all years, slow)
List of Article Years
Article Index (2024)
Article Index (last 2 years)
Things others say
Related Links

Log In...

Categories & Topics

Recipes: Past and Present

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Food in History

Winter Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(4) pages: 34 to 37

Early Chinese staples were foxtail and panic millets everywhere, rice in the south, and wheat and barley as imports that came to the north. In the Book of Songs there were many recipes, but we have not seen translations of any them. Some herbs were used in quite a few dishes, vegetables included the bottle gourd and others in the squash and Allium families including garlic, onions, and bunching onions. So were many medicinal plants and lore about them a couple of thousand years ago; and they still are. Frequent requests these days are for recipes using black bean sauce and oxtail dishes. Both and others follow.

Black Bean Sauce

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon fermented black beans, mashed
1 pound spinach, thick stems discarded
1 red chili pepper, seeded and slivered


1. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil, then stir-fry both garlic and black beans for one minute.
2. Add spinach and chili pepper slivers and stir-fry another minute, then add the spinach and stir for another minute. Serve in a pre-heated bowl.

Water Spinach with Fermented Doufu

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and slivered
1½ Tablespoons mashed fermented doufu known as furu
1 bunch water spinach, washed well and cut into two-inch pieces


1. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil, and just before it smokes, add the garlic and stir-fry for one minute, stir in the pieces of furu, add water spinach and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Then transfer it to a pre-heated platter and add vegetable pieces and serve or let them cool to serve them tepid or at room temperature.

Oxtails, Cecelia Style

2 to 3 pounds oxtails, chopped in small pieces
3 stalks celery, angle-cut into one-inch pieces
1 three-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced thinly
½ cup dark soy sauce
3 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Shao Xing wine
3 carrots, peeled and angle-cut in inch pieces
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
salt and pepper, to taste


1. Put oxtails in boiling water for two minutes, then drain and rinse discarding this water.
2. Put oxtails in a clean pot, add celery and ginger, cover with cold water and bring it to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two hours or until the meat shrinks from the bone.
3. Then, add soy sauces, wine, and carrots and simmer twenty minutes, then stir in sugar, salt, and pepper, and serve in a pre-heated bowl.

Wild and Regular Rice, and Snow Peas

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound plain or fermented doufu
½ cup each of several vegetables cut in one-inch pieces such as celery, scallions, mushrooms, snow peas, water chestnuts, etc.
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon each, light and dark soy sauces
1 cup cooked wild rice
½ cup cooked white rice
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds


1. Heat wok or fry-pan, add the oil, and before it smokes stir-fry fermented doufu one minute.
2. Next, add the vegetables and stir fry for one minute, then add cooked wild rice and stir well, then do the same with the white rice.
3. Add soy and oyster sauces and stir, then top with sunflower seeds; and serve on a pre-heated platter.

Royal Concubine Chicken

1 three-pound chicken, cut in serving pieces
2 slices fresh ginger, minced, then divided
1 onion, chopped coarsely, divided
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
ground white pepper, to taste
2 scallions, cut in one-inch pieces
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
3 cups Chinese white wine


1. Rub chicken pieces with a mixture of the ginger, onion, soy sauce, ground pepper, and scallion pieces and set covered in the refrigerator for four to six hours.
2. Heat oil and deep-fry drained chicken pieces for six minutes, then put them in boiling water for one minute, and then in a casserole dish.
3. Pour stock, salt, and wine over the chicken, and bake it half an hour, uncovered, in a hot over (375 degrees F), then turn the pieces over and back them for ten to fifteen more minutes; then serve on pre-heated platter.

Sheep Tail with Rabbit

1 skinned sheep-tail, cut in two-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons corn or potato starch, divided
1 pound rabbit meat, diced into one-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound turnip, peeled and chopped
3 scallions, cut in half-inch pieces
½ cup black vinegar
1 Tablespoon whole Sichuan peppercorns tied into a piece of cheesecloth
½ pound dry thin noodles, cooked and drained


1. Toss half the starch with the sheep tail pieces, the other half with the rabbit meat; and set each aside separately to wet the starch.
2. Heat the oil and fry them separately until light tan and crisp, about eight minutes each.
3. Next, put sheep tail pieces, turnip, and scallion pieces with the vinegar and one cup of cold water, and the cheesecloth packet in a large saucepan and simmer for one hour, then add the rabbit pieces and simmer another hour before discarding cheesecloth packet.
4. Add the spicy sauce and a half cup of water and simmer until the meats are tender.
5. Stir for two minutes, then add one tablespoon water cornstarch, stir for one minute, then when thick, serve on the cooked noodles.

Pork Soup, 1900's Style

2 pounds boneless pork, fat discarded, meat cut in half-inch squares
1 large or 2 small pork bones
2 cups raw sea scallops, each scallop cut in eighths
1 cups dried iceberg lettuce leaves, cut in two-inch strips
salt and pepper, to taste


1. Put bones and pork in two cups of cold water, bring to the boil, then discard this water and add the same amount of cold water and boil again and reduce the heat simmering this until the meat is tender, then discard or serve the bones.
2. Skim the fat from the broth, as needed, add salt and pepper and set the meat aside until needed.
3. Three minutes before serving, add two cups cold water, the scallops and the lettuce, and simmer. Then transfer to a pre-heated serving bowl, and serve.

Jellied Pork

3 pounds pork belly
1 teaspoon salt
3 scallions
2 slices fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon granulated sugar


1. Cut pork belly through skin into one-inch pieces, then rub them with salt and refrigerate covered for three or four hours.
2. Put them in boiling water for ten minutes, then drain them and discard the water.
3. Now put pork, skin side down, in heat-proof casserole, add salt, scallions and shredded ginger on them, and pour soy sauce and wine over them and cover the casserole putting it in a 300-degree F oven for two hours.
4. Remove from the oven and carefully uncover the casserole, and transfer the pork, skin-side up into a clean heat-proof serving bowl adding two cups of boiling water, and cover it tightly with foil, steam it over boiling water for one hour. Then discard the foil and any melted fat.
5. Serve in preheated individual or a large bowl.

Oxtails with Greens

½ pound baby bok cai, each cut the long way
1 large oxtail, cut in two-inch pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, halved then thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sa cha sauce
5 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
5 slices fresh ginger, minced
5 whole star anise
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese brown bean sauce
3 scallions, each cut in one-inch pieces


1. Cut bok cai in two or four pieces, then blanch them for half a minute, then dip in ice water another minute, drain well, and set aside
2. Put oxtails in a large pot, cover them with water, boil for three minutes, then discard the water, and add the broth, onion slices, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, star anise, and brown sugar, and simmer for two hours or until they are tender, and add more water as needed.
3. Refrigerate overnight, then discarding solid fat in the morning.
4. When ready to serve, reheat the bok cai for one minute in broth or water, then drain, and put them around a pre-heated platter.
5. Reheat oxtails, and put them in patter’s center, then scatter them around, and serve.

Peppery Noodles with Vegetables

1 large carrot, peeled
1 medium-size daikon
½ pound dried thick egg noodles, soaked for five minutes, then cooked until soft, and rinsed
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons chili bean paste
2 Tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 Tablespoon dry ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
3 bok cai, each cut into four pieces the long way


1. Peel the carrot and daikon, and then cut them into very, very thin strips, and mix them together.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil, and stir-fry the garlic and onion in it for one minute.
3. Now add the stock, chili bean and sesame pastes and the ground Sichuan pepper and the carrot and daikon pieces, and the soy sauce and stir-fry this mixture for two minutes.
4. Next, add the bok cai and stir everything three or four times, then add the noodles and toss everything together. When the noodles are hot, transfer everything to a pre-heated bowl, and serve.

Happiness Gluten

3 Tablespoons sesame oil
4 dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked until soft, water discarded
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in half cup warm water, stems discarded, caps cut in four pieces each
1 pound frozen, then defrosted wheat gluten (it will be spongy), cut it into one-inch cubes
3 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 sprigs fresh cilantro, cut into one-inch pieces


1. Heat a wok or fry-pan, then add the oil, and when hot, add both mushrooms and stir-fry for five minutes, and set aside.
2. Now, stir in wheat gluten and stir-fry five minutes, then return mushrooms, and add soy sauce and sugar and stir-fry two minutes more.
3. Put everything in a pre-heated bowl, put cilantro pieces on top, and serve.

Holiday Pudding

1 cup each, white and brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup glutinous rice flour
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vegetable oil


1. Heat one cup water in a medium-size pot, then add both sugars and stir until dissolved, then cool this for an hour.
2. Mix cornstarch, rice flour, and salt, and pour into the sugar mixture and stir.
3. Grease a metal pan, add sugar mixture to it and cover with foil. Steam for one hour until a metal skewer comes out clean.
4. Then cool and cut in varied shapes,
5. Put on a clean platter and serve.

Buddha's Delight

1 Tablespoon sunflower oil
10 dried soaked shiitake mushrooms, liquid set aside, stems discarded, and caps sliced thin
2 Tablespoons dried lily buds, soaked until soft then drained, each cut in four
3 Tablespoons dried cloud ear fungi, soaked until soft, drained, and chopped coarsely
2 folded over dried bean curd sticks, soaked until soft, cut into half-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
½ cup half-inch angle-cut cooked carrot wedges
10 canned water chestnuts, each cut into quarters
1 cup vegetable stock
2 red fermented red bean curd cubes, mashed
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ Tablespoons cornstarch


1. Heat a wok or fry-pan, then add the oil and stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms, lily buds, cloud-ear fungi, and the bean curd stick pieces for two or three minutes.
2. Now add the sesame oil and the carrot pieces and stir-fry this for five minutes.
3. Next, add the stock and then stir in the mashed red bean curd and sugar stirring this for two minutes.
4. Mix cornstarch with one tablespoon cold water, and boil until thickened, then transfer all to a pre-heated bowl, and serve.

Eggplant in Chili Bean Sauce

2 eggplants sliced lengthwise, then angle-cut in chunks; boil three minutes, then drain them
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
2 Tablespoons chili bean paste
2 Tablespoons sesame oil


1. Heat oil in a wok or fry-pan, then stir-fry garlic for two minutes and then add the chili bean paste and stir-fry another minute.
2. Add eggplant pieces, stir-fry two more minutes, then add half cup cold water and simmer for two or three minutes until the sauce thickens.
3. Then stir in sesame oil and serve.

Stuffed Eggplant

2 Chinese eggplants
½ pound ground breadcrumbs, divided in half
3 scallions, chopped
3 slices fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with cold water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon white Chinese vinegar
1 Tablespoon fermented black beans, mashed
1 chili pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce


1. Cut both eggplants in half, scoop the centers out and discard, then steam for eight minutes.
2. Mix half the bread crumbs with the scallions, garlic, egg, flour, cornstarch and water, sugar, vinegar, fermented black beans, chili pepper pieces, rice wine, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and stuff the eggplant halves. Then top them with the rest of the bread crumbs,
3. Mix the rest of the bread crumbs with the oil and pat this on top of the halves, and bake in a 300 degree oven for twenty minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and cut each half in half on an angle and put them on a pre-heated platter, some up ended, some not, and serve.

Flavor and Fortune is a magazine of:

Copyright © 1994-2024 by ISACC, all rights reserved
3 Jefferson Ferry Drive
S. Setauket NY 11720