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TOPICS INCLUDE: Tangerine peel; Frog's leg soup; Herbs; Preserving ginger

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 6 and 29

We appreciate your letters and print as many as we can that are deemed interesting and appropriate. Some are edited, as space allows.

When I try to dry tangerine peel, it never looks even close to the commercial product. What am I doing wrong?
WENDY: The Chinese use green tangerine peel called the pericarp; they select this from young immature fruits. There are many varieties, each providing different results. Preferred are Citrus reticulata blanco and related cultivars collected in May or June and dried in the sun after cutting the peel longitudinally into four parts yet attached at the base. Immature fruits a mite older are also used and collected in July and August. Older peel, called qing pi, is used in cooking and as medicine. Younger peel is called ge qing pi. As a medicine it might be called si hua qing pi. Chinese Materia Medica recommends tangerine peel to soothe the liver, disintegrate stagnated qi, and remove retained food. I tout it for fantastic taste! Now on to wishing you good luck in making your own. For those unfamiliar, check out the picture and the Chinese characters. Ask for it by name, show the illustration and the Chinese characters.

Flavor and Fortune is a gem of a periodical. I thoroughly enjoy receiving it. However, for me, shopping in an Asian market is still a challenge.
PHYLLIS: With a compliment such as yours, we are all glowing. Thank you. To help you shine, our next issue will have an article about some dry ingredients that many folk need help with. Should there be others, do advise.

I had a phenomenal soup loaded with frogs legs and garlic. When I asked the waiter about it, all he could advise was that they use frozen frogs legs and make it in a rice cooker. Do you have such a recipe?
FRED: Sounded interesting enough to send me first to cookbooks and then to kitchen. After looking in several hundred Chinese cookbooks and not finding a soup with frogs legs and garlic we thought about the province of Fujian because we were writing another article for this issue. So using a rice cooker, we invented the Frogs Leg Soup below. Try it and if it does not meet your needs, modify it and keep us posted.

Wonder if you can advise about botanical names and health benefits of star anise, Chinese date, and about hawthorn and Chinaberry fruits. Know you don't give medical advise but can you tell us what the Chinese believe?
SUSAN: Yours was one of many questions about herbal/health values of various Chinese items. You are correct, we do not give medical advise but because Chinese philosophy believes that food is medicine and medicine food, many people want historical background. Chinese herbalists have more knowledge than we, and one recommended a source of information. It was a book from the Pharmacopoeia Commission of the Ministry of Public Health in Beijing. In 1996, they printed an updated Colored Atlas of Chinese Materia Medica specified in the Pharmacopeia of the People's Republic of China. Its ISBN is 7-5359-1541-8 and it does have a few paragraphs in Chinese and less in English about five hundred twenty-two plants, animals, and minerals worth getting to know. There are photographs of each, many show immature and ripe seed or plant fresh and dried, and as a leaf; some even have histological sections; and furthermore, each item specifies action and indications, usage and dosage. And, as to your specific requests:
Chinese star anise, called ba jiao hui xiang in Chinese is Fructus anisi stellate botanically. It is the dried ripe fruit of Illicium verum and is in the magnolia family. The book says it dispels cold, regulates the flow of qi, and relieves pain.
Chinese date is called da zao. This Fructus jujubae is the dried ripe fruit of Ziziphus jujuba and is in the Rhamnaceae family. for this item, the book says that it tonifies the spleen, nourishes blood, and eases the mind.
Hawthorn fruits is called han zha. This Fructus crataegi is the dried ripe fruit Crataegus pinnatifida and is in the Rosaceae family. They suggest it stimulate digestion and promotes functional activity of the stomach, also to improve normal flow of qi.
Sichuan chinaberry fruit is called chuan lian zi. This Fructus toosendan is the dried ripe fruit of Melia toosendan and is in the Meliaceae family. They advise it is to smooth the flow of liver qi and repel worms.

From MARIA TERESA by e-mail:
My son lives in Honduras and grows a lot of ginger; do you know a way to preserve it?
MARIA TERESA There are many approaches, all use peeled sliced ginger and a supersaturated sugar solution, cook it until tender, then roll in more sugar, cool and dry; some do so in the sun. Recipes call for sugar, others honey, most cook the mixture on low heat until clear, the syrup providing a candied appearance, then they roll it in additional sugar. Some cook the ginger in water, changing it a few times, then in a syrup of twice as much sugar as water until the ginger looks clear and the syrup thickened; then they also roll the slices in sugar. There are those who prefer young ginger, others claim that has little taste, one even said it had too strong a taste. The only book with an exacting recipe is by Bruce Cost and called Ginger East to West. It slices one and a half pounds and uses one and a third cups of granulated sugar and a quarter pound of Chinese yellow rock sugar. The instructions advise to simmer the ginger in water for ten minutes, drain, cool, then repeat the process. Then with a pinch of salt added, put sugars and two and a half cups of water to boil until the sugar is dissolved, add the ginger, return to the boil then simmer the mixture for five minutes. Next turn off the heat and let it rest for an hour. Next, resimmer for half an hour or until all the liquid is absorbed; stir this constantly near the end of the process. This recipe does not roll the slices in additional sugar, instead plucks each from the pan with chopsticks to cool and harden on waxed paper before storing in a sealed container. Should your son make any, do send samples and advise what worked best for him.

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