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Ostrich: A New Chinese Restaurant Food

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 21

Called desert bird, camel bird, or tou niao, this food may be new to Chinese cuisine, but not to many Chinese menus. It is in use in Northwestern Chinese restaurants and in the homes of savvy health conscious Chinese everywhere. Savvy they must be knowing that four ounces of this bird is almost all protein (29 grams), but one hundred twenty calories, and with almost no fat. There is also very little cholesterol in a portion of ostrich (about four grams).

Dubbed 'a healthy red meat' because it is almost totally fat-free, the Chinese already know that though a bird, it is a fine substitute for beef, if handled properly. And, they often substitue it for beef in their recipes. As to its handling, what that means is very simple, just do not overcook it. New Chinese cookbooks from Taiwan already know that; they are touting its use. Some cook it Shanghai style, a bit longer than the Cantonese might, in a red sauce with a mite of sugar and half teaspoon of black vinegar.

Those who want to use ground ostrich in place of ground pork need to know that without a teaspoon or two of oil mixed in, preferably sesame oil for its flavor, the finished product can be a little tough. Though ground ostrich needs added fat, red cooked meat dishes are the perfect place for this big bird.

Should you have trouble finding ostrich, try your telephone book under meat or butchers, or contact Fossil Farms in Paramus, New Jersey asking them to advise about a local supplier. They can be reached at (201) 261-9000.

One last thought, ostrich meat has less fat and cholesterol than beef, and a very fine taste. Do try it!
Ostrich in Sa Cha Sauce
1/2 pound ostrich meat, cut into thin strips
4 teaspoons sesame oil
5 drops chili oil
2 Tablespoons sa cha sauce
1/2 teaspoon black vinegar
2 cups vegetables, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for fifteen minutes, stems discarded
1 scallion, minced
1. Mix meat, sesame and chili oils, the sa cha sauce, and the vinegar.
2. Heat wok and fry meat mixture for half to one minute, it should still be very pink, then remove it from the wok and set aside. Do not overcook it.
3. In the oil remaining in the wok, fry the vegetables until cooked through but still crisp, remove from the wok and set aside.
4. Fry the mushroom in the wok until they have bled all their water, then add the vegetables and the mushrooms and stir fry for one minute until well blended. Stir in the meat and most of the scallion and fry for one minute. Put the rest of the scallions on top and serve.
Red-cooked Ostrich
1 pound ostrich meat
1 teaspoon cornstarch or waterchestnut flour
1 teaspoon corn oil
10 cloves garlic, smashed with side of a cleaver
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons black vinegar
10 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1 cup thin soy sauce
3 Tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
1. Cut meat into one inch cubes and dust with the cornstarch.
2. Heat oil and fry the garlic for one minute, then add sugar, stock, vinegar, and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, skim the surface, and simmer uncovered for an hour.
3. Add the wine and soy sauce and simmer another half hour. It is optional to thicken the sauce mixing cornstarch with an equal amount of water and boiling it for half a minute or until clear. Then serve.

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