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TOPICS INCLUDE: A tea strainer; Back issues; James Beard dinners; Martin Yan; Dong Quai; Chinese food pyramid

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(1) page(s): 6 and 8

We print as many letters as space allows and reserve the right to edit them. Many were received since the last issue and more have been included.

From ELANA in NY:
My friend and I just purchased a gold colored tea strainer very much like the coffee one we bought some years back. That one saved lots of cash as we never needed coffee filter paper again. This one costs more and to get a decent cup of tea we need to increase the amount of leaves by fifty percent. Are we doing something wrong?
ELANA: Mental telepathy is what we call your query because we requested a sample of this new product called Swiss Gold Tea Uno at the Fancy Food show at the Javits Center in New York City last July. They are marketed by Elfo USA in Norcorss, Geogria. This type of strainer for coffee is popular and the one for tea quite new and heftily priced. Some of our in-house taste-testers wouldn't use it a second time. They liked the concept of easier clean-up but complained about the all-too-clean textureless tea as this ultra-fine strainer removed all texture. Roy Fong of the Imperial Tea Garden in San Francisco (and another facility of his just opening in Seattle) teaches tea tasters to put tongue to liquid near or at the roof of the mouth to get both taste and texture. Doing so with tea brewed with this gadget eliminates texture and much taste. In regular brewing of tea, if you are patient, all leaves fall to the bottom of the pot (or mug) so no strainer is needed.

You made my day; loved the back issues and even my husband, after reading but one, agrees that they were worth the money.
ROSE: You made ours, too. Very few back issues remain. We did ask our printer about printing more of a particular issue and the price was so prohibitive we can not afford to do that. Therefore, tell your friends as we tell those reading this article, that they must order those they want while supplies last. Or, they can attend the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professions) Conference in Providence in April and bid on a complete set being auctioned off there, compliments of your editor.

Loved reading about Chef Kang and the dinner at the James Beard House; he is one great chef! Will you attend all Chinese dinners there and report on them? Wonder how Chef Gan of San Francisco did; were you there for that special dinner?
GEORGIA: Not all meals anywhere are truly outstanding. Yes, we did attend the October 1999 James Beard House Chinese Festival of the Moon Cakes dinner. Their menu was selected by George Q. Chen, the proprietor, and Chef Leo Gan, executive chef of Shanghai 1930 in San Francisco (133 Steuart Street in that city). Together, they designed a meal that was good but had too many texture and taste repetitions. Chef Gan serves some great food at the restaurant, suggest you travel there and try some. It is surely lots closer for you than for us.

From IVAN in MI:
Read in one magazine that Martin Yan has written nine cookbooks and saw on the web (www.chopstix.co.uk) in October 1999 that he has fifteen cookbooks. Can you set the record straight?
IVAN: Glad to do that. We called Martin Yan's office and he was in Asia so could not personally respond. They promised a list by fax which never arrived.

Did you know that Dong Quai is the 'female' herb angelica, the same herb used in Benedictine and Chartreuse liquors? Those nuns really knew what was good for them...but how did the monks know? Anyway, I always prefer to take my medicine in Chartreuse...than in Dong Quai Soup.
SUSAN: Currently spelled dang gui, we know this root as Angelica sinensis and know that The Chinese believe it good for menstrual disorders, enriching blood, activating circulation, relieving pain, and relaxing bowels. Perhaps monks knew that, too. Chinese herbology is, you know, thousands of years old and Jesuit priests traveled to China as early as the 1400's. The variety of this root known in China and throughout Asia is used both as an herb and for culinary reasons. Soak, then cut and stir-fry this food/medicinal item with wine, make a soup with it, and do other things. Be aware that there are many varieties and that some folks use seed, root, fruit, and the entire plant. The Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines (PDR-H) discusses Angelica Archangelica and advises it commonly known as European Angelica and Garden Angelica. That variety grows wild on the coasts of the North and Baltic Seas. PDR-H says there are no health hazards nor any side effects known in conjunction with proper administration; and that photodermatosis is possible following intake of large quantities. Susan, enjoy limited amounts of any alcoholic beverage, and when taking herbs, do consult a physician. Should you or others want to use this herb in a culinary fashion, try the recipe below.

MANY FOLK ask related questions:
Advise if there is a Chinese version of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines? Are there basic food groups for the Chinese and where would one find them? Did Chinese nutrition experts ever devise any food pyramid?
IN RESPONSE: The answers are yes, yes, and yes. There is a pagoda pyramid called: 'The bilingual Pyramid of Health.' It appeared in Sinorama in November 1996. The Asian Diet Pyramid appeared in The Gourmet Retailer in March 1996. The pagoda was released originally by the Chinese Nutrition Society of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine's Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene in about 1988 and again in April of 1997. For the pagoda, thanks to Georgia Gulden for the copy that appeared in the hard copy of this issue.
Steamed Chicken with Angelica
I game hen, cut in half
10 dried longans, cut in half
4 slices of fresh ginger, 2 minced and two left whole
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
4 dried jujubes, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 Tablespoons Chinese angelica
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups boiling water
1. Blanch game hen in boiling water for one minute, drain and dry.
2. Put all other ingredients in a casserole, put the gam hen halves on top of the solid ingredients. Cover the casserole or Yunnan pot and put into a steamer.
3. Steam for three hours over rapidly boiling water. Be sure to check the level of water every fifteen minutes or as needed.

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