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TOPICS INCLUDE: Mountain herb eggs; This magazine in Appetite; Corrections; Eating unusual animals can be eating pasta

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(4) page(s): 6 and 25

We print as many letters as space allows, reserve the right to edit them, and encourage you to send your queries.

Do you have a recipe for Mountain Herb Eggs?
LES: Are you teasing or testing us? Mountain Herb Eggs is a local term for potatoes in Shanxi Province, particularly in the city of Taiyuan. There is even a restaurant in that city by this name. It is on Peach Garden Road. Every dish served in this restaurant has some potato in it in one form or another; have you eaten there?

From GRACE via e-mail:
I look forward to receiving the latest issue of F&F. You always do such a splendid job. I also went on the website and was quite impressed.
GRACE: Thanks to you and the dozens of others who went to the website, were impressed, and shared their thoughts about this new venture of ours. Please, keep in mind that it is a work in progress. We will be adding to it from time to time, hopefully on a regular basis, so do check in frequently.

I reviewed Flavor and Fortune, it will appear in the next issue of Appetite, which I edit.
DAVID: We appreciated reading the review and your telling readers that we "provide a lively source of intriguing information" and that you suggest it for "many leads for scientific and cultural research." Most particularly we thank you for telling them, and by printing it here we can remind all readers that you said, "references can be obtained via the Editor." May we also tell your readers and ours, the correct one is now 'ISSN 1078-5361.'

Thought I should draw your attention to a few discrepancies in Gary Allen's piece. Most of it looks right, but the New Asia Cuisine Scene inserted "& Wine" in their title at least two years ago. Moreover, I am not a bookseller. Fortunately, he got my phone and fax numbers wrong. Do not know where Allen got his information.
BOB: Thanks for pointing out those errors. Gary Allen stands corrected. I accept blame because I randomly checked a few of his sources (which were fine) but did not check every one of them. We have no staff to do chores such as that; any volunteers? I am pleased that 'fortunately' your phone is not ringing off the hook. Will not add the phone/fax corrections, just the one about the magazine title.

I once heard there were Cantonese recipes for mice and thought it a joke. Now I am told that the New Yorker had an article about a restaurant that serves many dishes made of mice. Are we to believe that it is true that the Chinese eat dogs, cats, and mice?
RICKY: Yes, there was such an article; and stories such as that are good at grabbing people's attention; as are their negative thoughts. In the Rites of Zhou, it is written that there are three kinds of dogs, field dogs, watch dogs, and eaten dogs. When the Li Zi was translated in 1885, there were dishes for dog; it was regarded as a culinary treat. During the Han Dynasty, dog liver was one of eight culinary treasures. But later, the Manchu rulers banned eating dog meat. In the Chinese pharmacopeia, dog meat is said to be hot and fortifying. At that time, it was said that dog meat should be used in winter to fortify and tonify but it must come only from those raised to be eaten. For a long time, dog meat was forbidden as was the consumption of cats. Not so today. However, these animals, snakes too, are mostly popular in the south of China. In 1996, in Jiamen in southern China, both were being served. As to animals in the rodent family, in Imperial China, rats were called 'household deer' and considered a special treat. Then and now rabbit, guinea pig, and others are consumed, so some say, why not rats and mice. In the restaurant referred to in the New Yorker, people were being paid when they brought in live mice. Do not flinch, but in the United States you can buy rats and mice; and there are several places to do so. If you are interested, call: The Gourmet Rodent is in Archer, Florida (352) 495-9024. But back to your original question: Most rats and cats eaten in China are really pasta dishes. Cat's Ears is a famous recipe from Zhejiang. They are pieces of wheat dough made and pinched into a delicious chicken soup that already has chicken, shrimp, ham, and greens. In Guangdong, a related recipe called Mice Tails is made from rice flour and pushed through a strainer or device with holes in the same manner that German's make Spaetzle. The so-called mice tails are put into a bowl with a tablespoon of lard and topped with hand-minced pork or beef, some fish sauce, and minced scallions. I have been told that this was originally a Hakka dish, and that many a street stall in southern China sells it by that name. As your question was about mice, here is a recipe for those rice-flour mice tails.
Hakka Mice Tails
1 pound rice flour
1 Tablespoon corn oil
2 clove garlics, minced
1/2 pound beef or pork, chopped by hand
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 scallions, minced
1 Tablespoon lard, melted
1. Mix half the rice flour in a pot with two cups of cold water. Cook this over medium heat. When somewhat clear, remove from the heat and add the rest of the flour making a firm dough. Allow to cool somewhat, then knead until smooth.
2. Break off about one-eighth of the dough and put it into a colander held over several cups of boiling water. Use a wooden mallet or the back of a spoon and push the dough through the holes into the water. On the way in, they break off and look like tails; hence the recipe name. Scoop them out when they rise to the surface and keep in a bowl of cold water. Repeat until all dough is made.
3. Heat corn oil and fry garlic one minute, then add beef and cook until no longer pink. Add fish sauce and scallions and stir. Remove from the heat.
4. Put lard in bowl, add mice tails and top with the meat sauce, and serve.

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