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Recipes Then and Now

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Food in History

Winter Volume: 1997 Issue: 4(4) page(s): 7

Thanks to queries from folk as near as Flushing in New York, and from others as far away as Hong Kong, periodically you will find a column on early and more recent recipes. For this issue, the comparative is a recipe for rabbit.

The earliest recipe located was from the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 CE). Experts believe it to be a Mongolian recipe, no doubt because of the inclusion of sheep's tail. The source of the recipe is from a volume titled: Golden Advice of Food by Hu Sihui. For those who can read Chinese, the actual issue or hard copy has it in Chinese. A colleague in China without access to a photocopy machine has transcribed it, and a resonable translation is: Two rabbits sliced, two turnips diced, one sheep tail sliced, and two qian of fine ground condiment. After sauteed, they are seasoned with chopped scallions and vinegar and stir-fried with two liang of fine noodles, flavored. There are no exact measurements for all the ingredients.

The efficacy of the rabbit was given as meat having sweet and cool properties. It was recommended for extreme thinness, relief from gastric distress, also used for constipation, detoxifying, and cooling blood. The turnip was known for its warming properties. Its use was to help problems of dyspepsia; it also promoted general digestion. The value of sheep's tail was both sweet and warm, and it enriched blood by toning the Qi.

Finding Chinese rabbit recipes now is about as easy as turning up recipes from earlier dynasties. However, in Jiangsu Delicacies, Unforgettable Flavour, edited by Sun Dei Ni and printed in Hong Kong in 1985, there is a recipe for Fried Rabbit Fillet. The preamble to this recipe says, "As it is written in a classic work in Zhou Dynasty, cooks were in charge of six domestic animals (one is the rabbit)." It goes on to advise that in "funery objects unearthed in Mawangdui, Changsha City, there is a bamboo slip (No. 83) on which a box of 'dried hare meat' is written." What follows is this editor's interpretation of that recipe.
Fried Rabbit Fillet
2 pounds rabbit meat, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon shallot
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 egg whites
1 pound lard
2 Tablespoons shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1 cup chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons green pepper, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons red pepper, sliced thin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound Chinese noodles, boiled and drained
1. Marinate rabbit meat, mixing it well with the salt, wine, shallots, ginger juice, one tablesoon cornstarch, and the egg whites, for half an hour.
2. Divide the rabbit meat in four parts and blanch each batch of slices in hot lard, then drain well on paper towels. Next blanch the mushrooms in the lard and drain them.
3. Mix mushrooms, stock, and minced garlic, and bring to the boil.
4. Mix the rest of the cornstarch with one-quarter cup cold water, add to the stock mixture and heat until it is warm, not hot. Then add the rabbit meat, green and red peppers, and sesame oil and bring to the boil. Keep stirring until it thickens and clears somewhat, then serve putting the meat and sauce on top of the noodles.

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