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TOPICS: Mushrooms, Best-selling dishes; Pickled ginger; Singaporean cookbooks; Help needed seeking a booklet

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Newman's News and Notes

Fall Volume: 2001 Issue: 8(3) page(s): 29

MUSHROOMS have roles other than in culinary and health. Some readers have inquired about them. One such use is at mourning ceremonies. Cloud or wood ear mushroom can be part of offerings to the dead held three days after the funeral. These fungi and other foods are placed before the ancestral tablets and then they and paper money are burned. It is also common for this burning to occur at the grave. At both places, their purpose is to feed the spirit of the recently departed. The mo er fungi can be used in several ways, and one familiar one, at least to Chinese friends of ours, is putting them into pastry-type items made with white flour. White is symbolic of death, and they are stuffed in. If done at the grave site, they are placed at the end of the coffin where the head is. It was also reported that one can be put on each side of the head-end hoping that the coffin will open enough for the soul to be able to come out and partake of them. Another said that the soul comes out to feed on them and can thus come and go at will. No one indicated any other mushroom for this role other than the mo er.

BEST-SELLING ASIAN FOODS this year, include items familiar to many in this second fastest growing population, the Asian populations. Those considered among the top ten best-sellers in restaurants include eight Chinese dishes and two Japanese ones. They are: Stir-fry Chicken, Stir-fry Vegetables, Fried Rice, Stir-fry Beef, Teriyaki Chicken, Sweet and Sour dishes, Stir-fry Seafood, Stir-fried Pork, Chop Suey/Chow Mein dishes, and Teriyaki Beef. Rising stars in this menu census that done for Restaurant Business include Sushi/Sashimi and Dim Sum/Pot Stickers. They also report that Asian flavors and cooking techniques have become commonplace on American menus, soy sauce and ginger mainstream, and flavorful vegetables such as water spinach, Chinese broccoli, pea shoots, and Chinese mustard cabbage now considered familiar. Reported as well, is that chefs are tapping into sea vegetables. This last item gave impetus to the article about foods of the sea in this very issue.

PICKLED GINGER is of interest to some readers, perhaps with the increased consumption of sushi and sashimi. That and what were the colors of the pink slivers were on the minds of quite a few people. May it be known that some young ginger, the youngest and smallest you can locate, can turn pink with a slight adjustment of the acidity. Others have a teaspoon or two of beet juice to enliven their color. One can make their own, a recipe follows the end of this article.

SINGAPOREAN COOKBOOKS; do exist in greater numbers other than those in the last issue. As soon we went to press, we found five others under a huge pile of books. If you know of still others, send us word via snail or e-mail. The latter can be done via our website. We hope to visit Singapore soon to review Nonya and other Chinese restaurants there, find additional cookbooks, and tell you more about this fine fusion cuisine referred to as Peranakan. That word in Malay means 'Chinese who have lost their mother tongue and many other cultural characteristics.' The five found Singaporean cookbooks are:

Hawkers Delight published in Malaysia by Abdul Majeed in 1992
Flavours of Singapore edited by John Hitchcock and published in London by Four Corners in 1973
Food of Singapore edited by Wendy Hutton and published in Singapore by Periplus Editions in 1995
Peranakan Cooking by Violet Oon, published in Singapore by Her World/Kok Wah Press, no date
The Best of Singapore by Mrs. Leong Yee and published in Singapore by Times Books International

SEEKING a BOOK published by the Fuji Trading Company. The cover is shown with a large building, home to the company that put out this recipe booklet. They are called: Fuji Chop Suey Foods. The booklet is titled Fuji 30 Favorite Recipes and is shown in the hard copy of this magazine. Can anyone help us locate this thirty-two page booklet printed in 1932 by Newman-Rudulph Litho Co. Another question: Did they publish any others?

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