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TOPICS INCLUDE: White soy sauce; Why Chinese cuisine is rarely mentined; Chinese New Year; Manchurian cuisine; Chinese cake

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(4) page(s): 6

FROM JOE C. via e-mail:
Read about white soy sauce in the New York Times. Is that a new item or has it been around for a while and I missed it, and if either new or old, can you educate me about it?
JOE: We needed education, just as you did, so we drove to Sid Wainer & Son in New Bedford Massachusetts, the sole importer, to get educated. They import and sell white soy and they have a barrel-aged soy sauce that tastes terrific as a dipping sauce. We have commented on an aged one in the 'On Many Menus: Chicago' in this issue. We promise to advise about the white and the aged soy sauces in the next issue; we are still testing them and related products. In the meantime, if you are a lover of upscale specialty products, consider getting yourself to 2301 Purchase Street in New Bedford MA. We tasted many great items there, but for the record, only a few things that they sell are Asian, and most of those are Japanese. For those who live too far to do that, they plan to have their website ready as a place from which people can do their purchasing. It is: www.sidwainer.com so seek them out about the time this issue gets to your mailbox.

FROM SUE M. via e-mail:
I enjoyed the article on abalone, what an unusual mollusk. Is there not a typo in the nutrition paragraph on page 24? The calory count can not be eight, you must have meant eighty (for three and a half ounces).
SUE: You have done it again, and we admire your eagle eyes. Eighty is what we meant, in the hard copy of that article. Abalone packed in cans or frozen does have varying amounts of calories, the species and the processing impact that number, but eight, NEVER! We thank you and apologize to all.

FROM JUDY W: Have you ever wondered why some of the great food experts rarely mention Chinese cuisine? Maybe you even have an answer for that.
JUDY: You have asked a great question, and perhaps we wonder less than most because we read more about food than most. Craig Claiborne, a restaurant reviewer and food editor of the New York Times adored fine Chinese food, and once commented to us, that his problem was that there were only three meals to be eaten in a day. You should know that he and Virginia Lee wrote a Chinese cookbook together called: The Chinese Cookbook that was published by Lippincott in Philadelphia PA in 1972. Julia Child, who turned ninety this year, has been quoted as saying that her love of fine food probably has origins in China. She lived in what was then called Kunming with her husband Paul circa 1945. Since that experience, she told many people about her love of fine Chinese food because it can be so good. Bon Appetit in August 2002 quotes her saying: "The Chinese food was wonderful, and we ate out as often as we could.” This major influence awakened her culinary passion. And, there are many others.

Is it true that there used to be more than one Chinese New year? I was told that it was so written in the book called 'The Historical Records'. If it is there, can you translate that part?
ALIDA: Fortunately, I do not need to do that translation, because others have, which is a good thing because in truth, I could not. What was said in the Records of the Historian has several partial translations. The first annual beginning they believe, is 'La,' a name of an early Chinese sacrifice, circa 650 BCE. It took place in the latter part of the year, after the winter solstice. Another was the 'Good-bye Ceremony' when the hearth god returned to heaven. The Winter Solstice itself was another, and there was a celebration the day after La, when people gathered to eat and drink. Consult Yang and Yang’s Selections from the Records of the Historian published in 1979 in Beijing by the Foreign Language Press.

J. DAVIS in the UK, via e-mail:
Was there really a Manchurian cuisine or is that some kind of a joke?
Mr. DAVIS: No sir, this is no joke. This influence may date to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 CE), but certainly the Qing Dynasty was known as Manchu. Kenneth Lo gave Stewart and Michael, authors of Wild Blueberry Cobbler published in London in 1984 by JM Dent, several such recipes. Two were printed in the book, one called Three Parts Lamb, the other White Cooked Pork. He said that these recipes were introduced to Beijing during the Manchu Dynasty which began in 1644CE. In Mr. Davis’ reply to our informing him of this, he commented that it is interesting that Indian-Chinese restaurants in England have taken up the name ‘Manchurian’ in their dishes. We ask you, our readers, has anyone else seen this or any other use of the term ‘Manchurian’ in relation to the name of a particular dish? If so, can you advise?

From RACHEL in Albany GA:
Was listening to the radio and heard them speak of a Chinese family holiday where they eat cake. Can you tell me something about this holiday and what kinds of cake they eat?
RACHEL: You probably heard something about what was an important Chinese holiday called Dong Zhi. It is known in English as the 'Winter Solstice' holiday. In ancient China, this family holiday was celebrated to welcome the coming of winter and to honor the shortest day in the year. Why this day? Because families celebrated in anticipation of days with more and more daylight. Eating sweet dumplings was popular on this day and on the soon to follow New Year's Day they ate a New Year cake. There is an article about the symbols of the New Year by Erin Moriarity in Flavor and Fortune's Volume 9(4) on page 17 that discusses that cake and another by Irving Beilin Chang on page 7 about osmanthus that includes a recipe for Sweet Rice Dumplings. Enjoy them both (and the rest of the issue, too).

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