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TOPICS INCLUDE: Tripe differences; Hunanese restaurant; Silkies; Sichuan-style Chow Mein; A helpful thickener; Pagination error

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Summer Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(2) page(s): 6, 7, and 14

YIN and YANG in our e-mail:
Two Ph.D.'s offer conflicting reviews. Because one refuses to allow us to use his letter, we omit both names and locations, but do advise that they live on opposite coasts and clearly hold opposite opinions. One calls the article about tripe confused and in error in at least one case saying that the French do not call tripe gras double. However, he goes on to say that when he looked in Cassel’s French/English dictionary he saw gras-double translated simply as ‘tripe.’ More importantly, he does advise a correct perspective in cows vis-a-vis tripe in terms of their four bovine stomachs which he says the French call pouches. They are as follows: the first stomach is called double or seam tripe, the second compartment reticulum or honeycomb tripe, the third one is leaf or book tripe, and the fourth one reed tripe. We do appreciate his clarifying these four stomach compartments and do respect his opinions. The other Doc and half dozen other writers called the tripe article a great piece. The East Coast Doc said it made him feel like running out to buy some. He spoke of China as a real treasure house of organ meat dishes and says that the proffered sampling of tripe dishes is evidence as are the editor’s many tripe recipes found when hunting special ones for him. Four other writers made three of the five dishes and called them ‘fantastic.’ Another challenged us to do more articles on any or all other offal dishes, and yet another begged for dishes using kidneys which she has not had since her mom passed away. Still another writer said this magazine is just what it should be, doing unusual foods with some historic background information. That particular gentleman did say that now that he understands tripe better, but could we detail fish lips more. He wants more recipes using them. To him we recommend reading the Letter to the Editor column in the last issue, it did have such a recipe, and another one follows these letters. Special thanks to all for your input! We do try to please, and like yin and yang, some items fall on either side of appreciation.

From CHRIS in CT:
Frankly, I am at a loss and need your help. I searched in vain for a restaurant serving Hunanese food, but can not find one. I’m no cook; and while your recipes may make it possible for the talented culinary bunch to prepare some, I can not. Where can I go to eat what sounds like wonderful Chinese food from this province?
CHRIS: Sorry to disappoint you. Let us make it up by advising about a great place, called
JIMMY SUNG’S RESTAURANT; 219 EAST 44th STREET (between 2nd and 3rd avenues); NEW YORK NY 10017; phone: (212) 682-5678. Those with access to the web, you can learn a lot about the place, and we recommend going to: www.jimmysungs.com When at the restaurant, and we have a sense that you will, an absolute must is their Hunan Honey Lamb. The sandwiches made with that succulent long-cooked meat are to die for. Frankly, ours was served with some American bread without its crust. When ordering yours, ask for Chinese steamed bread to go with it. And do order some of their first course appetizers, they are very fine, too, as is almost everything we have eaten there. This upscale western service restaurant comes with forks and spoons and teacups with handles. The dishes are Limoge-like. Do not let that put you off, and do not be dismayed by the staff that sometimes ignores you. Every time we have eaten there, including at a pre-arranged banquet, we have been thrilled with their food. Every dish comes with classic decor, every one of them true to the region. And they should, because they import their chefs just as they import any special ingredients.

From ROBERT in SCARSDALE NY: My family just returned from a wonderful Fujianese lunch in Flushing and before returning home, stopped into a Chinese supermarket that had many things new to us. One was a black chicken. What does the meat look like and taste like when cooked?
ROBERT: You were looking at what among chickens, is called 'Silkie.' This gorgeous white plumed fine-feathered bird has black skin, black bones, and black meat, cooked or raw. The Chinese make a medicinal soup with it or they use the meat with herbs to accomplish the same. Traditional Chinese medical practitioners advise that it replenishes and strengthens qi and the blood, restores body strength, improves anemia, and for the elderly, is effective to reduce chills, particularly in winter. The recipe at the end of this set of queries is easy to make and quite delicious.

Josephine asks: Can you get me a recipe for Chow Mein telling us that when she was younger, she recalls enjoying it so. And Evlyn inquires: Is there any product on the market that makes chow mein Sichuan style?
To JOSEPHINE: We consulted Imogene Lim, now on the staff of Malaspina University-College in Canada's Nanaimo, British Columbia. She has done extensive research about the Chow Mein Sandwich, ala in Fall River, Massachusetts. She suggest purchasing one eight ounce package of Original Hoo-Mee Chow Mein Mix and preparing it according to directions; then placing a scoop of the chow mein mixture between halves of a hamburger bun. Next, prepare the brown gravy mix and ladle it over the open bun as one would for an American hot turkey sandwich. She goes on to say that if you prepare your own chow mein mix, the key to its authenticity is in the noodles. They should be flat deep-fired noodles. The sauce, equal parts chopped onion and sliced celery cooked in stock with the addition of pork, beef, or chicken, is poured over the noodles immediately before serving as there should be some crunch to the textural mix. The Original Hoo-Mee Chow Mein Mix can be found in southeastern New England supermarkets or purchased directly from Oriental Chow Mein Company, 42 Eighth Street, Fall River, MA 02720. We found it on the web at www.lilaudreys.com For those without this access, call them at 501/672-3159 or write to Lilaudreys; 1159 Reed Street; Somerset MA 02726 to order some Original Hoo-Mee Chow Mein Mix. Incidentally, this Chinese-American dish first appeared in print in 1903. In 2003 a reader sent us a recipe asking if it was authentic; Josephine, you might want to try her recipe. She heats three tablespoons of oil and browns a cup of sliced chicken, then adds a cup of sliced celery and another cup of sliced onions. She cooks these for two minutes then adds a cup of water, a can of Chinese vegetables, and three tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with three tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and half teaspoon each of paprika, and celery salt. She cooks this until it thickens and serves it on cooked rice topping it with a can of fried Chinese noodles. She says her kids and her husband love it. However, she also says she would rather we do not print her name because she thinks her neighbors will mock her use of those canned vegetables.
TO EVLYN: Annie Chun's; 54 Mark Drive--Suite 104; San Raphael CA 94903 makes a chow mein product with a Noodles & Sauce package that does come with a peanut sesame sauce you might want to try. The item comes with the noodles and the sauce, and on the back of the box recommends adding lettuce, cucumber, carrots, red peppers, fresh coriander (cilantro, the box says) and a few chopped peanuts. We tried it, thanks to the manufacturer who sent us a box of that and one of her Pad Thai Noodles with Classic Pad Thai Sauce. The Chinese Sichuan sesame version was the better of the two, and a product with which we have only one gripe. It says in the nutrition facts box that it serves three; nonsense if that is dinner, and it was for us. I woofed it down solo, and with other dishes serving two would be a good portion size. And, it offers microwave instructions that require twice the cooking time of those intended for stove-top. Why bother? If you cannot locate them, Annie Chun’s can also be contacted at their website www.anniechun.com

Can the new product called 'Signature Secrets' be used as a thickener in Chinese cookery? And, where can we buy it?
METAIRE: This new product is an instant starch that can be used quickly and effectively. It does not lump, can be used in hot and cold liquids, and does not gel upon cooling. It is a combination corn starch and wheat flour product. We love the fact that we can toss some in and instantly thicken our Chinese sauces. However, as there is some wheat starch in this very new product, using it means that sauces do not get clear as they would if it was only made of cornstarch. At this point in time, it is not in any local market, but is available on their website: www.signatresecrets.com. It comes in a two-pound ten-ounce plastic jars and in larger containers. We have come to rely on its last minute non-lumping abilities, and on the fact that it freezes well, when we use it for non-Chinese cookery needs.

From DARCY via e-mail:
Delighted you finally answered a mental query, or at least half of one. They were about those bamboo items on the cover of the last issue. I even tried the recipe, and it was quite good; but it was not as the Table of Contents page said, on page 30. Rather it was on page 32. As to the other half of the question, what other cooking implements are there made of bamboo in the Chinese kitchen?
DARCY: Glad we are half and half with you. Sorry about the page error, the article about Hunanese food did begin on page 30, but you are right, the Steamed Chicken in Bamboo recipe appears on page 32. And for the real query, there are bamboo steaming baskets, bamboo rice paddles, and individual bamboo steamers and the bamboo item shown below that is cut on either side of a section of bamboo. Note the rectangular cut out and the removed piece put back with a hinge to make it into a cover. One finds them, when lucky, with or without a hinge to hold the cover onto the bamboo, which is used as a dish. A picture is worth a thousand words, so see the one in the hard copy of this issue. It is holding a frogs legs and black mushroom dish made and served over rice. Wonderful Chef, the restaurant in Flushing makes great dished in these bamboo dishes; the frogs leg one is a personal favorite.

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