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TOPICS INCLUDE: Red rice; Long Island duckling; ChopSuey's beginnings; Camel hooves; Powdered Chinese tea

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Fall Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(3) page(s): 6 and 8

I have a quickie question, is red rice colored or natural?
ANNE: The Chinese grow a natural red rice, a natural black one, too. Most of it is short-grain and slightly sticky. Some varieties are longer grain. There is also a fermented red rice, sometimes called Fuzhou distilled grain. This is a fermented product that uses white and not red rice but is made with red yeast, rice, salt, and water. It looks like it is made from red rice. While there is a small amount of colored red rice, most is not colored, artificially or otherwise.

Where did the Long Island Duckling come from, were they from Peking or are they really from Long Island?
GENE: The very first ducks that are now known as Long Island Duck, not the athletic team, arrived from China in 1873. We read that a New York City merchant saw them in Peking and ordered about two dozen live ones to bring back to America. Nine survived. By 1900, there were twenty-nine duck farms on Long Island raising them. Most were around Riverhead and Moriches. By 1940 or so, only fifteen of these farms remained. At that time, they were producing more than six million ducks a year. There was a duck disease in China that decimated their duck industry. Some time thereafter, many of these imported ducks, called the 'Pekin Duck,' were sent to China to restart their duck industry.

From KENNY via e-mail:
Do you know where the dish we call Chop Suey started, and when?
KENNY: You might be interested to know that the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper there, reported on November 18, 1988, that their city gets credit. In an article that begins: “Presiding with chopsticks in hand and with a fragrant plateful of chop suey before him, Municipal Court Judge George T. Choppelas ruled the ‘Chinese soul food' was served at least 30 years before it turned up on New York City menus.” So wrote Maitland Zane, a Chronicle staff writer who goes on to say that “testifying at a hearing of the Court of Historical Review, a mock tribunal, Annie Soo, secretary of the Chinese Historical Society of America, recounted a family legend about her husband’s grandfather who arrived in San Francisco in 1848.” Annie Soo says that he was fourteen at the time and employed at a boarding house. When some hungry gold miners barged in and demanded a meal, the owner ordered them served some reheated leftovers. He gets credit for naming it chop suey, Cantonese words meaning a dish of leftovers.

From J & J in JACKSON WY:
Editor, we send this e-mail because we need to know, do the Chinese really eat camel hoofs? As your faithful readers Jim and Joe, we would love to taste them.
J & J: Not sure if your note is a come-on, but the topic is of interest. The horny substance covering the feet of mammals is Webster’s way to define a hoof, and the Chinese do eat them. They call them 'toes, hoofs, paws,' etc. They eat camel hump, too, and other parts, meat included. Where will you taste camel hoofs, we wonder? In Flavor and Fortune's Volume 3(2) on page 23 we did publish a recipe called Camel Paw with Mushrooms. Here is another, a variation of a dish we tasted in China some fifteen years ago.

From E.N.J. in NYACK NY:
Where can we get powdered Chinese tea?
E.N.J.: For Chinese powdered tea, I think you need an historical retro vehicle to take you back to the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE). That was when the Chinese sold and consumed powdered teas. They whipped green tea powder with a twig-like brush after pouring hot water over it. This fashion gave way to the use of tea leaves. The Japanese still use powdered green tea so we went to Ito En on the upper east side of Manhattan to check out their green teas, powdered teas, and their mostly Japanese teas. They told us that Japanese powdered tea is called ‘matcha’ and is traditionally used for tea ceremonies. They have five quality levels that retail for twelve to more than forty dollars a can (some 0.7 others 1.4 ounces each). A salesperson, none at the time were either Chinese or Japanese, told us that many hundreds of years ago Zen monks first brought this tea and the knowledge of how to make it to Japan from China. He said its main use is was for spiritual practices. He also advised that the store had sold their entire supply and were expecting more soon, but we could go upstairs and drink some there. He would not get the little they did have in their second floor tea room to make us some, but did suggest we could also go to their website at www.itoen.com to purchase some. This store, calling itself 'Artisans of tea creating new traditions in the art of tea' does sell some Chinese teas; and they keep all of their teas in wooden boxes in a commercial refrigerator at forty degrees Fahrenheit. They advised this keeps them fresh longer, from four to eight months. They did allow us to photograph a classic bowl and whip used to make matcha tea along with a book titled Cha-n-yu by Al Sadler that shows some of this tea. For other Japanese ceremonial traditions about using powdered tea, contact the Urasenke Chanayo Center at 153 East 69th Street NY, NY 10021
Chicken, Spare Ribs, and Camel Hoof
1 camel hoof, scraped clean then chopped into eight pieces
2 Tablespoon any wine
6 slices fresh ginger
1/2 onion, cut in half
2 to 3 pound whole chicken, cut into quarters
2 pounds spareribs, separated and each rib bone cut in half
2 Tablespoons dark vinegar
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1/2 cup corn or another vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan pepper
2 slices fresh ginger
1 pound Chinese greens such as spinach or bok choi
1. Soak the camel parts for two hours in two cups of cold water mixed with the three ingredients that follow them. Then drain and discard the water and put the pieces into fresh water and simmer until tender. Remove any black membrane, and set them aside.
2. Bring water to the boil in a large pot. Add chicken and sparerib pieces and boil for five minutes, then remove them and set them aside and discard the water.
3. Cover the pieces of all three meats with fresh cold water. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, and rice wine and simmer until all meats are tender, about an hour. Remove meats. Strain and reserve the liquid.
4. Heat wok, add corn oil, and when hot add the three meats and fry them until lightly browned. Remove the meat and discard the oil, then put meat back into the wok along with four cups of the reserved cooking liquid set aside in step two. Bring it to the boil, add the vegetables and cook until they are bright green and tender. Serve meats on a platter, soup in individual bowls accompanying them.

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