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TOPICS INCLUDE: Chinese chestnuts; Eating ball foods; Provincial names; Chop suey; Sun-moon Fish; Cats and dogs, Mouse tail recipe; La Choy vs a Gourmet recipe

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Fall Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(3) page(s): 6, 7, and 33

From ELLASARA in NEW YORK CITY: As a recent member of the Institute, I am delighted with my first two issues of Flavor and Fortune and look forward with happy anticipation to future ones. I came across the Institute and this wonderful, informative magazine serendipitously on the net.
ELLASARA: Welcome, and thanks for the compliment. Many readers learn about us that way, others by those who tout our efforts. We welcome you to tout them, too.

From VALERIE and FLORENCE, in NY, JOHN and LIN in NJ, and others in many states:
Delighted when you publish information and recipes using new foods, dried foods, unusual foods, even organ meats. Wish your magazine did more of that, and had more recipes with every article.
To ALL who wrote: We hear you. Here is a recipe booted because of lack of space in the last jam-packed issue. It was intended for the article about Chinese chestnuts, and lack of space caused its deletion. Enjoy it now. We promise more information and recipes as requested; and this issue has many more than usual. When deemed of value or needed to emphasize a point such as the unusual, we will add more recipes. See the chestnut one at the end of this set of letters.

FROM NAN in Seattle, by snail mail:
I think my Chinese neighbor said she needs to "teach her daughter to eat balls at lunch." Tried, but her lack of fluency in English made understandings difficult, and I wonder what balls she is teaching her daughter to eat?
NAN: After querying half dozen young Chinese mothers in a park in Chinatown, they suggest you ask her if she meant teaching her child how to roll noodles around the tips of chopsticks like a ball. If all else fails, one young woman gave her address and said to get it in writing, and she offered to translate what she writes.

From JACK, in Edgartown MA:
I do not have a computer, and what I read at my library does confuse me. Can you provide correct spellings of the provincial names and match them to the four regional food styles in China?
JACK: To clear the air, what follow is Hanyu pinyin now considered correctly spelled by the Chinese government. They are in bold and italics, the more older and for some more common spellings are neither bold nor italicized. They are no longer in use in most publications, but they can be seen in older documents Before doing so, be advised that they are grouped by compass-point, and know not everyone agrees with this arrangement.
For the NORTH, there is the capital of Beijing which was called Peking, and the city of Tianjin or Tientsin. Then, there are the provinces of Hebei wich was spelled Hopeh, Henan which was spelled Honan, Ningxia which was spelled Ningsia, Shaanxi which was spelled Shenxi, Shandong which was spelled Shantong, and Shanxi which was spelled Shansi.
For the EAST including Shanghai, which always seems spelled Shanghai, and Fuzhou which often was spelled Foochow. There, the provinces are: Anhui which was spelled Anhwei, Fujian which was spelled Fukien, Jiangxi which was spelled Kiangsi, Kiangsu which was spelled Jiangsu, and Zhejiang which was spelled Chekiang.
For the WEST, the main city is Chengdu. It was spelled Chengtu. The provinces of Guizhou was spelled Kweichow, Hubei was spelled Hupeh, and the Sichuan province known for its spicy food was spelled Szechuan. Hunan and Yunnan both kept the same spellings, so nothing new to learn there.
For the SOUTH which includes the city of Guangzhou. It was known as Canton. It is in the province of Guangdong, earlier spelled Kangtung; and Guangxi in the same southern region was spelled Kwangsi.
Three other provinces have considerable culinary importance. They are far west and have large minority populations (Yunnan does too). They are: Gansu which was spelled Kansu, Xinjiang which was spelled Sinkiang, and Xinzang which was spelled Tibet.

From JOHN by snail-mail from MAINE:
In reference to the question about chop suey in Volume 10(3) on page 6; you (and your readers) might be interested in this passage from Li Shu-fan’s autobiography, Hong Kong Surgeon (NY: Dutton, 1964, pages 211-212).
JOHN: Thank you for sending it, and we do quote it in the article about chop suey in this issue. However, my response to Kenny was correct based upon his total letter, not on the short inclusion in that particular issue. My cropping of his letter makes the response imply that chop suey started in the United States; it did not. What Kenny wanted to know was where (in the United States) was chop suey first consumed, and when; and that was why that particular response was given. Certainly do need to be more careful in shortening and responding in the future. Thanks for the citation.

From LINDA, at a meeting:
I will ask my mom, as I have heard her speak about sun-moon fish used in a soup, and may have even eaten some made by my grandma.
LINDA: There were few a replies to the query in the last issue of Flavor and Fortune, but not enough information that could lead to a recipe. Therefore, I decided to turn pages in all the herbal books I have. To my embarrassment, I turn up a recipe in my very own library. Clearly, I did not do as good a search before, as I should have. In any case, here is the only recipe located to date. It was on pages 94 and 95 in Health, Beauty, and Rejuvenation Cookbook by Ng Siong Mui, published by Landmark Books, Singapore with a © of 1992. The author indicates it was her grandmother who told her the soup was good for improving eyesight, clearing the lungs, purifying Qi, and that it was an economical soup for the whole family. We have rewritten it for everyone below, with additional input from several older Chinese gentlemen, including a bookstore cashier who recalls cooking it. The picture of this unusual item is reduced and put below. And a correction, please; this unusual food item was called sun-moon fish. However, it is not a fish, though often called that in some literature. It is related to octopus, but no one correctly calls it a mollusc. We have yet to learn its correct species name. Help still wanted on that and to learn more about it. A picture is in the hard copy of this issue.

From CANA, via e-mail:
Just last week, a friend refused to come to a Chinese restaurant with me because, he said, they cook cats and dogs, and even mice. Do they really, and if so, are there recipes for them in cookbooks. CANA: At least once a month someone asks a related question. Some ask about ants; and yes, there is a classic recipe for Ants climbing Trees (see Flavor and Fortune’s Volume 10(4) on page 32. There are no ants nor are their trees among the ingredients. The minced pork looks like ants, the bean thread noodles like thin tree branches, hence its name. In Volume 3(1) on pages 13 and 21 is a recipe for Dung Po Pork, that some say was, centuries ago, made with dog meat. Yes, some southern Chinese men did and may still eat dog in winter, for its therapeutic strength. For a while it was outlawed in China, but now there is at least one restaurant in Guangzhou serving unusual foods, dog among them. They are a special breed raised for that purpose. Most Chinese detest both the idea and meat of that animal. And, as to cats and mice, as in the case of the ants, most often they are recipe names for pasta or other dishes that look like parts of the animal. There is a Cat’s Ear Pasta recipe, it was printed in Volume 2(4) on page 20 and is on this magazine's website. As to mice, below is a recipe for Mouse Tail Noodles. We hope this helps put your friend’s fears to rest. Years ago, some Chinese did eat many unusual animals. Keep in mind, that really was a few Chinese, not the ordinary citizenry; they were grateful for a few pieces of meat to flavor their grain and vegetable foods.

From EVYLIN in Eau Claire WI:
Read your La Choy information about La Choy’s Sprouts Au Gratin and noted in a recent Gourmet magazine, they had a Bok Choy Gratin (February 2003). Are they similar or not; and can you provide one in the older source?
EVYLIN: The recipe in the 1937 La Choy booklet is on page seven and lists four ingredients; it includes three others in its methodology. Gourmet has eleven with no extras in its instructions. La Choy used three potatoes, sliced; one onion, chopped; one green pepper, chopped and a can of LaChoy bean sprouts, drained.
The four lines of instructions read: Put all ingredients in baking dish, season with LaChoy Soy Sauce and add one cup milk, slightly thickened. Cover with one-quarter pound grated cheeses and bake in a moderate oven. Gourmet’s method needs forty-two lines, and is subdivided into five detailed steps. Your local library probably has a copy of this magazine. For the record, it has no potatoes, onions, green pepper, nor a single canned commercial product; and it includes two cheeses. In Hong Kong, there has been considerable adaptation of dairy products; even so, neither of these recipes tastes Chinese.
Chestnuts and Kidneys
1 pair pork, beef, or veal kidneys, separated and all white tissue/veins removed
1 teaspoon salt, coarse-grain preferred
1/2 pound peeled cooked chestnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt, coarse-grain preferred
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoons corn oil
3 slices fresh ginger, each cut in quarters
1 carrot, peeled and angle-cut into one-inch sections
2 Tablespoons water chestnut flour and 1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons cold water
1. Wash kidney halves in two or three changes of tepid water, then rub them with the teaspoon of coarse salt, and rinse thoroughly. Next with a small sharp knife, make shallow cross-hatched cuts on the smooth outside of each kidney, do not cut through.
2. Blanch chestnuts for five minutes in boiling water, and drain. 3. Mix kidney pieces with half-teaspoon salt, the sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, and the soy sauce and set it aside for ten minutes. Then drain and reserve the liquid.
4. Heat corn oil and stir-fry the ginger and carrots for five minutes. Then add the drained chestnuts and stir-fry another two minutes before adding the drained liquid from the kidneys and two cups of boiling water. Reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour.
5. Add half the flour mixture and stir. If the liquid seems too thin, incorporate as much of the rest of the flour mixture, as needed making a reasonably thick sauce. Then add the kidneys, cover and almost boil for two minutes, then serve.
Sun-moon Mollusc, Green Radish, and Carrot Soup
3 ounces dried sun-moon mollusc (yat yuet yu), soaked for one hour
10 and 1/2 ounces lean pork
1 green radish (about half pound), peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
4 honey dates (mut chou)
1 Tablespoon almonds, peeled
1 Tablespoon bitter almonds, peeled
1 piece dried tangerine peel
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1. Brush sand and any other grit from sun-moon mollusc and rinse and drain. Put them in boiling water and boil for two minutes, drain and set them aside, and discard the water.
2. Put the pork in a fresh batch of boiling water, boil for two minutes, drain, pour several cups of boiling water over the pork, drain and discard that water.
3. Cut the radish and the carrot in finger-width strips, then angle cut them, and set aside in two batches.
4. Bring ten cups of water to the boil, add the molluscs and pork and half the carrots and radishes, the dates, all the almonds, tangerine peel and the salt, if used. Boil for ten minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer for three hours. Add the remainder of the radishes and carrots, and the soy sauces and simmer for another hour.
Mouse-tail Noodles
1/2 pound fresh one-inch rice noodles with twisted pointy ends (lo xi fun)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked for half hour in warm water
1 Tablespoon corn oil
2 slices fresh ginger, peeled and slivered
2 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced and slivered
3 shallots, peeled, sliced, and slivered
1/2 of a large green pepper, seeded and slivered
1 ounce Yunnan or Smithfield ham, slivered
2 Tablespoons corn oil
4 ounces bean spouts, their tails removed
1 egg, separated, each part beaten then fried separately, omelette style, and cut into slivers
1 scallion, cut in thin strips then cut them into one-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
3 sprigs fresh coriander, cut into one-inch pieces
1. Blanch noodles for one minute in boiling water, drain and set half cup of the water aside.
2. Remove stems from soaked mushrooms, and sliver, then simmer in reserved water for five minutes. Drain and reserve the mushroom liquid.
3. Heat oil, and stir-fry the ginger, garlic and shallots for one minute. Add the pepper and ham slivers and fry another minute, add the drained mushrooms and fry one minute more, remove from wok or pan and set aside.
4. Heat the two tablespoons oil, and stir-fry the bean sprouts for one minute then add the noodles and fry then for two minutes, stirring all the time, not allowing them to stick, then add the mushroom water, and stir well.
5. Now add the fried white and yolk egg slivers, and all the other set-aside slivers and stir well. Then dd the oyster and soy sauces, sugar, and coriander, stir-fry a minute, then immediately put this into a pre-heated bowl, and serve.

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