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TOPICS INCLUDE: Stuffed tripe; Wanting a recipe; Compliments; Top cuisines; Pork floss; Seasonal foods; Boba; Tiger bone; Egg carving; Testing a bride; Early Chinese restaurants in the USA; Chinese caloric intake; Panning for gold; Oxtail recipe error

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(1) page(s): 6, 7, 34, and 35

From JERRY, via e-mail:
Though I do not subscribe, I will if you can help me win this bet. A friend said the Chinese stuff tripe with chestnuts and meat, and mushrooms. I advised I never heard of stuffing tripe, and I do believe he is off base. Who is correct?
JERRY: You win by losing. There is a Chiuchow (used to be known as Swatow) recipe for Stuffed Tripe. Though you have lost the bet, you have gained a recipe (posted after these letters) and four issues of our award-winning magazine. Do enjoy both!

I will admit, I grew up loving Chinese restaurant versions of traditional dishes until I started to receive Flavor and Fortune. Now my horizons have expanded. I had a dish called Spinach Nest that was sheer delight, creamy and tasty with generous pieces of black thousand year egg in a delicious sauce showing small threads of egg over sauteed spinach. The menu described it as 'thousand year old egg and pressed egg, stir-fried and served in a bed of spinach.' It was scrumptious. Is it possible to imitate this dish at home? I can’t find it in my recipe books. My second question is can this eggy delight be authentic? Can you or any reader supply a recipe? It would have an instant place in my 'Hall of Fame.'
PHYLLIS: When you or anyone enjoys a particular dish, and many of you do and hasten to write to us, we thank you for your expression of faith, but there are many ways to make every 'authentic' dish and we did not see nor taste it, you did. So our first recommendation is to jot down all the ingredients. And travel with digital camera to visually record what you had. Then call the restaurant and ask for their recipe. They know better than any of us how they made it. As to the egg threads, check out a recipe for lobster sauce. But for the ‘pressed egg’ we are at a loss. Readers, can you help Phyllis ? Doing so guarantees you a spot in her Hall of Fame.

I must say that your magazine has a scoop that I have not seen before. Though not a dedicated Chinese cook, I do intend to try some of the recipes and we will toast you as we enjoy. Thank you. and
Do not worry, I will renew my subscription. Flavor and Fortune is one of my essentials.. I enjoy all cuisines, but given a choice, Chinese food is my number one choice.
To BOBBIE, PHYLLIS, STEVE and ALL: We do appreciate your compliments, and all the kind words so many are so generous to send. We hope you continue to appreciate Flavor and Fortunei as much as we do preparing it for you.

From CARRIE, via e-mail:
Census figures keep predicting new people color schemes. What are the latest numbers for Chinese and other Asians? And while looking at numbers, how many people are going to China, and how many coming here? And do you know what these people eat.
CARRIE: Beginning at the end, but not specifically to your question, food is now America’s favorite topic of conversation here and abroad. After discussing chowing down, comes travel, followed closely by restaurants. Chinese food is one of the three top ethnic foods discussed and eaten. According to the World Tourism Organization, China ranks number five in world destinations, number seven among where tourists spend their dollars. The first four are France, Spain, the United States, and Italy. While on traveling in China, the tourists can clearly see that western food in China is perceived as trendy, and it has a huge following. Throughout Asia, there is increasing demand for Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Nepalese food in major cities. The Asian palate and tourists to Asia clearly reveal it is not a homogenous continent yet speaks and fills stomachs with many different kinds of food.

Now, according to the US Census Bureau, Asian Americans make up somewhat more than four percent of this country’s population or just a mite more than thirteen million people. Growing mostly by immigration, there will probably be a sixty-five percent growth rate between now and the year 2020 reaching almost twenty million, and by 2050, the projection is thirty-three and a half million or more. Suggest you go to www.factifinder.census.gov or go to www.census.gov for more specific information. Most data is given by state, and what you want can be found using minority links. The 2002 median income was fifty-two thousand dollars, with a bit more than ten percent living in poverty.

I have several recipes for pork floss. What is it and getting it where I live seems to allude me. Can you provide a recipe for making it, and one for using it?
DEENA: Pork floss, as you called it, is also called pork hair, or more correctly called pork sung. It is cooked dried and shredded pork made with sugar, soy sauce, and more. The shredding is such that in some ways it looks like matted hair. This is used as a garnish on main dishes, also on congee, and in omelettes. It is most popular in the south and eastern regions of China. A recipe for it an one using it appear at the end of all of these letters.

From ANGEL in the BRONX:
I liked the pair of paragraphs about foods for winter, can you do one for each season? What about Spring?
ANGEL: You are a dear for asking; we had thought about that, but until the day before this issue went to press, not a single comment; and now yours. Foods for Spring are foods to be used beginning with the Chinese New Year. Remember, that holiday they also call that holiday the Spring Festival. As do all seasons, Spring is a three month period that warms body and soul. It is a time of heightened Yang energy, and time when things begin to bloom. Traditionalists recommended people avoid fried foods because this is also a time when the Qi of the liver can lose control. Sweet foods are thought good, and avoiding sour ones is recommended. Foods to eat during the Spring include pea shoots, lily and wolfberry leaves, also sweet potato leaves, leeks, Chinese chives, and lily bulbs. Foods to avoid during this season are lamb and quail, no matter how prepared. These same folk also do not eat soy beans, particularly when stir-fried, and also do not consume Sichuan peppers, star anise, and five-flavor spice in any preparation. Raw onions and uncooked scallions should be removed from the diet at this time, but eating them cooked is OK. So is drink lots of fruit juices and water. The goal is to keep the body hydrated and to avoid dizziness.

From JEANNIE via e-mail:
Where can one get more information about boba?
JEANNIE: May we advise you and others that inquire about this Taiwanese beverage, that going to www.google.com is one way to access information about what many others know as bubble tea. The word ‘boba’ is another name for the black, and now pastel-colored cassava-based bubbles used in tea. Some folks recommend discussing their questions with and obtaining their uncooked bubbles from a supplier. One such, among many, is www.bubbleteasupply.com Where one can see a video, garner some recipes, and learn a minimal amount about these exceptionally popular additions to tea, coffee, cold beverages, even carbonated beverages. We get our supply at an Asian supermarket; and most of their websites are also sources of supply, but usually, not the place to go for information.

I heard that we should not use tiger bone for its herbal properties or for any other reason. Why is that? And, does anyone really cook the meat of these animals?
To BEANTOWNERS ALL: A recent study done in China, done with cooperation and collaboration with the World Nature Fund, reported that there were but thirty Chinese tigers living in the wild, and there are sixty-six others alive and well in China’s zoos. They implied, but did not say, nor would it be accurate, that there were no others in the rest of the world. China, for millennia, had been home to many species of tigers, the Chinese tiger, included. They were the major hunters of this animal, but rarely did they hunt it for food. Rather, Chinese traditional medicine practitioners used tiger bones, called hugu in Chinese, to disperse wind-cold and wind-dampness. These, they highly recommend to those with painful joint conditions. Rare was the farming of these animals, and great was the killing of these animals only for their bones. That is why the Chinese tiger, one of the species, is in danger of extinction. Another reason for smaller and smaller numbers of wild tigers, Chinese and others, are destruction of their natural habitats. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, advised that there are plans to relocate some of the wild tigers to Africa, when caught, and hopefully the population will grow; and then they will be reimported to China.

Do you know, or can you find out, when the first Chinese restaurant was opened in the United States? Also, was Chinese tea first used in this early Chinese restaurant?
BLANCHE: Newspapers in California report the location as San Francisco, the year as 1850. The China Institute in America, Inc.’s book Chinese in America by Loren W. Fessler tell of two restaurants visited in 1849 noting a quote from William Ryan about a Taylor report saying: “there are two restaurants in town (San Francisco) kept by Kang-sung and Wang-tong, where very palatable chow-chow, curry, and tarts are served by celestials.” There were many Chinese cooking for railroad workers before and after these dates, but none report serving food for a fee, as a restaurant would. In another item in that same book, there is a quote from Taylor three Chinese restaurants, denoted by their yellow silk flags. He goes on to say that with their native fare, they serve many English dishes; and that their tea and coffee can not be surpassed. Now to Chinese tea, in 1777, lots of tea was found in the woods and Brigadier General Heard wrote to General Washington asking what to do with it. Washington himself wrote back ordering it sent to the Quarter Master General for the use of the army. Furthermore, Washington detailed how to distribute the tea leaves. He said to give a quarter of a pound to each field officer, a pound to each general officer, maybe even more to the higher ups. Therefore, one can assume, that Chinese tea was known and consumed long before it was served in Chinese restaurants.

Can you advise what is a ‘bone egg’ and how should I prepare it? A customer came in to our little Chinese eatery and ordered one.
CHEF SHU XIA: We assumed your were, as they say in America, having our leg pulled. No one we spoke to had ever heard of such a dish nor had they heard of any preparation of eggs using the term ‘bone.’ Best we could figure out, they were teasing about carvings of boiled eggs used to decorate a banquet tables. This type of food sculpture was popular in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BCE), and there are reports of carved boiled eggs in use then. There are no records of people consuming the gorgeous edible carvings. Nor has anyone we spoke to seen a picture of what the carvings actually looked like; there are only books that speak of them. One such is the records of Unique Customs of Ling Biao. However, this book was written more than a thousand years later. So, for your and everyone’s information, carving food has a long history in China. In the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE) when the above-mentioned book was written, pastries were carved, as were various fruits, most notable the citron. There are reports of the carvings during this period looking like birds and flowers. Food carvings were very popular up to and during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE), and mostly visible at banquets. Some twenty years ago, we were honored with a special banquet at the Pine and Crane Tower Restaurant in Suzhou. One of the appetizer courses was ten different carvings of pastries looking like fruits. Each was not only shaped correctly, they were colored perfectly. I did ask if they were painted and was emphatically told ‘no!.' The manager advised that the dough itself was colored before it was steamed or baked. There were ten on a platter on each table, one to a person. Each was filled with a different tasting delight, none were fruit-flavored. I shared mine with my husband after he whipped out his pocket knife so that I could see the inside of his and mine. Seeing differences in our two, we each ate a half of our two beautiful looking and very special tasting dim sum-like beauties.

I once read about a bride tested by a guest, the first in her new home. This invited chap arrived with a stalk of sugar cane and a pound of pork and handed it to her thinking she could not prepare anything with these two items. As I recall the story, the groom had boasted earlier that his wife could cook anything. Now, I can not locate the article, can you help?
REVA: We once read that tale, too. However, locating it was not a tall tale, but a very tall order. Am pleased to advise that now, some seven months after your query, in a 1936 issue of American Cookery, April to be exact, there was an article by Helyn Eva Yates; and yes, that was how she spelled her name. It began with a poem titled: A Celestial Feast–Chinese Chow. After that, the first sentence said: “Few people realize what masters of cuisine the Chinese are.....I have great respect for their ingenuity in combining the unexpected in food. Then Ms. Yates tells the tale you speak of, says the bride removed the rind of the sugar cane, chopped it in pieces, put it in a grinder, added the pork and the white of an egg, and a little cornstarch. She made the mixture into balls and fried them in deep fat and proudly set them before her guest. He had planned to take the couple to a famous Pekin duck restaurant; and we’ll never know if he did or was just amazed at the delicious flavor of the new dish he had inspired. Incidentally, this article follows this tale with seven recipes, all Chinese including one each for Chow Mein, Hop Too Guy Ding (Walnut Chicken:, Chow Har Yun (Shrimp Chop Suey), Fried Rice Chow Lon Fun, how to grow bean sprouts and make a primary soup, then others for Fried Shrimp and Chow Guy Pin (Chicken Chop Suey). For your and everyone’s information, this particular issue was Volume 40 No. 9, and was published by the Boston Cooking School Magazine Company.

Were there early studies in China about what percentage of their calories came from carbohydrate foods? What foods did they come from, and what else were they eating, say in the 1920's or 1930's. I asked several dietary magazines and they all referred me to yours?
LOUISE: We are honored by the referrals, and yes, we can provide some answers. In the 1930's studies were done in China indicating that from seventy-two to ninety-three percent of people’s calories came from carbohydrates. That was mainly from rice in the south and wheat and other non-rice grains in the north. Meat and other protein use by the average person was exceedingly low, some one to ten grams a day. That is in the teaspoon to tablesppon amounts. The wealthy ate much more meat, eggs, sweets, and fruits than did the poor; and the very poor folk, a huge percentage of the population lived on grains and some vegetables, if they could afford them, and many died of starvation.

From NANNY LOU via e-mail:
What are the earliest written records of Chinese in the Untied States? And do you know if they were running panning for gold, running restaurants, or what?
NANNIE LOU: Do read all of the letters in this column, there is much to be learned about early Chinese, among other things. To our knowledge, the Chinese came to the United States long before gold was discovered in California in the mid 1840's. It is said that one Chinese resident of California wrote home circa 1848 sharing news of the discovery of gold, and many particularly in Quangdong wanted to come to ‘Gold Mountain.’ Some say that less than fifty Chinese lived in the United States before this time, and the first Chinese woman, Afong Moy, came to New York City in 1834. She arrived to be part of a museum exhibit in Brooklyn and Manhattan. But, surely, Chinese wares arrived long before any Chinese people did. Back to the first Chinese, the earliest written record says that three ‘natives of China’ were stranded in Baltimore; all were seamen. They waited a year, but in Philadelphia, before being hired by a ship bound for Asia in order to return to China. The next record is of five Chinese servants who arrived in 1796 with Andreas Everard Van Braam Houckgeest, am Dutch merchant, diplomat, and collector of Chinese art. What happened to them after he died in 1801 in Amsterdam is not known. Then, a former lieutenant in Briton’s Royal Navy, John Meares, saled from what was then known as Canton to the North American Pacific Coast with fifty Chinese on board. And there were a few Chinese who came to get an education. The best known was Yung Wing who went to Monson Academy and then on to Yasle University in 1850. He graduated in 1854, the first Chinese to get a degree from an American university. One additionlitem, The New York Times, in 1850, estimated one hundred fifty Chinese lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They said they were sailors, cooks, domestic servants, and entertainers. That same report indicates that slightly more than four thousand Chinese men were living in San Francisco along with seven women. By the mid 1850's, Chinese were arriving by the thousands, and in 1960 the number of men increased to more than thirty-three thousand.

From D.L. in MYSTIC CT:
In your September issue of Volume 10, can you advise about the Braised Oxtail recipe on page 32. It says to use two tablespoons of the reserved oil. Where was it reserved from?
To D.L. and OTHERS confused: Thank you for calling this to our attention. We are always embarrassed by omissions, inconsistencies, typo’s, and the like Our apologies to you and to all. We should have been more clear explaining to set the oil aside, left after deep-frying the pieces of oxtail. It is that oil that is to be used to fry the scallion and ginger pieces.
Stuffed Tripe, Swatow Style
12 ounces beef or pig tripe, as two equal size pieces
1/2 cup glutinous rice
6 Chinese black mushrooms
1/2 pound dried chestnuts
6 ounces minced fatty roast pork
2 ounces Yunnan or Smithfield ham
4 ounces shrimp
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or water chestnut flour
1 chicken bouillon cube
1. Wash and then dry the trip and cut into two large pieces.
2. Soak the rice in one cup of cold water for an hour, then drain.; and soak the mushrooms in two cups warm water, then drain and discard the stem, and reserve the liquid.
3. Coarsely chop mushrooms, chestnuts, roast pork, ham, and shrimp. Keeping each item separately.
4. Put water chestnut flour on the inside of the tripe pieces. Then mix pork and shrimp, and put half of it on half of each piece of tripe. Then mix mushrooms and chestnuts with the rice, and put half of it on top of each batch of the pork/shrimp mixture. Fold rest of the trip over this and pat firmly but do not squash the filling.
5. Strain the mushroom water. Put the filled tripe pieces in a heat proof bowl, and pour mushroom water on top of them. Steam over simmering water for t two hours, then serve, cutting each piece of tripe into three pieces.
Pork Sung
4 pounds lean pork, the loin is a good choice
6 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 Tablespoons crushed Chinese brown or granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Cut meat into thin strips and put them into a heavy casserole with the soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Allow to marinate for half an hour. Then add three cups of boiling water.
2. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Put the casserole in the oven for two hours, stirring the contents every twenty minutes.
3. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue cooking and stirring for another hour.
4. Heat a wok or pan and add two tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and stir-fry the pork strips, adding an additional tablespoon every five minutes. Continue to stir and cook the meat until it is thoroughly dried and very crisp. Do not allow it to burn.
5. Using a cleaver, shred the meat as finely as you can. Then, using your fingers, tear the meat apart until it is in very fine shreds. Keep on tearing and shredding until the pieces are very fine and thread-like. Store at a cool temperature, but not in the refrigerator.
Eggplant with Pork Sung
2 thin purple Asian eggplants, about seven ounces each
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sacha or fish sauce
1 green pepper. Cut into half-inch pieces
1 chili pepper, minced
1 teaspoon granulated or crushed Chinese brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with one-quarter cup water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 Tablespoons pork sung
1. Cut the eggplants in half and rub each half with coarse salt. Let them stand for ten to fifteen minutes, then rinse and dry them. Make cuts, half inch apart, cross-hatching the flat surface of each eggplant only a quarter-inch deep.
2. Heat oil and fry the garlic for half minute, then add the eggplant pieces and fry first on one side then the other until they are lightly browned on both sides. Remove them from the oil, leaving any remaining oil in the pan. Put the eggplant pieces on paper towels to drain, and allow them to sit for two or three minutes. Then put them in a single layer on a large plate or platter.
3. Fry the sacha sauce and both peppers for one minute, then add the cornstarch water and stir-fry, stirring, for another minute. Next add sesame oil and stir-fry one more minute. Pour this over the eggplant pieces, sprinkle with the pork sung, and serve.

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