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TOPICS: Exploding Asian populations; Languages spoken in China; Olympics 2008; Almond and drumstick mushrooms;

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Newman's News and Notes

Spring Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(1) page(s): 35 and 36

EXPLODING ASIAN POPULATIONS in the United States now number more than twelve million. Far from static, they have grown by seventy-two percent from 1990 to 2000. The growth is primarily by immigration, and from all Asian countries. Anticipated growth was to be up about sixty-five percent from current levels until the year 2020, however, this population has been growing faster than anticipated. There will be at least twenty million Asians in the United States in just fifteen years. That means desire for Asian foods is growing, too. Have you noticed it where you live? We see it at home and every place we visit. Asian Restaurant News reports national aggregate sales of Asian foods growing to more than three hundred fifty million dollars annually. Both wholesale and retail markets are growing, as are ethnic speciality stores. The variety of Asian foods available is expanding and Asian dining opportunities are on the rise.

Beside the increase in Asian people, television programs featuring Chinese and other Asian foods are on the increase. American-Asian restaurants such as P.F. Changs are growing in number as are their offerings. Chinese and other Asian ethnic eateries are on the rise, and they are upscaling. A few years ago, who would have thought that a city suburb with a small but growing Asian population would have a Chinese restaurant always offering hasma, a frog ingredient, on the menu? This particular Chinese food item generates the most questions on this magazine's website. Can you guess city and state? Read about it in this very issue on page 17.

LANGUAGES SPOKEN in China nowadays include two hundred and forty-one different ones. So says the newest edition of Ethnologue. They indicate almost seven thousand lingo’s, China with the ninth largest number. Countries with more, include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Nigeria, India, the United States, Mexico, the Cameroon, and Australia. Contact M.P. Lewis at www.ethnologue.com for additional tongue-talking data.

OLYMPICS 2008 is coming to Beijing, and the city is transforming itself in preparation. Special, and for now, secret menus are being developed. Some experts suggest Olympic menus with typical Chinese regional foods; others say to add numerous world specialities; and many traditional Chinese snack foods. Will non-Chinese foods be served? It is too early to tell. One goal of those designing these menus is to introduce Chinese foods to the world.

Since the Olympics in Tokyo, one hundred forty-four countries now enjoy sushi. Similar success enhanced the world’s appreciation of South Korea’s kimchi. Food safety and tasty are on the minds of those planning and then preparing foods for the 2008 games. The Beijing Health Bureau, the Agricultural Bureau, and others will check and double check all restaurants recommended outside the Olympic Village. Every restaurant in the city will be examined to assure the sale of safe food during these games. Teams doing these inspections are to be composed of fifteen members, seven Chinese and eight foreign experts; all with previous Olympic food safety expertise. Extra concern is warranted, what with terrorists and other modern concerns.

We suggest you plan, attend, and eat Chinese food to your hearts content, and with minds at ease, do so heartily. Be aware that about one hundred thousand food samples are now selected city-wide and tested each year. More than ninety-five percent meet standards now. The Chinese plan to up that record for the Olympics.

ALMONG or DRUMSTICK MUSHROOMS are in many Chinese and non-Chinese markets; and the numbers are growing. These two mushroom types may look alike to the novice, but not to those knowledgeable about fungi families. The almond-ones are oyster mushrooms with a lily pulp taste. They are fragrant as are almonds and delicious as are oyster mushroom; and they are in the latter mushroom family. Botanically, the almond mushrooms have been written as Pleurotus cryngi but correctly, they really are Pleurotus eryngii mushrooms. On the street, you may have seen or heard them called: King Oyster Mushrooms. Some have referred to them as 'phoenix' mushrooms. None of our many fungi volumes even list them as such. What they do say, is that they are loaded with protein, some fifteen to thirty-five percent by weight, and that they taste terrific.

The drumstick mushroom or Coprinus comatus is milder in taste. It and other related shaggy mane mushrooms are popular with hikers. Their name comes from their chicken-like taste. They, too, are rich in protein; and in minerals as well. These mushrooms do have something you need to know about. That is, do not drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage when eating them just in case you have consumed a relative and not Coprinus comatos. One of their cousins does produce a toxin. It provides a cross reaction when consuming the mushroom and alcohol at the same time or even within several hours of each other. This negative reaction is sporadic, most often in conjunction with Coprinus atramentarius, not with Coprinus comatos; so do know before you buy. That requires trusting your supplier.

We have been confused as to whether we are purchasing almond oyster mushrooms or drumstick mushrooms. Do only purchase from reliable sources. We show the vendor Chinese and English names to know which is which; and suggest you do likewise. And to be extra sure, we do not cook with nor consume any alcohol when they are in our house. For us, pictures do not help so we do not produce them here to give a false sense of security. Above we provide their Chinese names in alphabetical order. The almond mushroom is written in Chinese above the drumstick mushroom. That way you can know what you are buying.
King Oyster Mushrooms, Tofu, and Peas
1 ounce dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked for half hour in one cup of warm water
1 pound firm tofu, cut into one- to two-inch cubes
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons corn oil
2 to 3 almond/king oyster mushrooms, each cut into three to four pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely minced
2 slices peeled fresh ginger, each cut into eight pieces
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1. Remove stems from the black mushrooms and discard, then cut each one in half or quarters. Squeeze them, over a glass or small bowl, of any remaining water, and reserve it.
2. Put black mushrooms and tofu in a bowl, mix, then add cornstarch and mix again.
3. Heat wok, add oil, them fry oyster/king mushroom for one half minute, then add black mushrooms and tofu and fry in two batches, each about two minutes, then remove solids leaving oil in the wok.
4. Reheat oil and fry the garlic and ginger for half a minute, add all ingredients, used and not yet used, and fry for one more minute, remove with a slotted spoon, draining well, then serve.

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