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TOPICS: Zhejiang tea; Sweet-n-Tart; Jellyfish; Finger-cut noodles; Ginger

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Newman's News and Notes

Fall Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(3) page(s): 31 and 32

ZHEJIANG TEA is an herbal. The tea we were given in Brugge, Belgium discussed in Flavor and Fortune's Volume 12, Number 4 and pictured on page 9 has finally been identified correctly. Mark Lii at Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Company; 75 Mott Street; Manhattan is always a great resource; and we thank him. He advised that it is not a tea made from Camellia sinensis leaves. He said it was in the chrysanthemum or camomile families. We finally did find some in California and learned they call it Matricaria chamomilla. The Chinese folk in that large two-story gift shop in Chinatown in Los Angeles called it camomile gan ju.

Therefore, it is a tisane and not a true tea. It was made into an herbal decoction with boiling or very hot water. The tiny dry ball-like items pictured in that earlier article are actually flowers, not a tea leaf among them. When brewed they deliver a delicious pungent and somewhat grassy flavored hot beverage.

A Chinese herbalist we spoke to said this beverage is a good digestive and that it is particularly valuable for older folk. As indicated in a Fang 'Leaves and Petals' information sheet, chamomile induces sleep, eases stomach aches, calms restlessness, relaxes tense muscles, reduces eye strain, and can reduce the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. Elsewhere in a Chinese herbal volume, we read that these flowers when brewed and consumed in that liquid form, can moisturize skin. They can also help those who are constipated. Grown in many areas of northwest Asia and used in place of tea, this beverage is very popular in China's Zhejiang province. SWEET-n-TART materials we wrote about need an update. Callers ask what happened to their basement Cafe? The answer, they moved quite a while ago.

SWEET-n-TART CAFE; 136-11 38th AVENUE; FLUSHING NY; phone: (718) 661-3380 is the newer one. Unfortunately, an original address is printed on the back of some menus and business cards still in use. He needs to print new menus and discard all his old business cards.

SWEET-n-TART RESTAURANT; 20 MOTT STREET, NEW YORK CITY; phone: (212) 964-0380 is the newer Chinatown rendition, the owner Spencer Chan reminds us. It is down the street from where the old one was. His remaining eateries are improvements over the defunct one; both serve better food in nicer environments.

We were able to delight and devour fine food at a VIP Banquet during an earlier 'Taste of Chinatown' day. We have eaten at both places many times, and know his kitchen can cook dishes showing off foods from all over China; even from a few neighboring countries. At the VIP dinner during that event, we were treated to a luncheon with elegant and delicious Teo Chew Style Country Style Duck. The Baked Stuffed Bean Curd with Minced Pork followed and was soft and super. Shanghai Style Fried Sweet and Sour Yellow Fish, a fine and very fresh swimmer was served next. It, too, was yummy.

Cantonese Style Garlic & Scallion Crusted Crispy Chicken came next. This savory and succulent dish had perfect skin that was moist and marvelous. The Szechuan Style Shrimp with Garlic Sauce sported lots of large juicy critters and was as wonderful as could be. Vietnamese Style Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon Grass marched to our table and we and everyone said they were superb. That meal went on and on, each dish well-made and a delight.

Chan's Flushing Sweet and Tart eatery specializes in Tong Shui, the special traditional sweet Chinese soups said to nourish and balance yin and yang and invigorate qi. These soups are smooth and light. Taste buds, mind, and body appreciate them. One of our favorites, eaten many times the Flushing outpost, is Bamboo Piths & Lotus Seeds with Coconut Milk. Second to that is Black Chicken & Mushroom Double Boiled Rice in Yunnan Pot. Try it and be aware that the number of Sweet-n-Tart eateries may be fewer, but their offerings are bigger and better than ever before.

JELLYFISH can be beautiful, and we have never seen one as gorgeous and as unusual as at a newer restaurant in Flushing, Queens, that outpost borough of New York City. Worth the ride on the Number 7 subway line, do go to see it. Its presentation is gorgeous, and never before have we had this type of jellyfish.

WATERFRONT INTERNATIONAL; 40-09 PRINCE STREET; FLUSHING NY 11354; phone: 718/321-1363 is the place where we had this beautiful dish. The menu here has all dishes in Chinese and English, the restaurant's name is only in Chinese. An English translation appears on the outside. The dishes touted are not easily understandable by the translations provided, but what is clear, is that jellyfish is listed nine times, six as appetizers, three as seafood. The picture on this page is of one in the appetizer group. It is gorgeous to look at, well-marinated with shallots and coriander, called Jeelyfish w. Shallot, and tough to devour.

The chef and this preparation, we were told, comes from Dalien. We could get no confirmation because hardly anyone at this inland Waterfront speaks more than a few words in English. Never mind, the chef can cook great dishes and did so for us. Others have reported his dishes uneven; and perhaps they were in the first weeks after opening. We did not have that experience in the two times we ate there.

Several fish, lamb, bean curd, and other dishes showed off top talent. What did not was the all-too-many misspellings, and our inability to figure out what all of them meant. Is their 'Marinated Chine' a dish of marinated chives? Perhaps a good guess, but what is Seafood with Blotch Soup? No guesses for that. What is Fried Saury? We need explanations and need to return with someone who reads Chinese. We do want to know and taste their Stew Miscellaneous Fish w. Home Style Cookies.

Do not be put off. Many dishes taste as beautiful as the jelly fish looks. This is not intended as a review, just to advise that their Crispy Lamb with Chili Pepper is a winner and made with cumin. The Dried Tofu with Fresh Hot Pepper is delicious, and the Yellow Fish Home Style is not to be missed. This is an eatery offering many new dishes from the chef's home region, a rarity in any of New York’s five boroughs.

FINGER-CUT NOODLES are no more at EASTERN HAND-PULLED NOODLES; 28 FORSYTH STREET; MANHATTAN. The owner still pulls phenomenal noodles, but those pictured on page 16 of Volume 13, Number 2, are history. When asked why, Mr. Gao responded that "demand was too little, time to make them too much." A pity, and a loss for those who did not rush over to try them.

GINGER is a popular flavoring in the Chinese culinary. Its popularity has spread around the world, particularly in its prepared crystallized form. In response to many requests about how to make this goody, we offer a recipe from Donald Siegel's book, From Lokshen to Lo Mein, The Jewish Love Affair with Chinese Food. It was to be included in the last issue, but lack of space precluded that. In that book, the author explains how his book and his love affair with Chinese food came to be. Three of his book's recipes were in that last issue on pages 22 and 23. His simple way to make this dually delicious treat, eaten as candy and used in recipes, was eliminated from that issue at the last minute. It appears below.
Don Siegel's Crystalized Ginger
I cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 and 1/3 cups sugar plus half cup additional for later use
1. Peel the ginger and prepare it with a knife; or mince it in a food processor.
2. Bring one cup of water and the sugar to the boil, then add the minced ginger, and simmer for twenty minutes until the syrup is greatly reduced.
3. Strain the ginger from the syrup and spread it waxed paper. Reserve the syrup for basting poultry or another use.
4. When the ginger is dry, sprinkle it with additional sugar, and toss being sure all surfaces are well-coated. It is ready to be eaten, used in recipes, or stored in a glass jar in a cool dark place.

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