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TOPICS INCLUDE: Kudos; Subscribers; Chinese virtures; Eel use; Olive kernels; Herbal safety; Belfast cider; Chinese cookbook collection; Beijing's huge mall; Restaurant 369; Sacred Imperial ornaments; Restaurant sales; Lapsung Souchong tea

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Spring Volume: 2007 Issue: 14(1) page(s): 10, 33, 34. 35. and 37

KUDOS continue to pour in:
To the few printed below and all others who snail-mailed, e-mailed, faxed, or prepared theirs mentally, sincere thanks, and
From KAREN in ME
I have read your magazine and it is great. Want the marketing department to subscribe because your magazine will be very helpful to our business as we sell to more and more Asian clients, and
This is the first time I have fallen in love with a magazine. That said, be sure to change my address promptly, I do not want to miss a single issue, and,
I especially like the variety of topics covered in just one issue, and I appreciate the nutrition information (which only appears in the hard copy), and
A writer-friend and I talked about the amazing work done by Flavor and Fortune. Keep it up! and
From KENNY in CA
Was gabbing with some colleagues, the gist of the conversation was, wonder who subscribes to your super-duper-Chinese-savvy journal-magazine?
To KENNY and ALL: Our Board of Directors, at its last meeting, discussed just that and all the kudos. They told me say thanks and to tell readers what I know and had just told them. About thirteen percent of our readers are Chinese, some subscribing for their Chinese or Chinese-American children who do not know enough about their ancestral culinary heritage. An equal number are chefs, culinary school, and academic libraries. About five percent of our subscribers are writers or editors of magazines. A few of them have told us they value and use information found in many issues in their own publication efforts, and they trust it. We realize ours is a limited niche market. We figure we are doing something right as numbers of subscriptions grow with each issue. What is troubling is that many new subscribers tell us they just found us. This magazine is by a small not-for-profit minimally funded institute, can you and others help us get the word out? Also, some have called us a journal, we consider ourselves a magazine. Perhaps, we are hyphenated as your complimentary letter indicated. Like journals, we do research before writing articles, but we do not reference them as most journals do. In one early issue we did. After that issue came out, we received lots of 'hate-type' mail. The writers begged us to save the space for information. They said that those wanting references could and should ask for them. For the record, over these thirteen years, less than a handful ever did. If this small bit about is is not enough, do ask for more, but please do so with specific questions.

From HARRY via e-mail:
I note that in quite a few older Chinese books their stories are written with a moral. I once read that these are 'tales of traditional values.' Do any of these values discuss food?
HARRY: Using your phrase 'traditional values' and adding Chinese to it, a web search came up dry. Changing the word values to virtues, we did locate a book called Stories of Traditional Chinese Virtues by Gao Wei and Mao Qiyi published by the Shanghai Educational Publishing House in 1996. Among the many stories in it are two, said to be from the Han Dynasty, that are tangentially about food, Both are about young boys, ages unknown. In one, the lad called Cai Shun is caught with two baskets of mulberries, one ripe, one unripe and sour. The official who nabs him lets him keep them because Cai Shun says the ripe ones are for his mother, the sour ones for himself. The other tale is about a boy named Kong Rong who gives larger pears to his elder brothers and keeps smaller ones for himself, When he is queried, he tells his Mom he does so because his brothers are bigger than he so need the bigger fruits.

From JAIMEE vie e-mail:
Bought a package of Taiwanese goodies called Roselle Cakes. The ingredients lists 'roselle' and no one seems to know what it is. Do you?
JAIMEE: Our resources advise that this is a variety of Hibiscus, specifically Hibiscus sabdariffa. It is an herbal ingredient recommended to calm restlessness, help soothe sore throats, reduce stomach aches, and nourish the liver. In cake form, they are to enjoy with tea or just to eat them by themselves.

From ESTHER via e-mail:
I have two questions about one food item. Is eel an important food source in China? I once learned that the Chinese eat everything, so why is it some Chinese friends of mine reject eels out of hand?
ESTHER: In Shanghai, fresh water eels seem loved by all. At outdoor and indoor food markets there, bamboo baskets full of them squirm with their energetic contents, some even escape. The Shanghainese adore fresh water eels. Other Chinese, not so lucky to have them so easily available, like theirs from salt water sources. Folks who dislike eels may, as Charles Darwin said in the 19th century, be less than fond because of their homology. That is, they see their shape and believe they are snakes.

From ANNE via e-mail:
Have finally made my way cooking all the nut recipes in Volume 11(4) on pages 13 through 16 and pages 37 and 38. I so far behind because I cook all the recipes in every issue before I read the next one. For that issue, I had trouble locating olive kernels. Yes, they are in a few Chinese cookbooks but not in my local Asian store. Pine nuts may be common and a common substitute in the United States, but, I do not recommend them as you did. Why? Because when I finally did get olive kernels, I was blown away. Now my question: Can you provide other olive kernel recipes, especially with fish or seafood? Others might appreciate them as much as I am sure I will.
ANNE: We adore these olive kernels, also known as olive nuts, as you do. When you get to Volume 12(4) you will find another olive kernel recipe on page 15 called Chicken, Olive Nuts, and Tangerines. We are impressed with your culinary efforts, and would like to report that in earlier days before full-time work, we did that very same thing but on a lesser scale. We told ourselves we had to make at least one recipe before reading the next issue of any food magazine. Now, you need a reward, nay two, so hat the end of these letters is one recipe for fish, another for shrimp. Enjoy them both.

From ANDY in OHIO:
My sister uses many herbals, particularly herbal teas. She says they are safer than western medicines. Are they really?
ANDY What you need to do is learn which ones she is taking and then check them out, one by one. Not all herbals are safe, nor should one be sorry if taking some of them. There are many herbal sources and good databases, and some great books that offer excellent advice. You can get a copy of the Mills and Bone book reviewed in this issue titled: Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, and any of the others we have reviewed in earlier issues. Go to our website to see them and also we suggest that you and she use www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/11570.cfm Important questions to ask her any other herbal users are why they take them, and are they under the care of a licenced physician or herbalist. Also, are they aware of herbal and drug interactions if they be taking any other medications. You and she need to know that at least two dozen herbal teas have caused stomach, blood, kidney, liver, and other system failures. There is a chart in an article titled: Toxic Effects of Herbal Teas in Archives in Environmental Health in their Volume 42(2) starting on page 133 by Dr. Paul Ridker. He found serious complications rare, but problems from diarrhea to death did exist. Therefore, you and others need sound medical advice. This magazine is not the best resource for that, medical doctors are, so we suggest you and others query them.

SUSAN in CT asks:
Are you aware of an obscure beverage in the San Francisco Bay area served at many Chinese functions that is called Belfast Sparkling Cider?
SUSAN: No, we never heard of it and could not locate any in the New York Region. However, from another reader we did learn that Golden Brands (beverage distributors); 2225 Terrold Avenue; San Francisco CA 94124 bought that brand some years ago. We tried e-mailing and calling a Mr. Stahl there, but he has yet to respond. Is there someone who can advise you and us about this beverage? Can anyone tell us why the Chinese use it and when they started to do so?

It was a pleasurable surprise to find the article about your extensive collection of Chinese cookbooks in the Newark NJ issue if the New York Times newspaper with a photo of you. After so many years of subscribing to this magazine, I felt as if it was a personal introduction. Thank you for donating them, and for this unique and informative publication. It is always a delight to read.
PHYLLIS: We thank you for your kind words, and for that copy of your local New York Times article. Using your letter, we remind others of this cookbook resource, all two thousand six hundred plus Chinese cookbooks in English and other materials. They are available in the Special Collections area of the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University. They are annotated and available at their website, as well.

Sorry I am so slow in re-subscribing. I enjoy reading your fabulous magazine, and though I no longer do any cooking, I do pass my copies along to people I think would enjoy them.
MARIAN: Delighted you are re-subscribing. Thanks for the compliment, and for recycling issues to other appreciative folk. Hope others who do not wish to keep theirs make similar use of theirs. One subscriber, years back, said she gave hers to her local library.

Your magazine has spoken about western fast food facilities and we do visit Chinese and other ones at our local mall. Does China have huge malls with Chinese food courts?
BILLY: Beijing boasts the world’s biggest mall. There are other smaller ones in Shanghai and elsewhere in this country of 1.3 billion people. The one in Beijing has quite a few fancy restaurants and many fast food eatery places in a food court. We have not seen them yet but were told that even with thousands of people in this huge shopping arena every day, the food court and the mall itself sometimes seem empty. This mega-shopping arena is called Golden Resources Mall; 1 Yuanda Road (in the Haidian District); Beijing, China. Getting to it is said to be easy because many public buses stop at or very near it. For those who want to know, this huge mall has a very large supermarket called Lotus. Several readers told us it is a good place to see foods that may not be available in neighborhoods in this city or elsewhere. They also told us there are several places to buy or drink tea, places to buy cookbooks, quite a few different regional and other Chinese and non-Chinese restaurants, and places to by local and less-than-local types of clothing, household items, and computer equipment, among other things.

From KENNETH via e-mail:
Do you know of a restaurant called '369?' Back some thirty years ago in Chinatown, the chef did a world-class job. Perhaps they have a place in Flushing?
KENNETH: You bring back related memories. Years ago, we often ate in a great restaurant known as 456. It was named for a winning hand in the game of Mah Jong. Located on the Bowery at Chatham Square, at one time there were two restaurants of that name almost across the street from each other. The larger and fancier one was on the west side of the street. The one we thought better and that we visited often was on the east side and half block further south. We adored their food, most from the seaport area in and around the city of Ningpo and still miss their casseroles, among other dishes. Exploring your query, we did learn that one of their chefs is still cooking in Chinatown on Bayard Street. Went there several times, and though he is touted on their window, he was never there when we were.

From LENA via e-mail:
The translation of the twelve sacred imperial ornament descriptions shown in Flavor & Fortune's Volume 13(3) on page 36 can be found using various pages in my Chinese dictionary: Ci Hai published in Taiwan in 1969 and titled: Zhong hau shu ju. They are, right to left at the top: yu shu shi er zhang fu zhi tu meaning: The twelve emblems for robes in Yu Shu or Book of Yu of Emperor Shun. This emperor (2255 - 2205 BCE) was considered legendary by some, real by others. He was famous for good government. Under the pictures, reading up to down, right to left are: Column one says: ri (sun), yue (moon), and chen (star/constellation). Column two says: shan (mountain), long (dragon), and hua chong (pheasant). Column three says: zong yi (wine utensils/cups for ancestral ceremonies--a tiger and a monkey, zao (seaweed), and huo (fire). Column four says: fen mi (rice flour), fu--it is the 3rd tone (ax), fu-—is the 2nd tone--a word of Ji connected with its reverse form making this emblem in its right side up and upside down form back to back as a pair. Ji has two meanings, self and the sixth position of the ten celestial stems; this emblem is especially for Emperors.
LENA: Thank you for your explanation/transliteration. It answers many questions I and others have pondered over.

From MARY via e-mail:
I read that in the past five years Asian restaurant sales in the United States are up twenty-seven percent. I own such a business and wonder if you and others have a crystal ball as to what we can do to keep them there, even increase their sales further?
MARY: From what readers tell us, here is what we suggest. Many are gripes we would translate to: Make the foods healthier by reducing sodium and eliminating trans fats. Serve smaller portions for less money. Reduce the quantity of four-legged animals served. Increase fresh fruits and vegetable amounts in all your dishes. Include new and different ingredients. Provide speedier service and after your meals do not rush your guests to leave. Offer well-packaged take-out foods in packaging that does not leak, even if tipped. Pay attention to sanitation including proper handling of all dishes and foods, have cleaner restrooms, and cleaner and neater uniforms, And do make your foods and facilities prettier.
Fish, Olive Kernels, and Mushrooms
1/2 pound any firm-fleshed white fish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 egg white
2 teaspoons water chestnut or lotus root flour
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 ounces olive kernels
1/2 cup angle-sliced Chinese celery
6 slices fresh ginger, peeled and slivered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
6 black mushrooms, soaked in one cup water, stems removed, mushrooms quartered, the liquid reserved
1/2 carrot, peeled and angle-sliced thinly
2 scallions, angle-sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons reserved mushroom water
1. Mince fish, then add salt, pepper, egg white, water chestnut flour, and one tablespoon mushroom water. Stir until very sticky.
2. Brush a small amount of the oil on a steam-proof plate. Put the minced fish mixture on it making it into a rectangle no more than one-inch thick. Then steam this over boiling water for ten minutes. Remove, discarding any liquid on the plate. When cool, cut into three pieces across the width. Then make two slashes in each fish piece, lengthwise not cutting all the way to each end. Next twist each fish section as if it were dough making it into a twisted piece of fish.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or pan and fry the olive kernels until they turn golden. Remove them to drain on a paper towel, and leave oil in the wok or pan.
4. Heat half of the remaining oil, setting the other half aside, and fry the celery until it just begins to soften. Set the celery on a strainer over a bowl.
5. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and fry the ginger and garlic for one minute, then add the mushrooms and fry for another minute. Add the twisted fish pieces, carrot and scallion slivers, and stir once before adding the rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, and olive kernels. When that comes to the boil, add the cornstarch-mushroom water mixture and stir for one minute until thickened. Serve.
Shrimp, Peppers, and Olive Kernels
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive kernels
1 pound shrimp, shells and black veins removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 green pepper, seeds and veins removed, cut into half-inch pieces
1 chili pepper, seeds and veins removed, and finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Heat oil in a wok or pan and stir-fry olive kernels until golden, then remove them to paper towels and set aside.
2. Mix shrimp with salt and pepper and set aside for half an hour.
3. Reheat remaining oil and stir-fry green and chili pepper pieces and the garlic for one minute. Add shrimp and stir-fry one minute just until no longer pink, then add olive kernels.
4. Mix soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar, and add to the shrimp mixture. Stir-fry half minute until thick, then serve.

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