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Hunan Recipes the Editor Remembers

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Personal Perspectives

Fall Volume: 2008 Issue: 15(3) page(s): 16 and 17

In 1982, I visited Taipei and was invited to a meal hosted by Stanley Yen, then owner/manager of the Ritz Hotel. Mr. Yen offered to send a car to fetch us, but we were too embarrassed to say we were bedding down at a local Y. When he insisted, we had his driver pick us up at the nearby Taipei Hilton. During that conversational invitation, Mr. Yen asked if we wanted to invite half dozen friends to join my husband and I for dinner in the kitchens of his hostelry. Not knowing a soul in Taipei then, we demurred. "Was it fine if he invited some hotel residents," he wondered? Answering in the affirmative, he then asked what sort of food would we want, and he suggested we select one we knew little about. We said, Hunanese cuisine, and he obliged.

On our arrival Yen took us on a tour of the hotel's best suites, then down to the kitchen where a round table for ten was set. He said his chef was making a Hunanese banquet; and we were thrilled. We were even more thrilled that we could watch his chef prepare it. Unfortunately, my notes do not indicate the chef's name, but he does deserve lots of credit. Our recollections are that the meal was wonderful. A menu he handed all the ladies helps recall what we ate; it is pictured on this page.

Preparing for that dinner party, two techniques learned will remain with me forever. One was how to cut a carrot into a net for the Sweet & Sour Fish. He taught well and I did manage a poor one that evening, but my memory and manipulations now are no match for the ones he produced. The fascinating technique which I still can do is to make whole eggs with only egg whites, for his Sauteed Scallop with Egg White dish.

My pictures have been lost, a pity, but not the wonderful memories from this kitchen banquet, a marvelous meal and a large learning experience. The hand-painted menu scrolls for the five women were gorgeous, mine remains still decorating my office and now this article. A not nearly as nice rendition of a similar egg white dish, this one called Eggs With No Yolks, is thanks to China Commercial Corporation for International Economic & Technical Corporation. We saw them made, but the other guests at that banquet were amazed at the yolkless eggs; yours can be, too.

Though not on the above dinner party menu, the second recipe, for stuffed chicken wings, are wonderful, as is the last one, for stuffed mushrooms. We ate both of them for the first time years ago in Beijing at the Hongbinlou Restaurant. There, we were told, they mostly serve Qing Dynasty food. They told us the wings are Hunanese, the stuffed mushrooms a Muslim dish from Hunan.
Sauteed Scallop and Egg White II
10 medium eggs
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups dry rice
1/2 conpoy (dried scallops)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
5 scallops, cut in half making ten scallop circles
1/2 cup concentrated chicken stock
1/2 pound pea shoots
1. Poke a small hole in the end of one egg,, and drain the egg white into a bowl. The using a long needle, break the yolk in the shell, and drain it into another bowl. Then rinse the hollow egg shell, and repeat until all the egg shells are empty.
2. Add chicken broth, salt, and cornstarch to the egg whites, and fill each egg standing it in the uncooked rice aperture up, in a steamer basket lined with a cloth.
3. Steam the stuffed eggs over low heat for one hour, then remove them to a bowl of water, and carefully remove and discard their shells.
4. Steam the conpoy for half an hour, remove and cool slightly, then tear it into fine strips and set aside.
5. Heat wok, add the oil, and stir-fry the scallop circles for one minute, then remove and put on a warm plate.
6. Reheat the wok, add concentrated chicken stock, and stir-fry/steam the pea shoots just until they wilt, then put them on a pre-warmed serving plate; put the peeled eggs on them, add the hot scallop slices, and top all of this with the shredded conpoy. Then serve.
Hunan Stuffed Chicken Wings
10 two-bone chicken wings
5 Chinese mushroom, soaked, stems removed, and sliced thin
2-inch piece of winter bamboo, cut in thin sticks
1 ounce Yunnan or Smithfield ham, cut into thin sticks
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 scallions, cut into two-inch thin sticks
2 slices fresh ginger, cut into thin sticks
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup Chinese spinach or bok choy, steamed
1. Remove the bones from the chicken wings, and blanch the wings for one minute in boiling water, then drain.
2. Stuff an equal amount of mushroom pieces and bamboo and ham sticks, into each wing, and set aside.
3. Heat the wok then add oil and stir-fry the scallion and ginger sticks for one minute. Remove and set them in a strainer over a bowl. When cool, mix with the ground pepper, then stuff them equally into the wings.
4. Put the stuffed wings into a bowl and that into a steamer. Steam for fifteen minutes, remove wings and reserve the liquid in the bowl. Put wings in a low serving bowl.
5. Put reserved liquid, the cornstarch, and the sesame oil into a small pot and boil until thickened. Pour over the wings, and serve.
Hunan Mushroom Sandwiches
30 equal-size Chinese black mushrooms, soaked and stems removed and discarded
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 pound shrimp, shells and veins removed, and minced until very fine
1/4 pound whitefish, minced very fine
2 egg whites
1 Tablespoon chicken fat
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 cherries or slices of steamed red radish
1 piece cucumber for decor
1. Simmer mushrooms in chicken broth for half an hour, remove and cool, and reserve the liquid.
2. Mix shrimp with one egg white, the fish with the other. Take half teaspoon shrimp and put it on half of the mushrooms. Then do the same with the fish. Then cover this with one unused mushroom so there is a two-layer sandwich.
3. Steam these over simmering water for five minutes, then fry them in chicken fat for another minute or two before plating them on a platter mimicking the photograph on this page.
4. Put cucumber decor on the plate then put reserved liquid in a pot, add cornstarch and boil stirring until it thickens. Put one teaspoon on each plated mushroom sandwich, put cherry or radish in center, and serve.

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