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TOPICS INCLUDE: Kudos; Swiss Sauce; Hotch Potch for reunion dinner; Plum and barbecue sauces; China's first health food restaurant; Shrimp for a crowd; Top 100 attendee restaurants; Pulled noodles; Chinatown before the Chinese; Chinese-Koreans

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2011 Issue: 18(4) page(s): 10, 11, 35, and 37

From JOHN, KEN, and OTHERS in California, Paris, and Peru:
Your magazine is wonderful–sign me up!" "Continue the Good Work!" "Wish I had known about this magazine years ago and because I did not, send me all issues not yet on the website. Have no patience to wait for them each year."
To the two OF YOU and others: We do appreciate your kind words, your orders, and your generous donations. Hope they inspire others and all together, they keep us in the black.

Can you advise why there is a Chinese sauce called 'Swiss Sauce' and how long it has been in use. Also, do you have a recipe for it? My Chinese market has no notion about this food item. This is not a joke to trip you up, I actually saw it on a menu in Hong Kong and there was told it is common in southern China.
HARVE: Why and what this sauce is has baffled many, ourselves included. Some chefs from the Guangdong Province say it may have been in existence for at least fifty years, and that it is somewhat sweet. We appreciate your question as it sent us on a search for a Chinese sauce we never heard of. Our Asian markets were also in the dark, not one carried anything by that name. But one chef did tell us about it saying it is associated with Tai Ping Koon, a Hong Kong restaurant he said began in 1860. Checking that out, we learned they have five restaurants, two in the centralized Hong Kong area, two in Kowloon, and one in Shanghai. Another chef told us it was originally served with chicken wings and called Swiss Sauce Wings. Their restaurant web site shows a picture of them and more. We found a cookbook with rice noodles cooked in Swiss Sauce, another with Beef Noodles in Swiss Sauce; never noticed them before. At the end of these letters is a recipe to make this sauce at home; we did and served it with chicken thighs. We cooked stir-fried boneless pieces of them with ginger, garlic, onions, and bean spouts, stirred in the Swiss sauce and served this dish.

From: MAY WEI in WA, via e-mail:
Many books and articles speak about the New Year's Eve or Reunion Dinner; one friend said he does not recall the name of the dish his grandma always served that night; it had a repeating name, he thinks. I would love to give him a recipe for it.
MAY: Wanting to be friendly, here are responses to both questions. We think the name of the dish is Hotch Potch. Here it is in Chinese. Many grandmothers tell us they serve it as a first course when their families gather for Reunion Dinner served the eve of Spring Festival.

From MARGARET via e-mail:
Do you have an easy recipe for cooked plum sauce or another home-made sauce that can be stored in the refrigerator?
MARGARET: We do not recommend storing any home-made sauce at room temperature. Store every home-made sauce in the refrigerator. After these letters are two quickie recipes that do stay reasonably well in the refrigerator, even longer in the freezer.

From ETHAN via e-mail:
Do you know where China's first health food restaurant was? Seems that a country for whom food is medicine and medicine is food should have many of them.
ETHAN: Once read in a Chinese magazine that the Tong Ren Tang Imperial Cuisine Palace in Chengdu was the first recorded health food eatery. Not sounding that old but this article did tout it as China's oldest. It opened in 1980 and made dishes using health food pharmacy knowledge. Called Tong Ren Tang, there is another, a hundred-year-old herbal emporium in Beijing. But this one is in Chengdu, the capital city of the Sichuan Province. The pharmacy whose recipes they use is in Beijing. They have more than a thousand menu items and they are for all parts of a meal. They believe 'what tastes bitter in the mouth is good for the health' but none the less, they do make their dishes tasty. Chefs from this restaurant have trained cooks from more than a dozen other countries; but they did not say which ones. If you get to Chengdu you can check out their food; they are at Number One Zongfu Street in Chengdu.

From ALEX in Floral Park:
Do you have a recipe for whole shrimp with lots of fresh and canned vegetables? We are having a big bash and want a dish that can feed the anticipated mob.
ALEX: Here is a great party recipe, called Shrimp and Many Vegetables for a Crowd. We suggest having several trays or platters with ingredients cut up and marinated for as many batches as might be needed. Cook it in batches, or it will not be great. When the serving bowl is almost empty and needs replenishment, cook another.
Swiss Sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Mix the three sauces then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
2. Add five-spice powder and the sesame oil, and three tablespoons of cold water, then mix well.
3. Set this mixture aside for ten minutes, then it is ready to be used as a sauce in a stir-fried dish or a marinade for chicken or beef before cooking.
Hotch Potch Reunion Dinner Dish
1/4 cup cooked chicken cut into half-inch pieces
1 chicken liver, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup cooked pork, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup cooked ham, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup cooked sea cucumber, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup cooked fish maw, cut into half-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
24 fresh shrimp, their shells and veins discarded, then each cut into four pieces
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoots, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, each cut in half
10 medium-size soaked Chinese black mushrooms, each cap cut in four pieces
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup bok cai, its leaves separated
1/4 cup Shao xing or another Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons chicken fat or lard
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with one-quarter cup of cold water
1. Blanch pieces of chicken, chicken liver, pork, ham, sea cucumber, and fish maw separately, each in two or more cups of boiling water, then drain each of them and put them together in a bowl.
2. Heat wok or large fry pan, add oil, and stir-fry the shrimp, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and the shrimp for one minute, then remove them putting them into the bowl of already blanched ingredients. Leave any remaining oil in the pan.
3. Put the chicken stock in a large soup or stock pot, bring to the boil, reduce heat, then add the ingredients already set aside.
4. Reheat wok or fry pan and its remaining oil, add the bok cai and stir-fry it for one-half minute, then set this aside.
5. Heat wine, salt, lard or chicken fat, and the cornstarch mixture in a small pot until it starts to thicken, then add it to the soup pot and return that pot's contents to the boil and stir until thickened slightly before adding the bok cai. Then serve.
Plum Sauce
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup chutney, blended
2 Tablespoons Chinese brown sugar slabs, crushed, or dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1. Heat wok or fry pan, add oil and the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry for one minute until very aromatic.
2. Add, chutney and brown sugar, and stir-fry for two minutes, then add lemon juice and soy sauce and let this bubble for one minute. Then remove from the heat and allow this mixture to cool. Then refrigerate it.
Note: This sauce stays well in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. However, better yet pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze; and once frozen, pop the frozen cubes and store them in a thick plastic tightly closed bag in the freezer. Take out one or two or however many needed half hour before use leaving the others frozen.
Barbecue Sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1. Heat small sauce pan, add the oil, then the garlic and fresh ginger, and stir-fry for one minute.
2. Add the ground ginger and stir well, then add the brown sugar and the soy sauce, and as soon as this comes to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before refrigerating this sauce.
Note: This sauce can stay for a week or two in the refrigerator; but better yet, pour the sauce into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Once frozen, pop the cubes and store them in the freezer in a tightly closed freezer bag. Do take out as many as needed a half an hour earlier, leaving the rest frozen until they are needed.
Shrimp and Vegetables for a Crowd, in Batches
1 quart vegetable oil
3 pounds medium shrimp, left whole, their tails left on and their veins removed and discarded; shells left on or not, as preferred
3 Tablespoons Shao Xing wine
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 egg white
1/2 cup cornstarch
15 baby bok cai, quartered length-wise
1 pound baby carrots, each cut in half on an angle, then put in a microwave for one minute
1 can straw mushrooms drained very well
1/2 can baby corn, each piece cut in half
1/2 can sliced water chestnuts, drained very well
1/2 can sliced bamboo shoots, drained very well
1 scant teaspoon hot sauce
3 whole scallions, separated, whites and green parts cut in one-inch pieces on an angle
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1. Heat oil and deep-fry the shrimp just until they begin to crisp and start to turn pink. Do undercook them, then drain them on paper towels. Set aside the oil using as one tablespoon for preparing each batch of vegetables in step #3.
2. Put the drained shrimp in a bowl with the wine, salt, pepper, egg white, and cornstarch, mix these well and set aside. This can be made before the guests come, and if making more, prepare each bactch and keep separately in its own bowl set on ice.
3. Mix one batch of bok cai, pre-prepared baby carrots, straw mushrooms, baby corn, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots with the hot sauce for each batch of shrimp.
4. Heat reserved tablespoon of oil, and stir fry the scallions and garlic for one minute, then add the vegetables and stir-fry two minutes before adding the shrimp and its marinade.
5. Stir-fry for two minutes toss with the vegetables for that batch of shrimp and put this into a large serving bowl. Place it on the serving table. Stir in the sesame oil, add a serving spoon, and that''s it!
Note: When the bowl is three-quarters empty, then prepare another batch of this complete dish and add it to the serving bowl, tossing the new ingredients with the batch in the bowl.

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