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TOPICS INCLUDE: English-language Chinese food magazines; Research for Flavor and Fortune; Mushroom powder; Bai festival foods; Tianjin dumplings and fried dough; Take-out containers; Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM); Egg fruit is yellow sapote

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Summer Volume: 2012 Issue: 19(3) page(s): 7, 8, and 36

From MANNY in Chicago via e-mail:
Are there any English-language magazines besides yours that discuss Chinese food at the same high level as you do?
MANNY: Firstly, thanks for the compliment. Flavor and Fortune is the only English-language Chinese food magazine published in the United States dedicated to the science and art of the world's longest continuous food culture, that of the Chinese. Your question did not delineate if you meant only food, or food and other features in English. To our knowledge, there are other countries publishing Chinese food magazines, most in Asia. To the best of our knowledge, most are bi- or tri-lingual. For further information, contact China International Book Trading Corporation at fp@mail.cibtc.com.cn as they are one of China's leading importer/exporter of publications about China. They are better than we to answer your query. They publish items such as Beijing Review and China Today. These and others do have occasional food articles. This organization distributes more than eight thousand different newspapers and periodicals about things Chinese in domestic and foreign markets.

From MICHAEL in Manhattan, via e-mail:
Amazing what one can learn abut Asian food reading Flavor and Fortune. Seems you do a lot of research. I salute you!
MICHAEL: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, we do lots of research, enjoy doing it, and are pleased when folks like you recognize, use, and like our efforts as did another Michael, below.

From a MICHAEL in Pennsylvania:
Kudos to your wonderful magazine. It showcases the very things we hold dear. Wish you success and good fortune in this Year of the Dragon, and thereafter.
MICHAEL and others whose words were received, but not cited here. We thank all their kind wishes for this year and the future. It is an understatement to say they are appreciated. For the record, they come from many cities in the United States and abroad. We must advise, we are pleased that so many of you are pleased and tell us so.

From BURT via e-mail:
In several newer cookbooks, we note they use mushroom powder. Where does one buy it and what mushroom(s) is it made from?
BURT: Make your own, we do. Break off or chop off the stem of a dried shiitake or another kind of mushroom, then break the dried cap into small pieces, put them in a blender jar, the smallest you have, close the blender, turn the motor on high, and let the machine run for only one minute. Then let it rest another minute, and repeat again if needed. We prefer Chinese black mushroom powder, pulverize some, and store it in a small glass jar at room temperature until needed. A word to the wise, do not blend more than five or six mushrooms at one time, doing so might burn out the motor.

From MARK in Illinois:
Am married to a Bai woman who left China as an infant. Our family did enjoy the recent article about the Bai, but my wife has a complaint. None of her parents nor elders are alive, she knows no one who is Bai, and says the web seems close to blank about her minority population. She wonders what foods her family may have eaten at some of their many festivals? Did you know of any? She wants to share this aspect of her heritage with our children; and she and I hope you can help.
To MARK, your family, and others: We do know of a few festival foods for this minority population known to be the most focused on food of all Chinese minorities. Our extensive library was of no help, and we have yet to locate any recipe for all but one or two Bai minority festival foods. We know they like Ding-ding candy for Spring Festival, for Third Month Festival steamed cakes and dishes with bean-starch noodles; at the Pure and Bright Festival they serve cold jambalaya with crisply fried pork, and for the Dragon Boat Festival they prepare zongzi and wrap them in reeds. Check our website index, there are recipes for them, but they may not have Bai tastes. These are served with realgar wine, but know not what it is. Maybe some readers can help everyone make these items, their other festival sweets, and the many different kinds of white and drunken cakes they used for their festivals. At Double-ninth Festival, we did learn they like to eat lamb. Hope our readers will help us help you.

From BETTYJO via e-mail:
How do the Chinese use gooeyduck and do you have a recipe to share?
BETTYJO: The picture below is the clam you are writing about. Correctly spelled 'geoduck' and pronounced as you spelled it--gooeyduck, this clam has a long neck or siphon that can be nine inches in length. It has two chambers for breathing, ingesting food, eliminating wastes, and other in/out needs. What the long neck does not do is hide in the shell when in danger. Somewhat akin to learning the age of a tree, ichthyologists tell us they judge its age by counting its rings. Some have been determined more than one hundred years old. Geoduck may have come to the Chinese table via Taiwan when it was ruled by Japanese, but we say that without confirmation. To serve this clam, the neck is most often sliced and served on ice, sushi-style. Correctly known as Panopea geodasa or P. generosa, this clam is most often found off the Pacific coast and it is the largest of all North American clams. The Chinese call it xiang babang and advise one can weigh up to nine pounds. However, most weigh only one-third of that. Geoducks live in the ocean's sandy or muddy tidal bottom and a few are found as far south as California. In the United States, most are farmed and in the state of Washington; many seeded indoors then put into various natural waterway locations when quite small. Chinese recipes using them are hard to find. We did locate one for you to try. Before cooking, remove the geoduck from its shell and discard all entrails. Then soak it in hot tap water for five minutes, it will purge any sand. After that, tear the outer skin off the siphon and cut the siphon into thin slices from clam to the end of the siph1on; do so at an angle. Now you are ready to cook, should you so desire, or put it on ice and serve as raw sushi.

From DIANE via e-mail:
Read that dumplings and fried dough from Tianjin use special dough, however, you said nothing about the dough. Need your help.
DIANE: Yes and no. When in Tianjin, or when speaking to people from there we get mixed messages. Yes, the Goubuli dumpling wrappers are often made with fermented flour, but not always. Some folk tell us that they are made with half fermented flour and half fat to better hold in their juices, and their meat is made from either half fatty ground or chopped pork, and half lean meat. Others tell us to use seventy percent fatty meat and thirty percent lean meat. There are no standards in China for either fatty or lean meat as to percentages, and most markets can not tell you the amount of fat in their meat. There are percentage problems with their fried twisted dough items This snack is really three different dough recipes. One is made with white flour rolled in coarsely chopped sesame seeds, a second made with warm to hot oil, flour, dried and ground sweet osmanthus flowers, finely ground walnuts, and ground dried candied orange peel, and the third made with flour and liquified sugar or maltose. Each one of these are rolled individually, then twisted together and folded over, and then deep-fried until golden. How much of each, we have yet to learn.

FROM MICKEY vis e-mail:
Did you read about take-out containers in the magazine section of the New York Times? Perhaps you should tell all readers about who made them and when, and what you think of the Chinese take-out information in Women's Day April 2012 issue on page 136; I for one am curious about both items.
MICKEY: Yes, we did see both of these items. The first item was on page 20 of the January 15th issue, and we did not know that the common white folded take-out items with wire handles were patented by Frederick Weeks Wilcox in Chicago in November 1894. We do know they are not used in China; and did know these items now come poly-coated, some with glue and no wire handle to be micro-wave friendly. That article said that in the 1970's at a company now known as Fold-Pak, a graphic designer whose name has been lost to history, put a red pagoda on one side and a red 'thank-you' on top. Did not know that, either. As to ways suggested to 'negate what you ate' if you just ate Chinese take-out...now what. We are appalled at the ignorance of professionals who fail to tell people to eat it the Chinese way. The article says there are 1239 calories in General Tso's chicken, and it offers five idiotic ways to burn the calories off including ironing for seven hours and fifty-six minutes, yoga for seven hours and seventeen minutes, walking for four hours and forty eight minutes, etc. It never advises that this dish is not intended for one person to consume at one sitting. They should have told their readers that and that the next time, to make it healthier, to share this dish with several others, eat more rice as the Chinese do any given meal, and eat less Chinese fried dishes made for westerners. The Chinese always have at least one steamed dish, rarely more than one fried dish for an entire family, and one or more lightly stir-fried green vegetable dishes at every meal.

From LUCAS in California:
Mrs. Newman's brief summary of Chinese medical dietary principles and drug therapy contain a number of errors that distort Chinese medical history. She frequently uses the acronym TCM, but this was compiled in the mid-twentieth century as part of the revolutionary government's attempt to establish an affordable distributable method of health care to the country's population.
LUCAS: To clarify things as we know them, let us share what many sources including those of the magazine China Today published including those contacted before and since the above letter. One professor in China told us that many folk in his country never thought about TCM which he translated as Zhong Yi. He said, "Zhong Yi happened in the nineteenth century and since the Westernization Movement (1861 - 1894 CE)." Another person, a western medical doctor in China said it was "to differentiate from Xi Yi or Western Medicine." Still another chap said "in some articles Zhong Yi started to be called that by the East India Company in 1840." One doctor went on to advise that "In 1936, the Kuomintang Government proclaimed the Rules and Regulations of Traditional Chinese Medicine or Zhong Yi Tiao Li and before that locals (which he called 'natives') used to call it Han Medicine, Traditional Medicine, or National Medicine. Lucas, do hope this clarifies where we get information. We are not traditional nor trained medical people, however, we do check several sources before publishing anything.

From HARLEY at a recent meeting on Long Island:
Do you know this egg fruit Jackie; I just bought it in Flushing with two different-size yellow mangoes?
HARLEY: I did not, and had to look it up. It is a Pouteria campechiana or yellow sapote sometimes called a canistel fruit. My source said "it looks like the yolk of an egg...and its texture resembles the appearance of a hard-boiled egg yolk. It is rich and sweet, and somewhat like a baked sweet potato." Perhaps the one you shared was not yet ripe as it was not sweet and not rich, either. Further reading told me it is highly esteemed in El Salvador, known and eaten in Peru, and one variety called a Mamey Sapota when cooked with sugar and cinnamon is called a pozol. Did call half dozen Chinese friends; only one knew what I was talking about, and she said that in Taiwan some folks use it to make a sweet beverage. She added that she has seen it but never eaten one, and that next season I should buy several and let them get soft and ripe before eating these fruits with huge pits.
Geoduck, Stir-fried with Snow Peas
1 geoduck, sliced on an angle
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, separated
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 carrot, sliced in half the long way, then thin sliced
1/4 cup snow peas, strings removed and cut on an angle into half-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or duck fat
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon XO sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 black mushroom, soaked until soft, stem discarded, then sliced thin
1/2 scallion, green part only, cut into half-inch pieces
1. Blanch geoduck slices in water just below the boiling point for thirty seconds, remove immediately, drain, and toss with one tablespoon of cornstarch.
2. Bring chicken stock to the boil, add the carrot and snow peas pieces and simmer for one to two minutes, then drain them and set aside apart from the stock.
3. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil or fat and stir-fry the ginger for half minute, then add XO sauce, ground pepper, mushroom slices, and the cooked vegetables and immediately remove the pan from the heat source, and all solids in it to a small bowl.
4. Reheat pan and its oil, add the geoduck slices and stir-fry half minute then return all solids to the pan, vegetables and scallions pieces included.
5. Mix remaining tablespoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons cooled chicken stock; reserve the rest for another sue. Add this to the pan and stir-fry one minute until the cornstarch mixture coats the geoduck slices as it thickens the small amount of sauce in it. Serve immediately on a pre-heated platter.

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