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TOPICS INCLUDE: Census of the Chinese; Places Michael Gray visited; Website correction; General Zou's Chicken; Sea vegetables; A Hangzhou soup; Seal scripts; A belt and a donut; Foods of Li Qingzhao; Curing a parent; Kudos

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Letters to the Editor

Winter Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(4) pages: 5 to 6

In response to your invitation about the number of Chinese in the USA, from the time of the Gold Rush to date, unpublished data is collected by the US Census Bureau and distributed by the IPUMS project at the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota. They say that since 1960 the Census Bureau reports Chinese the most numerous among Asian and Pacific Islanders, and they grew 37.6% between 2000 and 2010. In 2013, 70% of them were foreign-born, 21% spoke no English or poor English. Driven out of mining and construction work, they turned to self-employment in laundries, then in restaurants. By 2013, their share in these occupations went down and was only 10%. Schools, colleges, and universities are now the single largest employer, 13 % of their labor force. In 1960, California and New York were home to two-thirds of all Chinese-Americans, and since then, this share declined somewhat but is still well over half of all Chinese in the US.

SUSAN: Thank you. We appreciate your information and know it comes from you as Editor-in-chief of Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2006). We do thank you for it.

We went to the places Michael Gray wrote about in a past issue. We loved E-PIE at 135-43 ROOSEVELT AVENUE, Flushing NY; phone (347) 348-7049. This tiny take-out window near the corner of Main Street was very worth visiting. We were three families and did buy them out. The sacks we took home filled our car with wonderful aromas and did tempt us. We ate half these purchases before making it to Suffolk County. At the NEW GOLDEN SZECHUAN, 133-47 ROOSEVELT AVENUE, Flushing NY 11354; phone: (718) 762-2664, our eldest son did tell us when we walked in, “this place is not new.” He said we were here some two years ago. We did not get to FAT BOY HOMESTYLE COOKING, 40-26 UNION STREET, Flushing 11354; phone (718) 353-2866 but will try to on our next visit to Flushing. Please thank Mr. Gray, and tell him we hope he gets back to Flushing soon and tells us of other places for good Chinese food.

Kindly correct my website to: www.krazykioti.com.
Dr. ANDERSON: Done; and our apologies.

I heard that one of the most tasty dishes in Chinese restaurants in your country is General Zhou’s Chicken. Can you tell us how to make it and who this general is?
SUELI: A chef told us to only make ours with thigh meat, coat it with a thin batter of egg and flour, and to dip these thighs in hot oil to keep them juicy, their exterior crunchy. He suggests blanching Chinese broccoli to improve its color and taste. After all is cooked, he said to pour a sweet and sour sauce over the ingredients. The general is Zhuo Zhong Tang (1812 - 1885) who loved to eat. Many prepared food for him, and he was hard to please. In 1875, Dowager Zi Xi appointed him to her royal court and made a banquet for him. She saw that he was served this dish and it became a favorite of his. Others tell other stories, many have other recipes, some even spell his name differently. This one is from Irving Chang’s book Chinese Cuisine Along the Grand Canal.. it is reviewed in this issue. He told us his family knew this general.

Editor: You rarely write about millet. Was it not an important early crop in China, and is it still important? Does credit for its domestication really go to Shen Nong, China’s legendary emperor? One more thing, can you share a recipe for it?
NIKKI: This grain is a very ancient cereal. Burned seeds have been found in northern China at Xishan, and radio-carbon dated 6500 BCE. Noodles were also found in neolithic archeological sites such as at Lajia in northwestern China. It is believed the noodles were stretched, then cooked in boiling water as were broomcorn millet noodles; some say they were made four thousand years before Christ. We know millet went from China to Europe about 5000 BCE. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN tells us China is now the fourth largest producer of millet, India the largest. We do wonder why millet is not more popular because it has no gluten, and gluten-free foods are popular now. Chinese often prepare millet for their morning congee and make it with sweet potatoes, beans, or another vegetable. It is rich in magnesium, phosphorus and iron, and has lots of vitamin A, and many B vitamins. In your local market, look for it as flour, flakes, or the grain itself; they are very small round seeds. In China, years ago it was used to brew liquor called xia mi. Traditional medical practitioners tell us this grain nourishes the yin, strengthens the spleen, liver, and blood, and is good for the ill and the elderly. A recipe for it is rare in Chinese cookbooks even though it is the most common breakfast food in most Chinese homes.

The title of the article in Volume 21(3) on pages 21 and 22 short-changed my favorite food. You should have called it Seaweeds or Sea Vegetables, and included more recipes.
MARILEE: Yes, readers do need to know that and we remind them that the Fall 2001 issue on page 9 did feature them. The article you refer to was in Volume 21(3) and does have a half dozen recipes. You and all need to consult our Index Listings carefully as millet does not have a separate category listing; they are listed with other staples.

On my last trip to Hangzhou, we had a wonderful soup with a gummy pasty vegetable. Can you tell us what this vegetable was and where to buy it?

HONG BAI: Lacking a photograph, we need to guess. Probably Brasenia schreberi, and most often used in a soup with beef. The vegetable is called chun cai, and is common in a Zhejiang dish originating from the West Lake city of Hangzhou. We make ours with chicken soup, cornstarch, salt, ham, chicken fat, and a little breast of chicken. We shred the ham and the chicken. There is a recipe for it in the article about water shield in this issue. That vegetable is often found in lakes and ponds, and a picture of it is with that article titled: Water Shield, its common English name.

What are seal scripts?
LIONA: These are ancient Chinese characters in words used when making seals that stamp a name on an item or a person in a book, picture, etc. Here is one for a dragon as seen in a museum in China.

Heard about a belt and a doughnut from China, and that they were thousands of years old. Was the doughnut edible? Can you enlighten us about one or both?
WARREN Believe the Nanning Belt, as it is called, was found in a tomb below a middle school in Yixing City in 1952. Thought to be aluminum, it turned out to be silver, and that of Zhou Chu, a nobleman. Controversy remains if it was his or that of a grave robber. As to the doughnut, it was probably an anchor, maybe made of shale, probably associated with Chinese immigrants in California, and from the 19th century.

From JOAN via e-mail>
Can you tell us about foods made or written about Li Qingzhao, AKA Yian Jushi?
JOAN: The only person, a lady, we could locate by that name was a literary figure and poet (1084 - 1153 CE) in the Song Dynasty. Your is the fourth request about her, we know not why. We have not located anything culinary, but did learn in her early life she lived in Jinan, married Zhao Mingceng who later worked for the government. He became prominent as an antiquarian, studied ritual practices, bronzes, and ceramics, none were food vessels. Due to years of war and problems with the Jurchens, she moved often, and spent her last years in Jinhua with her brother, in whose home she died as age fifty-seven. In later life, she did write about antiques, but none were in the culinary realm.

From APRIL via E-MAIL:
Read that some Chinese believe that if a parent suffers from an incurable disease, one of their children will cut off some flesh from their own body, cook it, and feed it to the ill parent. Is that really true?
B>APRIL Hundreds or more years ago, maybe; and we do mean maybe. We once read that, too, but it surely is not true today, and it probably never was for educated people.

From LENA, BY POST: Enjoyed reading the Summer issue. Your magazine is not just recipes but culture and what people really do.
LENA Thanks for your letter and your renewal. As to your question about the recipe in the same issue titled: Casserole of Hasma and Watermelon; yes, it was so written in a Chinese cookbook. Did you try it or does the idea bother you? Must confess, we have not but will this next week or whenever we get to Flushing.
General Zuo's Chicken
1 egg white, well beaten
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless chicken thighs cut into two-inch pieces
2 cups peanut oil for frying
1 cup chopped Chinese broccoli
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Shao Xing wine
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1 Tablespoon scallion, chopped
2 to 4 red hot peppers, seeded and diced
1. For the chicken: Mix egg white, cornstarch, flour, salt, and vegetable oil with two tablespoons cold water, and coat it well. Then heat the peanut oil and deep fry half the chicken for two minutes until tan. Drain it on paper towels, and fry the rest of the chicken. Drain that, too.
2. For the sauce: Leave one or two tablespoons of oil in the wok or fry pan, heat it and then add the garlic, ginger, and the scallion pieces, and stir-fry them for one minute stirring them well. Then add the cornstarch mixture and the broth and when thickened and translucent, return the chicken pieces and mix well. Now put the chicken on a pre-heated platter, the vegetables around the outside of it, and serve.
Potato Shreds with Pickled Mustard Greens
2 medium potatoes, 1 shredded and 1 grated
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pickled piquant seeded red peppers, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic. peeled and minced
1/4 cup pickled mustard green, sliced from a knob
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the grated potato, them mic=x with the shredded potato.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add the vegetable oi, and when it is hot, add the red peppers, the garlic, and stir-fry one minute before adding both potatoes; stir-fry these together for two minutes. 3. Add the pieces of mustard greens, both the chili and sesame oils, and the sugar and stir-fry for two minutes. Serve around a large pre-heated plate, putting the whole cabbage in the next recipe cut into eight wedges in its center.
Whole Stuffed Cabbage
1 whole cabbage, boiled for three minutes, its twelve outside leaves set aside.
1/2 cup ground pork
1/2 cooked chicken breat. shredded or ground
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon each of salt, ground white pepper, and sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Mix the pork, chicken, and half of the center and unused cabbage, shredded.
2. Add egg white, cornstarch, salt, pepper, sugar, and the oil to the meat mixture. Spread this carefully on one cabbage leaf at a time, smallest to largest. putting them together to look like a head of cabbage.
3. Put this cabbage-shaped item into a heat-proof bowl and steam it over boiling water for eight minutes. Then remove it to the center of the Potato Shreds platter, and let it rest there for five minutes, reserving any liquid it may bleed into its bowl in a cup or glass. Next cut the cabbage into eight wedges, and pour reserved liquid over it, but not over the potatoes. Then serve this platter to all.
Millet Congee
½ cup millet
1 cup peeled fresh pumpkin, grated
1 Tablespoon brown rock sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ cup soy milk (optional)
1. Soak millet seeds overnight, then bring them to the boil with two cups of cold water. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour.
2. Add grated pumpkin, rock sugar, and salt and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Then add the soy milk, if using it. Serve hot or warm.

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