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Various Chinese cuisines


Toby
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What are the flavorings "typical" of Manchurian cookery? What type of cooking vessels were traditionally used? Prefered meats and vegetables? Are there any fermented sauces, bean pastes for instance? Is the food spicy? Pickled dishes? How is a Manchurian table set, everything served together? What are the components of a meal, rice, soup, pickle, protein dish?

looking forward to some responses.

Cooking vessels at home, I can't think of anything offhand that you can't buy at a western store. Possibly, in some villages, there were communal pieces of equipment that are pretty esoteric. The only one I can think of is a giant flat griddle about 2 ft wide for making paper thin cakes made of corn.

Meats, definately pork, Chicken and lamb less so and beef very rarely. The explaination given to me was that beef was muslim food and the ethnic chinese didn't eat it.

Manchurian food seems to rely a lot on pickling the same as a lot of cultures in that climate. Pickled cabbage is a big one, nearly every home used to have a big clay cabbage fermenter although I've heard they've officially banned home production after a spate of food poisoning although it's not really tightly enforced. Pickled cucumber, watermelon rind, garlic, bamboo shoots etc. They are usually eaten with congee in the morning or with rice at dinner.

At my grandmothers place, the typical meal would comprise of 2 courses, first, a variety of cold meats and pickled vegtables and nuts would be set out on the table with hot rice and people would nibble and talk while grandma cooked. Once dinner was ready, the cold food was taken off and the hot food put on. There wasn't any soup course but occasionally, soup would be on the table.

PS: I am a guy.

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  • 2 weeks later...
What are the flavorings "typical" of Manchurian cookery? What type of cooking vessels were traditionally used? Prefered meats and vegetables? Are there any fermented sauces, bean pastes for instance? Is the food spicy? Pickled dishes? How is a Manchurian table set, everything served together? What are the components of a meal, rice, soup, pickle, protein dish?

Dongbei food is typically more "heavy" then other cuisines, in many ways. It is "heavier" with flavors and also with kinds of dishes, usually a lot of "casserole" type dishes with thick sauces. Typically, there will be noodles or mantou instead of rice at the meal. Obviously, the main cooking tool is a wok and there isn't anything that is used that is out of the ordinary with other parts of China. As was mentioned, there are typically a number of pickled dishes that are served. One of the most common "Dongbei foods" are of course jiao zi. While they are popular all over the country, Dongbei jiaozi are considered especially famous.

As for manchu foods, ugh, I'm really going to have to go back to the memory banks. Hehe, through all of my returns back to Shenyang to visit relatives and numerous tours of the Shenyang Gugong, I have a faint feeling in the back of my head about reading something about Manchu foods, but can't recall it now. I think its really hard to say because the Manchus of today are really no different from Chinese. Everyone knows the Man-Han Imperial cuisine, but I'm not sure how much is known (or if anyone cares) what a "common" Manchu would eat on an everyday basis.

Edited by chengb02 (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...
Pickled cabbage is a big one, nearly every home used to have a big clay cabbage fermenter although I've heard they've officially banned home production after a spate of food poisoning although it's not really tightly enforced. Pickled cucumber, watermelon rind, garlic, bamboo shoots etc. They are usually eaten with congee in the morning or with rice at dinner.

How is the pickled cabbage seasoned? What type of cabbage is used?

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Shredded cabbages are placed in brine, covered and then left for a few weeks. It uses the same chemical process as saurkraut. The brine is re-used getting more and more complex flavouring until you do something wrong and you get a mold infection. Then you have to toss it out and start again.

This is what was typically served when I went back home:

Breakfast:

Big steaming pots of congee with various picked vegtables(not cabbage) and fish floss.

Big bowls of soy milk

Hard boiled eggs with soy dipping sauce.

Lunch:

A cold vegtable salad

A cold meat salad

Maybe some left overs from the night before

Dinner:

Hot Rice

Various pickles, nuts etc to munch on.

A soup of some sort.

3 - 4 dishes

Some recipes:

Pickled cabbage soup

Make a soup base by stir frying some spring onions in oil until soft, then putting in 1 tbsp of dark soy and letting cook for 5 seconds, just until you can smell the sugars caremalising.

Top with boiling water

Add pickled cabbage and simmer for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, very thinly slice some pork and soak some vermicelli in warm water

Add the vermicelli and pork, turn off the heat and let the residual heat cook the pork.

Pork, beans & potato

Cut some nice fatty pork into 1 inch cubes and marinate in a mixture of cornflour, dark soy, salt & 5 spice powder.

Stir fry pork until brown and set aside.

saute some onions, ginger & garlic and then add beans and stir fry until the beans are green.

Add back the pork and deglaze with a very small water.

cook covered, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour, the important part is to make sure that the beans are steaming, not boiling.

Add some roughly chopped potatos in and cook until tender.

Add a cornflour slurry until the liquid is of sauce consistency, adjust seasoning.

Serve with rice.

"Hong Shao" fish

Descale, gut and clean a white fleshed fish like red snapper.

Make several slits into the fish and run over with a mixture of salt & 5 spice powder.

dredge both sides with flour.

Fry for about 3 mins on both sides in a large wok.

Add some ginger & spring onions and let them cook for a few seconds.

Add a mixture of chinese rice wine vinegar and sugar and put the lid on and let it steam until done.

I don't know how representative that is of Manchu cuisine but those are some of my families traditional recipes.

PS: I am a guy.

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but I'm not sure how much is known (or if anyone cares) what a "common" Manchu would eat on an everyday basis.

I'm interested in what a common Manchu would eat on an everyday basis. But then again I'm a nobody.

Hehe, sorry about that...Its just that, to my knowledge, scholarship on this subject is lacking at best. When the discussion turns to Manchus, the focus is typically on what the ruling class ate, as that became the Qing dynasty and the creation of Man/Han Imperial cuisine. Today's members of the Manchu minority are basically indistinguishable from Han Chinese, including in their eating habits, so this sort of study would be looking at history and almost nobody, even Manchus still read or speak Manchu, making scholarly studies of this even more difficult.

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  • 5 months later...

Thanks for the welcome. So, to start it off, i am going to have a slight introduction to my ethnic cuisine. Before we can taste the food, we must understand the origin...

There are many names to this wonderful and special cuisine that was created from the merger of two distinctively different cultures. You may heard it before or taste it before in some other names like "Peranakan Cuisine", "Straits Chinese Cuisine" or the most common "Nyonya Food / Cuisine".

Note: It is always called Nyonya food, never Baba food or Nyonya & Baba food because the tradtion is that ONLY the nyonya cooks. Never the Baba. So, its a special of the ladies of Peranakan. Not for the men. :)

The Fukinese / Hokkien people venture out during the late Tang dynasty to cultivate other lands and became traders. They usually ply the coast of China and what we known in modern day as Southern Vietnam, called Champa. From there, they venture into Siam and to the Malay Peninsula and Java.

When overseas trade was outlawed in the Later Ming and Qing dynasties, many of these traders settled permanently throughout SEA.

Peranakan is the term to describe to Chinese who settled in Southeast Asia. They married the local malays and adopted the way of livings of the locals.

The oldest settlement of Peranakan is from Melacca. If you visit Melacca today, you can still see a lot of the old Peranakan charm along the Jonker area. And also of course, in Penang.

So from Melacca, because of trade under East India Company, Peranakan community back then was a very strong trade community. Being a Peranakan usually equates to being rich and educated. Sir Francis Light started a new settlement in Penang while Sir Stamford Raffles started another in Singapore.

So, until today, when you say Peranakan, there will be only 3 types. Singaporean Peranakan, Penang Peranakan and Melaccan Peranakan. But, we are still known as Straits Chinese, irregardless of which community you originated from.

We speak a mixture of Malay and Hokkien. Which we called the "Baba Hokkien". Our attire and jewelry are greatly influenced by the Malays, but to not losing our chinese identity, we still maintain Chinse "Taoism" traditions and beliefs.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Pls have some feedback on how i should continue this... I hope i pique enough curiosity about my culture. :)

Edited by mflo (log)
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Welcome! Which Peranakan culture do you hail from - Malacca, Penang or Singapore?

I love Peranakan cuisine. I think it's rich, robust and complex. I also like the exacting emphasis on taste as well as texture.

You could talk more about the strict standards that the Peranakan matriarchs insist upon in their kitchens, eg. everything done by hand just so, the many hours of hand-stirring to make a pot of kaya (coconut egg jam), the hand-pounding of spices and nuts and herbs etc.

What are your favorite dishes?

I would also like to hear more about the customs and traditions. There is such a wealth of culture to be explored!

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hey thanks for the feedbacks.

Let's see...

I am well, a rojak nyonya. :) My grandmother is a Medanese Straits Chinese who speaks hokchu and married a melaccan baba who only speaks baba hokkien. My mother was only a half nyonya from her mother side. My dad, beside loving nyonya food, have no other peranakan identity left. :) too modernised..

My favourite Nyonya dish? Oh Wow... too many!!!

Penang laksa.

lor bak.

most types of nyonya kuihs (pastries and cakes), Sri Muka being my fav and onde-onde.

bubur cha cha

assam pedas

Sambal petai.

rempah hnh chee (fried fish stuffed with sambal paste)

ince kabin (nyonya fried chicken)

and many many more.....

i'll have a brief one on customs and traditions. lol. now you guys have set me thinking.

Yes. we do have strict standards when it comes to our cooking. That has not changed. I am particular about my nyonya food. That's why, it is very difficult to find very good nyonya restaurant. Most of the time they cannot match the standard of home cooked nyonya food.

We have a lot of "pantang" (rules and regulations, taboos) when cooking and even when not cooking.

So many things we cant do or say when you cook certain stuffs, if not, the food wont turn out right or like how during certain occassions we must have this or that to throw away bad luck or to invite good luck, how some food can only be eaten in certain occasion (like funeral) cannot be eaten any other time. And of course during major occassions like funeral and chinese new year, the order of the food that we eat, and what dish goes with what. Well, we are particular about that. (with my grandmother anyway... :))

as for subtle differences? hmmm....

as far as i am concern, most penang nyonya food are more sourish based. And they have a lot of "kerabu" styled dishes due to the influences of the Thais cause they are quite near to Thailand. Overall, in Penang nyonya dishes, you can see a lot of dishes that have that hint of Thai in them.

While for Melaccan nyonya food, we uses more spices, herbs, alot of pandan leaves and flowers like "bunga telang" in our cooking.

As for the Singaporeans, I can't really say, since I've only been here for two years and I have not really discover great nyonya food here yet. Probably because too busy working. But one thing I can say though, their style is more light, not so spicy and some of the ingredients are different. For instance, for the laksa, rather than uses "lye fun" they uses thick rice vermicelli instead. It just makes such a difference to the laksa. Not that nice in my opinion. Lye fun is smooth and chewy, while the thick vermicelli comes off grainy due to the rice starch. just not the same...

ok... beside the customs and traditions, i think a glossary of nyonya ingredients will be good before embarking on recipes and cooking. ya?

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mflo, how do your parents communicate? In Malay?

Bubur cacak is a favorite of mine from my days in a Malay village in Terengganu, where most every woman cooked it.

I'd love to hear more about Peranakan food-related pantang. You might want to post about those in either this thread or this one, with a link here. Parenthetically, my mother, an anthropologist, wrote about and did research on Terengganu Malay pantang, especially those related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the period 40 days and 40 nights after childbirth.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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What a great way to start my morning...and weekend...another food world to explore! Keep it coming, mflo. Pictures to titillate too please. :smile:

As we are nearing Moon Festifval, some traditional thoughts about festival foods would be greatly appreciated, along with recipes of course.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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For another aspect of the history of the Chinese traders in the Straits Region read the book "1421", by Gavin Menzies. Even if only 1/2 of what he says is true, it would still be an astounding story.

I have only experienced Malaysia and S'pore three times, and I must say that the lasting memory was mainly about the food (what were you thinking??). The techniques that I encountered were basically Chinese, but my, what interesting and amazing fusions and combinations they do with ingredients. *drool,* slobber* :wub:

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Alycemoy, dont worry, a good laksa recipe will come your way very soon. and i will describe in detail on the dos and dont of making a good penang laksa as well. it was those one dish that i can relish passing down my infos on cause i've been through trial and error with it. :)

pan: my mum passed away when i was real young, so i grew up with my grandmother. Our family (included extended) communicate in English and our patois, the "Baba Hokkien", which is a mixture of English, Malay and Hokkien mixed together. and Also some splatter of Hokchu, because thats my grandmother's mother tongue.

pan, i have to correct ur pronounciation on bubur chacha. When I first saw the post, for a moment i had no idea what it was. Cacak actually sounds like lizard. u had me scared for a moment... usually their either pronounced it Cha-cha or char-char. The chinese with their mangled malay will pronounced it "jaja" hehe...

Sometime, people ask me if i were ever tired of nyonya food. Actually, I dont. I am proud of my heritage and am never sick of eating them. Even after facing them over and over again.... but it is very fattening..... and high cholestrol....

I hope i can include pics as well. But as a chef, with busy working hours, i hardly went home to visit my hometown. So, i'll see what i can do...

I cant really descibe much about festivals, except we have several big ones like Chun Jik (Lunar New Year) & Chap Goh Meh (15th Night), Cheng Beng (prayers to ancestors), this which i hardly participate because I am a Roman Catholic, and I don't like all those prayers thingy, cause it is not about my religion. That is another subject all together, best left alone :). We also celebrate the Dumpling festival. I remember when I was young, I would relish helping my grandmother prepare the ingredients for the dumplings. She was very particular about the rice, I remember she will spread them out in these huge metal tray and make us (the grandchildren) pick the rice for her. You have to thoroughly seperate the glutinous rice from the normal rice and those that she considered "bad". If not, the end product of the dumpling will not achieve the "holding" quality that she wanted. Can understand so far?

Then, we also celebrate the Hungry Ghost month. With more food and prayers....

Mooncake festival / Lantern festival. With more food and prayers and mooncake. When I was young, my grandmother will only buy mooncake from this lady that lives about 3 street away from us. She makes these fantastic tau sar & lotus paste mixed baked mooncake with a very fragrant crust. Half the time, i'll just eat the crust and throw away the filling :) Seriously, nobody makes it like her anymore.

After the mooncake festival, another big occasion in our family will be the Giu Ong Ya ( Nine Emperor) Birthday. I dunno why they called it Nine Emperor, but it is to actually celebrate the birth of the Jade Emperor.

Then there is one of my favourite, the Winder festival, or we called it the "Tang jek". Because this is the time i get to eat homemade glutinous rice ball!!!!! yummy... I eat tons of these. Just simply love them. The plain rice balls without any filling and served in a pandan and ginger flavoured gula melaka syrup....

:)~~~~

Then, there will be of course, Nyonya weddings and funerals.....

Hmm, we ALWAYS serve meatball porridge made from pork during the wake.

and during mourning, we can only wear white, dark blue or black. and our typical colourful bowls and stuffs, we change them all to this plain dark blue and white instead...

Ok, i'll stop here first. cant think of anything else. good night :)

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[...]pan, i have to correct ur pronounciation on bubur chacha. When I first saw the post, for a moment i had no idea what it was. Cacak actually sounds like lizard.[...]

That's cicak (gecko). I've seen it written as "cacak" on menus sometimes. Besides, my pronunciation is Terengganu-style, though I have to say that I can't remember people distinguishing between different kinds of bubur there. Most every time I had bubur there, it was what others call "cacak," "caca," whatever. :biggrin: (Hmmm...If the real spelling is "cacar" that would end up being "chachaa" or "chaCHO" in Terengganu/Kelantan Malay. I'll have to tell you sometime about my pronunciation of "lokan.")

We also celebrate the Dumpling festival. I remember when I was young, I would relish helping my grandmother prepare the ingredients for the dumplings. She was very particular about the rice, I remember she will spread them out in these huge metal tray and make us (the grandchildren) pick the rice for her. You have to thoroughly seperate the glutinous rice from the normal rice and those that she considered "bad". If not, the end product of the dumpling will not achieve the "holding" quality that she wanted. Can understand so far?

Yeah, but feel free to elaborate when you have time.

After the mooncake festival, another big occasion in our family will be the Giu Ong Ya ( Nine Emperor) Birthday. I dunno why they called it Nine Emperor, but it is to actually celebrate the birth of the Jade Emperor.

Then there is one of my favourite, the Winder festival, or we called it the  "Tang jek". Because this is the time i get to eat homemade glutinous rice ball!!!!! yummy... I eat tons of these. Just simply love them. The plain rice balls without any filling and served in a pandan and ginger flavoured gula melaka syrup....

:)~~~~

I love gula melaka! One dessert I really enjoyed during my last trip to Malaysia was Sago Gula Melaka. I don't think I ever had a chance to have it when I was living in Malaysia in the mid 70s, because they didn't make it in the coffee house that had a block of ice in the bin in the village(no 24-hour electricity, so no refrigeration in those days) and I didn't come across such a dessert during my time in KL or other places.

One question: You mentioned that you are a busy chef and don't get to go back to your home town much. What town did you grow up in?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 1 month later...
Very wow. Thanks for the post Toby. And best of all, being a 2.5 generation descendant from a small village outside Toi San (keywords: VERY SMALL VILLAGE), I can affirm what Toby's posted as being the truth with good translations too :)...

My friend visited Toisan this summer. It ain't no small village anymore! They have two highways now - one east/west and one north/south.

Wah, so fancy-lah! :laugh:

A fellow village-ite.

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My friend visited Toisan this summer.  It ain't no small village anymore!  They have two highways now - one east/west and one north/south.

Wah, so fancy-lah!  :laugh:

Times do change. It wasn't that long ago that my parents visited a "well-to-do" cousin who had not one, but TWO bicycles!

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  • 1 year later...

Ok I was about to create a thread on the Manchu cuisine and home style cooking but found this instead woohoo!

It looks like this thread kind of died...

Anyway, there may be a reason as to why there is not much mention or knowledge in this particular cuisine. It's said that quite alot of the North-eastern Chinese regional dishes are in fact of Manchu origin. I'm not sure how reliable this piece of information is, but if it's true, that could explain why nobody really talks of Manchu food -it's pretty much integrated into the local cuisine and is no longer differentiated?

Btw, I also found this in wiki ( :rolleyes: )

Another distinct feature that separates Manchurian cuisine from other Chinese cuisines is to serve fresh raw vegetables and raw seafood in coastal areas.

It'd be awesome if there were some Manchu recipes (in English)!

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

http://musingsandmorsels.weebly.com/

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HEY! Remember this?! http://xyscyxs.mofcom.gov.cn/upload/proimage/2606.jpg

I'm sure everyone (every Chinese that is) has had this before -my whole life I never knew it's name and just found out it's called Sachima.

Well, apparently it's a Manchu sweet snack! Aha! And I've been eating this for ages (since I was a child) -very interesting to finally discover it's origins :wink:

The name 'sachima' is also in the Manchurian language -which doesn't surprise me because it definately doesn't sound very Chinese (mainstream Han Chinese anyway).

Btw, something else interesting I found (not exactly Manchu but could possibly be related):

Liaoning Cuisine, developed on the basis of Shandong Cuisine, is well known for its unique style. It integrates the quintessence of imperial dishes that spread far and wide among folks and rare dishes of various ethnic groups in China. Thanks to meticulously selected materials and highly skilled preparations, Liaoning Cuisine is well known for its unique colors, aromas and tastes and is spoken highly by Chinese and foreign gourmets.
Edited by Ce'nedra (log)

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

http://musingsandmorsels.weebly.com/

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Is Manchurian cuisine very close to modern day Korean food?

When we toured Beijing a few years ago, we were treated with a "so-called" Imperial feast (touristy thing), which was supposed to be based on the imperial dishes in the Ching dynasty. It was my impression that the setting and the food were very close to Korean banchans - many small dishes, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
       
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
       
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Your wish is my command! Sometimes! A lot of what I say here, I will have already said in scattered topics across the forums, but I guess it's useful to bring it all into one place.
       
      First, I want to say that China uses literally thousands of herbs. But not in their food. Most herbs are used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), often in their dried form. Some of the more common are sold in supermarkets, but more often in pharmacies or small specialist stores. I also often see people on the streets with baskets of unidentified greenery for sale - but not for dinner. The same applies to spices, although more spices are used in a culinary setting than are herbs.
       
      I’ll start with Sichuan peppercorns as these are what prompted @Tropicalsenior to suggest the topic.
       
      1. Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Sichuan peppercorns are neither pepper nor, thank the heavens, c@rn! Nor are they necessarily from Sichuan. They are actually the seed husks of one of a number of small trees in the genus Zanthoxylum and are related to the citrus family.  The ‘Sichuan’ name in English comes from their copious use in Sichuan cuisine, but not necessarily where they are grown. Known in Chinese as 花椒 (huājiāo), literally ‘flower pepper’’, they are also known as ‘prickly ash’ and, less often, as ‘rattan pepper’.
      The most common variety used in China is 红花椒 (hóng huā jiāo) or red Sichuan peppercorn, but often these are from provinces other than Sichuan, especially Gansu, Sichuan’s northern neighbour. They are sold all over China and, ground, are a key ingredient in “five-spice powder” mixes. They are essential in many Sichuan dishes where they contribute their numbing effect to Sichuan’s 麻辣 (má là), so-called ‘hot and numbing’ flavour. Actually the Chinese is ‘numbing and hot’. I’ve no idea why the order is reversed in translation, but it happens a lot – ‘hot and sour’ is actually ‘sour and hot’ in Chinese!
       
      The peppercorns are essential in dishes such as 麻婆豆腐 (má pó dòu fǔ) mapo tofu, 宫保鸡丁 (gōng bǎo jī dīng) Kung-po chicken, etc. They are also used in other Chinese regional cuisines, such as Hunan and Guizhou cuisines.

      Red Sichuan peppercorns can come from a number of Zanthoxylum varieties including Zanthoxylum simulans, Zanthoxylum bungeanum, Zanthoxylum schinifolium, etc.
       

      Red Sichuan Peppercorns
       
      Another, less common, variety is 青花椒 (qīng huā jiāo) green Sichuan peppercorn, Zanthoxylum armatum. These are also known as 藤椒 (téng jiāo). This grows all over Asia, from Pakistan to Japan and down to the countries of SE Asia. This variety is significantly more floral in taste and, at its freshest, smells strongly of lime peel. These are often used with fish, rabbit, frog etc. Unlike red peppercorns (usually), the green variety are often used in their un-dried state, but not often outside Sichuan.
       

      Green Sichuan Peppercorns
       

      Fresh Green Sichuan Peppercorns

      I strongly recommend NOT buying Sichuan peppercorns in supermarkets outside China. They lose their scent, flavour and numbing quality very rapidly. There are much better examples available on sale online. I have heard good things about The Mala Market in the USA, for example.

      I buy mine in small 30 gram / 1oz bags from a high turnover vendor. And that might last me a week. It’s better for me to restock regularly than to use stale peppercorns.

      Both red and green peppercorns are used in the preparation of flavouring oils, often labelled in English as 'Prickly Ash Oil'. 花椒油 (huā jiāo yóu) or 藤椒油 (téng jiāo yóu).
       

       
      The tree's leaves are also used in some dishes in Sichuan, but I've never seen them out of the provinces where they grow.
       
      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
       

       
      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
       

       
      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
       

       
      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
       
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
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