Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Food Histories of the Toysan People


Ben Hong
 Share

Recommended Posts

Judiefoodie, welcome to this thread. It is good to see so many of us coming out and finding others with the same background.

Just to start a little group project, ask your older immigrant relatives, parents what area of Toisan they come from. A prominent town or market place should suffice. From that one can deduce the region they hail from on a good(?) map. (I have been trying to Google a map of Toisan). This exercise should serve to illustrate how small our little Toisan is and how much interaction there was among clans- marriage, commerce, and other liaisons. I have always said that if my YenYen were alive, she could probably place most of your parents and grandparents, after meeting and talking with them. Who knows, I may be related to a few of you!!??!!

To start, my last (clan) name is Hung (Hoong) or Bear. My home village was name Dai Gong Li, about 6-8 miles west of the town of Chek Sui (Chixi in Mandarin) and 12 miles north of the port of Kwong Hoi (Guanghai)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yeah, the ones in the restaurant are never as good as moms! I kind of remember that my mom boiled sweet potatoes and mixed that in with the dough for the gai loong and it became even more golden brown and delicious than everyone else's.

Please keep us updated on your attemps at making them. Hom Gai Loong (Hom Sui Gok) are not as easy to make as they look. If you don't do it right the dough will burst. I've heard some elderly Toisanese ladies say you need to add sweet potatoes to prevent that from happening. I've also learned that sugar in the dough helps, too.

Re: different Toisanese names for dim sum items, can anyone think of other examples? At home, we knew "char siu cheung fan" by the name "gai cheung tay".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sugar in the gai loong doh? Ick...wouldn't that be too sweet for the savory filling?

Re: Toisanese and Cantonese. I always mix my Toisan wah and my Gongong wah together. It doesn't sound right. If you talk to me long enough, you'll notice my mixing. It's a product of hanging with Cantonese and Toisan folks. Well, Nonya and Toisan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

judyfoodie, WELCOME ABOARD!  :biggrin:

So far on this thread, we've been saying" Toisan" , "Toysan", etc. But in Hoisaon wah, , my family always said" Hoi Saon".  I think Toisan is Cantonese pronunciation.There are also regional differences in this dialect . . .  I say Hoi Saon, Ben may say "Hoi San", etc. . .  :unsure:

I need to check with my mother about our village: Hoi Saon,  Lung Pan, Oi Gong Huay.

Family name: Choy

We need to make a list of the dishes our parents made. Then we can pool our recipes!

I haven't had goy lung for a long time. I wonder if my Mom is up to teaching me this while I am Po-Po sitting . . . :hmmm:

Thanks for the warm welcome. If you get to learn how to make Gai loong, you'll have to share the recipe with me please! It was one of my favorites growing up and I so miss my mothers gai loong. I also love the Hom Tee which was chock full of chinese sausage, dried shrimp, scallion and bits of preserved turnip. The stickiness of it was crazy how it would glue itself to your plate and later your palate but well worth the work! If anyone has a good recipe for that I would most certainly welcome it. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Judiefoodie, welcome to this thread. It is good to see so many of us  coming out  and finding others with the same background.

Just to start a little group project, ask your older immigrant relatives, parents what area of Toisan they come from. A prominent town or market place should suffice. From that one can deduce the region they hail from on a good(?) map. (I have been trying to Google a map of Toisan). This exercise should serve to illustrate how small our little Toisan is and how much interaction there was among clans- marriage, commerce, and other liaisons. I have always said that if my YenYen were alive, she could probably place most of your parents and grandparents, after meeting and talking with them. Who knows, I may be related to a few of you!!??!!

To start, my last (clan) name is Hung (Hoong) or Bear. My home village was name Dai Gong Li, about 6-8 miles west of the town of Chek Sui (Chixi in Mandarin) and 12 miles north of the port of Kwong Hoi (Guanghai)

Hi Ben,

I have to dig out my ToiShan map but my fathers family is from Bok Suy (white water). And our specific hamlet is Look Hong. But we were always told that we id ourselves by saying we are :

Bok Suy Lo Hom - Hom family from the white water area.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find that amusing 'cause my parents do the us vs. them thing of Toisan and the rest of China.  Everyone's north of us so therefore they're northerners!

I think with Toisanese, and Cantonese people in general, they tend to look down on the other Chinese regions' culinary traditions. They think everyone else's cuisines taste like crap! lol

While I think ToiShan/Cantonese food is the best in China, you have to admit those Shao loong baos (soup dumplings) from Shanghai are incredibly delicious. Also when I was in Beijing they had these chive filled pattys that were so incredibly tasty. Street food in Shanghai really kicked butt too. I had so much fun wandering the streets and spending a few pennies for delicious scallion pancakes or vegetable baos.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aiiieee!  You're kidding!  Really?  Hmm.  That's interesting.  I think you'd have to be very careful though.  Too much and the dough will get too dark and sweet.  Ick.

Just a touch of sweet potato to give the dough a very subtle sweetness and golden glow. Try it out!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will be hitting the motherland with my family and the family of the girlfriend this summer, and we will be going to Toisan and the relevant family villages. I know this is a longshot, but I always try to make any trip more food related - are there any restaurants in the region that are representative of Toisan cuisine? This can be anything from white tablecloth to hole in the wall. Any regional delicacies that they don't really have in the US due to lack of ingredients or demand? Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also love the Hom Tee which was chock full of chinese sausage, dried shrimp, scallion and bits of preserved turnip. The stickiness of it was crazy how it would glue itself to your plate and later your palate but well worth the work! If anyone has a good recipe for that I would most certainly welcome it.  :smile:

Hom Tee? What type of dough was it? What it like a clear dough when it was finished - could you see the filling? Describe, please... :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Toisanese Unite!

Nice to find a clutch of Toisanese here. After reading this thread, I thought I'd be interesting to ask my mom about her ancestral home village (TEUN). We are from: My father's side -- Hoy-San, Dai-Sun-Lei (Big-New-Village) -- and mother's side -- Hoy-Ping, Wo-Hing-Lei.

She began to reminisce about condiments from her youth (1940s). How 'real' soy sauce was an epiphenomenon of blackbean fermentation process. And how 'real' oyster sauce was made. I'm curious to know if there are any people still making soy sauce or oyster sauce with these techniques (as opposed to Kikomans or Lee Kum Kee)? Could there someday be a flowering of Artisanal Oyster Sauce anyone?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How 'real' soy sauce was an epiphenomenon of blackbean fermentation process. And how 'real' oyster sauce was made. I'm curious to know if there are any people still making soy sauce or oyster sauce with these techniques (as opposed to Kikomans or Lee Kum Kee)? Could there someday be a flowering of Artisanal Oyster Sauce anyone?

annoy_ken, would you care to share what your mom said about how soy and oyster sauces were once made, and how they're differnt from current production techniques? I'm quite interested to know... Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.) Is that Toysan? The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

The topic and pictures sure brings back memories. How I've forgotten them. Like some of you, I had asked my parents to show me how to make some of their specialties but they, too, chased me out of the kitchen. I remember how making most of the authentic dishes was such a big production. Friday nights, my mom would prepare something to be finished off on Saturday. I would be responsible for carry the heavy arborite table top from the basement and placing it on top of the kitchen table so they can roll out the dough for dumplings.

I would be allowed to press the dough in the steel dough presser and my brother and I would press the dough so thin (we sat on the contraption) that my mother would sigh in frustration and ask us not to help anymore.

My mom still makes the leaf-wrapped "doong" boiled in a makeshift cooker made of a large square oil can and charcoal filled old cement block. She'd cook this under the backyard porch and I'd cross my finger that the house wouldn't light on fire!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

Looks like we caught another one! :biggrin:

The cooker you described sounds very interesting, Max. Any chance of a picture?

It sure beats steaming up the whole house, althought that's good in the winter when the air is so dry.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

Looks like we caught another one! :biggrin:

The cooker you described sounds very interesting, Max. Any chance of a picture?

It sure beats steaming up the whole house, althought that's good in the winter when the air is so dry.

My mom seemed amused when I asked that she show me how to make "doong." Come June, I will see how she makes it and try to include a picture of my mommy squatting by her homemade stove under the porch. Hopefully, she'll be wearing her hand-crocheted vest for added Toysan authenticity! :laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Mom was talking about making this year's batch of "doong" today.

Are those the ones you boiled for "8" hours? :raz: (The question I asked in my first post on eGullet)

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Waa!Haha~ I'm so happy to have found this thread! So many memories of my PoPo cooking her batches (huge, stuffed plastic bags of each variety enough to feed 5 other families for a week) from morning 'til late at night in each go. All the smells of lap cheong, doong guu, chong, dou see, haw mai ji, ham yuu ji; and she'd always fry up a batch of prawn chips for me when she had to fry other things! I remember her gok was slightly sweet too. And no other woon doi goh is ever good enough for me now, she'd always put a half of a hung jo on top (it's been too long since I've heard anyone call it that!). My mum spent most of her youth in HK where she lost her accent and the "old ways"(so I understand Cantonese and Toisan wah), but my PoPo would always let me help her in the kitchen. She let me watch her prep all the ham and showed me different ways of how to wrap each type of tay so they wouldn't fall apart, how much filling I could put... My little fingers couldn't handle the bigger ones and she'd let me make baby ones for myself instead. :wub:

She's back in HK now, but very much alive and kicking. I remember when she was 90 she'd walk around Burkeville (on Sea Island) twice every day, work non-stop all day sewing, cleaning, cooking and still have energy to chase me around the house when I was misbehaving. :laugh:

I was always proud because I was the only child of all the other Chinese families that could understand Toisan wah. This was in the 80's in Richmond, where being Chinese at all was a tough shtick. I've only been back to our village once when I was young, and I loved how every night my uncle had to chop the wood for the stove and boil the water for our baths. And the first night we got there a ton of the surrounding villagers joined us for dinner. Must get someone to scan those pics of the stove for you all. Thank you so much for this thread! I will check back on our geographical specs, but I'm the grandchild of a Wong. :wink:

Edited by hayasaka.k (log)
Run the earth. Watch the sky.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Mom was talking about making this year's batch of "doong" today.

Are those the ones you boiled for "8" hours? :raz: (The question I asked in my first post on eGullet)

I remember :laugh::laugh:

I've made some interesting friends since my doong webpage was posted.

Going to boil this year's batch outside.

(Gotta start searching for baggy pants and crochet vest)

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Che wan fan la~

Lol, I also had lots of Taiwanese friends in high school so I'm a hodge-podge of Chinese. I seem to be the rare traditional CBC (Canadian-born Chinese), meaning that can't read simplified like my CBC friends that take Mandarin in university, or read enough traditional like the recent immigrants, only understand certain terms in one of the three languages but can't interchange in my head to explain in any of the others. My entire brain will switch languages, it doesn't think-translate-speak. :wacko:

I also experience a lot of culture shock (especially food-related) because no one culture is fully ingrained. The first time dining with my 2nd-gen-CBC boyfriend's family is something I will never forget. I must have looked so horrified! Some things still pop up now and then that upset me. lol

My dog really only listens to me because everyone else can't remember which commands are in which language. I could never keep pets for long in my childhood (I tried to keep chicks and ducklings) because they would invariably end up in the dinner soup. :sad:

Okay, my dad says PoPo is from "4 9 kuy". Does this mean anything to anyone?

Run the earth. Watch the sky.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, my dad says PoPo is from "4 9 kuy". Does this mean anything to anyone?

4 9 is a district in Taishan. There is a way to search out your home village if you know the market closest to the home village. I believe the link is found in either of the 2 links below.

This site has some good info:

http://www.apex.net.au/~jgk/taishan/menu.html

This site has a great forums section where you can get questions answered. I believe there are some maps as well.

http://www.taishan.com/english/index.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Che wan fan la~

Uh Oh... hayasaka.k you are in and out between Toisanese and Mandarin. :wink:

Sounds like you have a loving family. How wonderful!

Eat = Che [Mandarin], Sik [Cantonese], Hec [Toisanese]

My wife is a daughter of a Wong and a Yee. Both are very common Toisanese surnames. My parents-in-law lived in Hong Kong for about 10 years before moving to the USA, so they picked up a lot of Cantonese as well.

When I first conversed with my PIL, I found it a bit difficult to pick up what they were saying. Later I came to the realization that they were conversing in half Cantonese and half Toisanese. (They thought they were speaking Sung Wah) They were going in and out of both and didn't realize it. To add a bit more complexity, they were saying things that were a mix of Toisanese and Toisanese transliteration of the English terms. e.g. Grant Gai (Grant Street), Mmm Tai TV (don't watch Television), Nee Hec Noo Doh? (you want to eat noodle?)

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
       
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
       
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
       
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.
       

       
      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.
       

       
      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”
       

       
      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.
       

       
      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.
       

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.
       

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken
       

      Lamb Kebabs
       

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG
       

      Kebab stall
       

      Crab
       

      Different crab
       

      Sweet sticky rice balls
       

      Things on sticks
       

      Grilled scorpions
       

      Pig bones and bits
       

      Snails
       
      And much more.
       
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
       
      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      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.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...