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Pictorial: Winter Melon Chicken Soup


hzrt8w
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Pictorial Recipe

Winter Melon Chicken Soup (冬瓜雞湯)

This is Chinese soup at its best, Cantonese soup simmered over slow fire for hours.

Picture of the finished dish:

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Serving Suggestion: 10-12

Preparations:

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Featured: 1 whole chicken, about 3 lb. You may also use a whole duck (even better) or other poultries. The aged the better.

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Featured: Winter melon. This particular melon is about 12 lb. Use about 1/3 of the melon, about 3-4 lbs.

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This is a picture of the black eyed beans.

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This is a picture of the red beans.

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This is a picture of the Chinese dried dates ("Mut Zho" in Cantonese).

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This is a picture of the Chinese red dates ("Hung Zho" in Cantonese).

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Remaining ingredients for the soup:

- (Bowl on upper right) About 10 dried oysters

- (Bowl on the lower right) About 7-8 dried scallops

- (On the round plate, clockwise from the top):

- 15 dried black mushrooms

- Chinese red beans, about 1/4 cup

- Black eyed beans, about 1/4 cup

- Chinese red dates, about 20

- Chinese dried dates, about 6-7

- Dried olive kerneis. (南北杏), about 3 tblsp

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It is best to soak the dried scallop overnight. If not, at least 1 to 2 hours. Save the soaking liquid and use it in the soup. Soak the dried black mushrooms for 1-2 hours. Trim the stems off when soft. You may also save the soaking liquid and use it in the soup. Also soak the red beans, black eyed beans (for a few hours or overnight), and Chinese red dates for 1-2 hours. Soak the dried oyster for 1-2 hours. Drain and discard the soaking liquid before use.

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Use a sharp knife to cut the winter melon at about 1/3.

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Use a small spoon to scoop off the seeds.

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Rinse and cut the melon into smaller pieces.

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Remove the rind and cut the melon to about 1 inch X 2 inch. Some likes to leave the winter melon rind on when making soup. It is okay too.

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All the winter melon pieces.

Cooking Instructions:

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This is to illustrate the Chinese "double boil" method in making soup. First, boil the whole chicken in just enough water to cover most of the bird.

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Boil for only 3-5 minutes, no longer.

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Remove the chicken and place in a colander. Rinse under cold water to wash away the suds. Drain the first pot of water and rinse the pot.

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Boil about 10-12 cups of water, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot of this size. Return the chicken to the boiling water, and add the soaked dried scallops, soaked dried oysters, red beans, black eyed beans and olive kerneis. Once the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low.

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Simmer for about 1 1/2 hour with the lid on. This is how it looked after 1 1/2 hour of simmering.

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Add the remaining of the ingredients: soaked dried black mushrooms, Chinese dried red dates, Chinese dried dates, and the winter melons. Continue to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 more hours.

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This is how it looked after another 1 1/2 hour of simmering. At last, add about 1-2 tsp of salt (or to taste).

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The winter melon is very soft after 2 hours of simmering. Ready to serve. Transfer to the serving bowl.

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Picture of the finished dish.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ah Leung:

Your version seems delicious especially with the beans.

The type of Winter Melon Soup I'm most familiar with was served during the cooler months but without any beans.

At Restaurants the featured this soup it was generally served in a decorated 1/2 or whole Winter Melon.

It included Ginkgo Nuts, Chrysanthemum Buds, Yunnan Ham or Serrano Ham, Dates, Ginger, Dried Scallops and Oysters in a Supreme Chicken Broth, Boneless Chicken added before serving just cooked until opaque. It was presented to the table then the melon was scraped from the skin with a special long porcelain spoon into individual bowls served left in the center of the table with a ladle for refills.

It may have been called "Dong Gua" but was very popular as soon as the weather changed featured at several Restaurants in Wanchai and Causeway Bay that were also famous for their Yunnan Hams.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Cool!

I've been eyeing the winter melons at the farmers' market and have always wanted to make something with them. This looks like a great dish.

Do you cut up the chicken and serve it with the soup? Or use it for something else?

I'm familiar with Red Dates (usually called jujube here). Are "Mut Zho" regular palm dates?

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Ah Leung: That soup would be a meal in itself!

I love dong gua tong. Sometimes I make it with just pork bones, sliced pork and a few slivers of ham choi for a very light and quick version. Other times, I leave the rind on the melon chunks and add rehydrated oysters. This is slowly simmered on the stove until the rind is tender. The rind is not really eaten, but Po-Po says it is for cooling (leunng hay).

The version that wesza described is usually served at banquets. The whole melon is steamed with the broth and ingredients inside. I have had it with abalone. :wub: It's quite incredible to see some of the carving done on the rind. It would be easy to carve the word "happiness", but dragons, pheonex, etc...whew! :cool:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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At Restaurants the featured this soup it was generally served in a decorated 1/2 or whole Winter Melon.

It included Ginkgo Nuts, Chrysanthemum Buds, Yunnan Ham or Serrano Ham, Dates, Ginger, Dried Scallops and Oysters in a Supreme Chicken Broth, Boneless Chicken added before serving just cooked until opaque. It was presented to the table then the melon was scraped from the skin with a special long porcelain spoon into individual bowls served left in the center of the table with a ladle for refills. 

The dish described above is the winter melon soup, banquet style. The winter melon is the vessel holding the soup, as well as the ingredient to make the soup. The whole melon is steamed in a steamer holding the broth inside. In essence this is the Chinese "Dun" method (steam-boiling) - only to use the melon body as the cooking vessel.

In Cantonese, this banquet-style winter melon soup is called "Dong Qua Zhun", as opposed to the day-to-day home style soup making which is called "Dong Qua Tong".

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Quick question: why do the "double boil" method?  is there a reason for dumping out the first liquid?  Isn't that throwing away good flavor, or am I wrong?

Chinese believe that in order for the soup to be "pure", we need to get rid of the suds and "filth" in the soup - which is basically blood cooked in boiling water. The fist boil will make the blood solidified and make it float on the top. Rinsing the chicken/duck/meat-bone under water will wash them away, and discarding the water used in the first round, will provide soup that is not cloudy (thus more "pure").

That's why the first boil should be quick. Flavor will take hours to extract from the meat and bones. Discarding the quick-boiled, first round liquid is okay.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Do you cut up the chicken and serve it with the soup?  Or use it for something else?

I'm familiar with Red Dates (usually called jujube here).  Are "Mut Zho" regular palm dates?

The flavor of the chicken meat all goes into the soup after 3 hours of simmering. Usually not worthy to eat. The meat is very dry and rather bland. I sometimes like to chew on the chicken thigh and drum sticks here and there. The breast can pretty much be discarded.

Yes "Mut Zho" is the plam date, I think you are right.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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The version that wesza described is usually served at banquets. The whole melon is steamed with the broth and ingredients inside. I have had it with abalone. :wub: It's quite incredible to see some of the carving done on the rind. It would be easy to carve the word "happiness", but dragons, pheonex, etc...whew! :cool:

Winter melon rind carving is really a work of art. Some have very sophiscated patterns.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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So much goodness in your soup Xiao Hzrt!

Mine usually is very simple with just ham, black mushrooms, chestnuts and a littleTian Tsin preserved vegetable.

But there was a time that I experimented with a whole Winter Melon Pond: The picture with the recipe showed this beautifully carved BRIGHT EMERALD whole melon with the soup in it. I followed the directions and ended up with a PEA SOUP GREEN melon. I never thought that artistic license would be taken with the picture of the completed dish. with the soup placed in a melon that had been steamed just long enough to make the skin brillant green. But I learned!

In the first ones, my primative carvings on the skin looked pretty bad as the long steaming made the whole thing pretty mushy. The worst part was keeping the thing intact as I tried to raise it out of the pot using a cloth harness.

Those were the days! Now, if I have a soup class, I stick to something simple.

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Ah Leung, as Dejah says your soup is indeed a meal by itself. As for me, I have not travelled far enough yet to have ever encountered a winter melon soup incorporating beans in it. But it could "work" I suppose.

My view on the thing is that the salient point of any winter melon soup is the essential clear broth, otherwise why would one do a first blanching of the bones and meats? Beans, if not done properly would really cloud the issue.

I always thought that mut zho (Toysanese: "mit doh") is dried fig. :huh::blink:

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  • 3 years later...

Ah Leung:

Your recipe calls for about 1.5kg of wintermelon (your picture shows one about 5-6kg!). In Paris, I have not been able to find any beyond about 800g... Is it possible to use these smaller ones by removing the rind and cutting into about 20 pieces 3-5cm? I guess that I would need 3-4. Maybe I could also use them as individual soup bowls if I cut them in half in some zig-zag fashion.

I have looked everywhere but I am unable to find Dried Scallops (or Dried Oysters) in Paris. What to do?

- Can I take fresh scallops and do something to them (e.g. soak in oyster sauce overnight)?

- Can I remplace the dried scallops with dried shrimps or something else?

- Do I give up on making this dish (what a shame!)?

This question concerning dried scallops applies also to your recipe: Braised Abalone, Dried Scallops and Black Mushrooms (紅 燒 瑤 柱 鮑 魚 )

Have a good day!

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Ah Leung:

Your recipe calls for about 1.5kg of wintermelon (your picture shows one about 5-6kg!). In Paris, I have not been able to find any beyond about 800g... Is it possible to use these smaller ones by removing the rind and cutting into about 20 pieces 3-5cm? I guess that I would need 3-4. Maybe I could also use them as individual soup bowls if I cut them in half in some zig-zag fashion.

It seems that they only sell wintermelons by slices... which is what the local markets here do too because usually customers don't buy a whole one. Wintermelons are big. The one I showed in the picture was a gift from a relative. Home grown. You can certainly combine smaller slices to make the soup.

RE: I have looked everywhere but I am unable to find Dried Scallops (or Dried Oysters) in Paris. What to do?

That's a tough one. I saw your question about substitutes but I couldn't think of any good substitute. But it's hard to believe you could not find such ingredient in Paris. Is there a China Town in Paris? Because I have been to China Town in London and you can find dried scallop easy enough. There are many China Towns even in small cities in the USA. Or else ask friends to buy them for you if they make trips to Asia.

RE: - Can I take fresh scallops and do something to them (e.g. soak in oyster sauce overnight)?

I don't think this will work.

RE: - Can I remplace the dried scallops with dried shrimps or something else?

You may but I don't think the taste will be close.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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i agree with hzrt8w in that the proposed subs are unlikely to work, and in fact, could be a disaster. IMO, it is better to just leave it out, and you could still have a great soup.

the closest substitute i can think of, for dried scallops or dried oysters, is dried squid, and i use that in quite a lot of chinese soups eg, lotus root soup, water cress soup, etc. I have not used dried squid in winter melon soup though.

From my experience, it could be equally difficult to find dried squid in Paris chinatowns. The last time i tried to find dried squid (first week July 2010), i could not find them in Tang Freres, or the Paris (?) grocery store, which is oppposite to Tang Freres. I did not try the other (or second) chinatown in paris, which is around the Bellevue metro.

If you must use dried scallops or oysters, then stock up on your next trip to London.

i could be wrong, but i think the 'chinese' grocery stores in Paris are more geared towards the vietnamese than to chinese, in that you can find glorious and plentiful vietnamese herbs and ingredients, etc, but not the more chinese-specific ingredients like dried scallops?

Perhaps others could contribute their experiences of chinese and/or vietnamese ingredients in Paris, or europe in general.

It's dangerous to eat, it's more dangerous to live.

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I'd be shocked if you couldn't buy dried scallops in Paris, even if most of the Chinese business are geared more towards Vietnamese. Keep in mind that dried scallops are traditionally sold in Chinese medicinal shops, not in normal grocery stores. These medicinal shops are where you'd find other exotic dried items such as ginseng and shark's fins.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Thanks a lot for your replies. I also thought about going to a herbal store. I will go on Thursday to my favorite one and respond then. Wish me luck.

For the 800g wintermelons which I find, I have done the following:

1. Cut them in half along their "equator" in a zig-zag fashion (for later presentation)

2. De-seed each half

3. Steam both halves until the flesh is a bit soft

4. Carefully remove the flesh without disturbing the rind

5. Proceed as per Ah Leung's recipe, adding the wintermelon later since it is somewhat cooked already

6. Serve the soup in the half wintermelon rind, one per person

What do you think?

Have a good day.

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If this helps any...

"Chinatowns in Europe"

From Wikipedia:

...two Chinatowns in Paris, France: One where many Vietnamese – specifically ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam – have settled in the Quartier chinois in the XIIIe arrondissement of Paris, and the other in Belleville in the northeast of Paris.

Have you been to the Chinatown in Belleville?

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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.....

3. Steam both halves until the flesh is a bit soft

4. Carefully remove the flesh without disturbing the rind

5. Proceed as per Ah Leung's recipe, adding the wintermelon later since it is somewhat cooked already

.....

Why is there a need to steam the wintermelon first before using it to make soup?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ah Leung:

Thanks for your question. I was probably not clear.

I wish to remove the flesh from the small wintermelons while keeping the half-rinds intact to be used later as the individual containers for the soup.

After cutting each wintermelon in half (in zig-zag fashion for later presentation) and de-seeding, I found it difficult to remove the flesh while leaving a rind with a relatively even thickness on the inner side. So I steamed a bit to soften the flesh. This can be done ahead of time. (I didn't try, but maybe I could have just put very hot water inside the de-seeded wintermelon half to soften the flesh without heating the rind.) From here on, the flesh thus removed is used in your recipe.

Of course, I could simply peel the rind and use the flesh as you do for your larger wintermelons.

All this work to try to retain some esthetics!! Maybe I am too ambitious..

Have a good day.

Edited by udscbt (log)
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Are dong gua available year-round?

Winter melons are usually harvested in winter, e.g. Nov/Dec. But they do last a long time if uncut. I had one before and it lasted well into the summer. Store in a cool, dry place.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Hi Hzrt! Hao jiu bu jian!

About the dried scallops/conpoy. Would a bit of anchovy add that flavor? Or how about using Chinese ham. That seems to be a staple in Winter Melon soups. (or Smithfield, or Virginia ham)

Hard to believe an An Asian store without dried scallops. But they can be ordered on-line ---- and they last forever.

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Conpoy or dried scallops is added mainly to provide umami to a dish. Anchovies would not be a good substitute because it is too fishy. Better to omit dried scallops altogether if it is so difficult to obtain. I should think that Japanese bonito flakes would be a better sub than anchovy...or even a dash of msg. :smile::cool:

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      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.
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