Secrets of Chinese Cookery
Have you ever wondered how the bland Celestials make those delicious dishes served in Chinese Here are the recipes
ESTELLE CARTER MACPHERSON
Women and their Work
NEARLY every one confessess to a liking for that particular type of quasi-oriental food known as Chop Suey—and very few people
know very much as to how it is cooked. Which is singular because, once the ingredients are known,
Chop Suey, Chow Mein, and all the other members of the delectable tribe, present no culinary problems to the fairly well routined cook.
It is not to be supposed any occidental could cook an Oriental dish like the native cooks. We may follow a recipe given by the Oriental cook, but the results are not just the same. Then, too, in China, generally speaking, every household is a factory. It manufactures its own oils, extracts, sauces and other condiments of like nature. The materials we get are mostly manufactured in foreign-controlled, commercialized factories Like the jams, jellies and many sauces of commerce that we can buy in our markets, they lack the true home-made flavor of those prepared in the home.
In China, rules for cookery are handed down
In from mother to daughter and from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law (for the young wives are instructed in housekeeping by their husbands’ mothers); thus the traditional
ICE, we all know, is the staple food of China, its The Chinese cook it wonderfully
well after the method taught the children for many generations. Here is a little story the mothers tell their daughters to teach them how properly to cook the rice. Following is a somewhat free translation:
‘The gods gave us ten fingers to remind us to wash the rice in ten waters. Into an iron pot, my daughter, put rice to the depth of the first joint of your greatest finger. Wash it well between the palms of your hands in ten waters until the water is crystal clear. Fill the deep hollow of the pursed up palm of your hand with salt, even with the crease made by your turned up fingers; never so full it would spill if you gently tipped it a little. Place the salt on the rice then fill the pot with water to the entire depth of your finger held above the rice. Rice and cold water combined should now fill the pot beyond the depth of your finger. Place the uncovered pot on
the fire, bring it to the boil quickly: now the grains dance with joy that they will give us good food. When they dance altogether, then lower the fire that they may not boil over but cook slowly until holes begin forming on the top of the rice. Now clap the lid on it, set it on a cooler part of the fire where it will keep warm and steam for twenty minutes. Then it is ready. NEVER, never must you stir it lest you permit an evil spirit to slip into it.’ This, then, is the Chinese secret of rice preparation; it
must be well washed, cooked with three times as much cold water as rice, must not be stirred, and after coming to the boil must cook slowly. Cover, when holes come on top the rice, steam twenty minutes. Rice cooked in this manner may be kept hot several hours without spoiling it. Possibly it may boil over; if so, reduce the fire or set on a cooler part of stove. One third of a cup of dry rice per person will be found to be a good portion to use when preparing rice for Chinese dishes.
Popular Chinese Dishes
HPHE wealthy Chinese use noodles to a great extent in their menus. Chow Mein is one of the most popular of Chinese dishes and consists of noodles cooked in thin stock then moulded about the edges of a dish of Chop Suey.
The Chinese noodles may be bought in many places or vermicilli may be substituted. On the Pacific Coast, the noodles may be bought in bulk
or packages and in the East they are to be had in cans, but the canned noodles are rather expensive for family use. I have found no commercially handled noodles in Eastern Canada that can successfully take the place of the real Chinese noodle. With the exception of a French imported noodle I have not yet succeeded in finding a satisfactory one. Hence, I recommend making them. This is not difficult to do especially after the first attempt.
To make sufficient noodles for, say four people, break
two eggs in a bowl,
add one half a teaspoonful of salt, and beat until it is thoroughly well mixed. Now stir in as much flour as the eggs can be made to take, enough to form a very stiff, dry paste. Place the paste on a wellfloured board, take a heavy rolling pin, roll and beat the paste until it is almost as thin as paper. It should be so dry as to be very difficult to roll. Turn the sheet of paste over often, rolling it on first one side then the other, keeping the board well floured. When it is as thin as you can manage to roll it, let it dry for a half hour, then sprinkle well with flour and make it into a compact roll. If the sheet sticks to the board, run the blade of a sharp thin knife along under it as you roll it up. Now cut the roll into slices as fine as shavings. Shake out a few of the first cuts and if the . roll separates into a dry, long, stringy, noodle, you have sue-
ceeded. If it mats up, the paste is not dry enough. Roll it out again with the roller, sprinkling it well with flour and this additional flour will likely be sufficient. Once you have got them right, you are not likely again to experience difficulty with them.
These noodles are used in many Chinese dishes of the better sort; for Chow Mein, Yet-Ca-Mein, with mushrooms and chicken, with pork, in soups, in innumerable dishes.
There are many recipes for Chop Suey. In fact, I have been told on very good authority that Chop Suey, as we know it, is not at all a real Chinese dish, that is, it is not one of the old Chinese dishes; that it had its origin in the Chinese restaurants of San Francisco. This may be so, but it is so like many Chinese dishes, I am more inclined to believe the San Francisco Chinese restaurants merely popularized it and that the dish, itself, is typically Chinese.
All Chinese dishes used in this country, depend largely for their flavoring on soy bean sauces of different qualities. Soy bean sauce is one of the many condiments extracted from the soy bean.
All Chop Sueys are prepared and cooked alike; the only difference in the various kinds is in the ingredients used. For Pepper Chop Suey, green peppers are used; for Tomato Chop Suey, tomatoes; for Mushroom, mushrooms, and for Chicken Chop Suey, at least part chicken is used. Chicken combined with pork is used for the most popular Chop Suey but the poor people in China also make it of fish. It is practically just a brown stew made of foreign canned vegetables and meat, served with rice. Absolutely none of the ingredients mentioned is indispensable excepting the meat, onions, celery and if you want the distinctive Chinese flavor, the soy bean sauce. The sprouts used are bean sprouts or sometimes wheat sprouts. Any kind of beans may be kept moist and warm until they sprout and the sprouts removed and used, so they may be had anywhere.
I will give below three recipes for Chop Suey and a fourth one I have worked out using local condiments which may be obtainable anywhere. Chop Suey, such as made by recipe number four is gaining favor in many places where the canned vegetables required by the other recipes are not obtainable. A bottle of the soy sauce should be kept on hand to flavor the dish if possible to get it. Your local Chinese laundryman can get it for you, or any Chinese restaurant will sell it to you. All recipes are planned to serve four people.
Chinese Chop Suey, No. 1—Half pound lean pork cut in pieces, half pound chicken or veal (cut in small pieces), two cupfuls of celery (cut the same size as meat,), one cupful of dried onions (cut fine), one can of sprouts, three tablespoonfuls soy bean sauce, one can mushrooms (cut fine) or left whole, if desired). If an elaborate Chop Suey is desired, add one can of water chestnuts or bamboo sprouts and one cupful of blanched almonds.
Brown the meat in a skillet, adding one tablespoonful soy sauce when nearly done. Stir a tablespoonful of flour into the meat, and brown, add two cupfuls of soup stock, stir well, then put in the onions and celery, cover and let cook until vegetables are done, then add the remainder of the sauce, the cans of vegetables, and heat well. Serve with rice. For Chow Mein, serve with fried noodles.
Chop Suey, No. 2—Barely cover a small chicken with water and simmer until it is tender. Remove all the meat and cut in neat shreds. Return the skin and bones to the broth and boil down until it is reduced to two cupfuls, then strain. Cut one pound of pork into bits, and fry in a little fat. When brown, add the chicken meat, one and a half cupfuls of celery (cut in inch-long, narrow shreds), one cupful of onion 'cut fine), eight dried Chinese mushrooms (soaked, washed and cut in shreds), eight water chestnuts (cut thin),
quarter pound of bean sprouts or wheat sprouts, one green pepper (cut in small shreds), a small piece of ginger root and the chicken broth seasoned with soy, and simmer until all vegetables are cooked. Thicken, if necessary, with a little flour. Serve with rice.
Chop Suey, No. 3—Half pound chicken meat, half pound veal, quarter pound lean pork (cut in small pieces'), three to four tablespoonfuls peanut oil, one onion (shredded), one cupful shredded celery, half can mushrooms, half pound bean sprouts, salt, pepper and soy to taste; two tablespoonfuls of flour, one cupful of stock or broth.
Brown the meat a little at a time in the oil, lift it out as it cooks, adding more. When all meat is done put the onion in the fat and brown, add the flour and brown that. Put in the broth, stir well, then add all the other ingredients including the meat. Put in casserole, cover tightly and simmer in oven until all vegetables are done. Serve with rice.
Chop Suey, No. 4—Half pound chicken meat (skinned and shredded], half pound lean veal and quarter pound lean pork (both shredded), one onion (chopped), one cupful shredded celery, one cupful of chicken broth (made from bones of chicken), one cupful scalded milk, one oxo cube and quarter bay leaf or instead of last two, two tablespoonfuls of soy sauce, one can of mushrooms (cut in half), one teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoonful tomato catsup, half green pepper (with seeds removed and cut in fine rings), one and a half tablespoonfuls flour, three tablespoonfuls fat (butter and dripping), salt and pepper.
Brown the meat in the fat, add the flour and brown, then add stock and all vegetables excepting mushrooms. Stir well and simmer until cooked then add milk and mushrooms, the salt, Worcestershire sauce and catsup. Let cook until well blended, then cover and stand aside ten minutes to ripen. If desired a cupful of asparagus tips may be added with milk and mushrooms. Serve with rice or with noodles for Chow Mein.
Warmein—Place a serving of noodles in individual bowls, cover the noodles with preferred make of Chop Suey.
For Chafing Dish Suppers
'TPHIS dish is a very good one to use for I a chafing dish luncheon. The raw beefsteak, chopped onion, celery, etc., all may be attractively arranged on a large platter and the luncheon prepared before your guests. Any of the following egg dishes are also suitable for electric grill or chafing dish suppers or luncheons.
Suke Yoki is possibly more Japanese than Chinese, but it is very good. To make it, one slice of round beef steak is required, cut about one eighth inch thick, remove bone, cut meat in three or four pieces; half cupful green onions, (chopped tops included), half cupful chopped celery, two shredded green peppers (from which seeds have been removed), one cupful mushrooms, one cupful soup stock two tablespoonfuls soy sauce (substitute brown meat gravy, flavored with bay leaf, if desired), quarter teaspoonful salt, two two teaspoonfuls sugar, half cupful sprouts or bean curd, two tablespoonfuls of fat, one tablespoonful flour.
Heat a skillet, put in the fat and when very hot, add the meat, brown on both sides, then add the mushrooms. If these are fresh, cook until done, then add all the other ingredients, the flour first. Blend, then add stock and vegetables. Let simmer until meat begins to shred, about twenty minutes. Serve with rice.
Eggs Fo Yeung—(Eggs Chinese style).
Shrimp Egg Fo Yeung is made by heating together five eggs, half cupful milk, and quarter teaspoonful salt. Clean one can of shrimps, drain well. Fry in a pan a green pepper, which has had seeds removed and been cut in fine rings. When pepper is done, season and remove from the pan. Dip the drained
shrimps in the eggs, browning them quickly in the pan, take out, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the remaining egg mixture in the pan, when it begins to set cover the top of the mixture with twcthirds of the peppers and shrimps, fold over. Place the rest of the shrimps and peppers on top the eggs, set all in oven for about five minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with cucumber salad. A thin, brown, well-seasoned meat gravy is often served with the eggs.
Shrimp Fo Yeung Curry—One and a half cupfuls rich white sauce (well seasoned), four hard-boiled eggs, (quartered and seasoned), half teaspoonful curry powder, one can shrimps (cleaned and drained), three cupfuls cooked rice. Stir the curry powder into the sauce, add the shrimps, heat in double boiler. Spread the rice in a shallow, large bowl, pour the sauce over the rice, cover the top with the eggs, sprinkle with paprika and garnish with parsley.
Yet-Ca-Mein—Boil noodles or vermicelli in a quart of rich chicken or other stock. Divide the noodles and broth into individual serving bowls and garnish with hard-boiled eggs sliced and cold meat sliced thin and cur in one and one-half inch bits. The meat may be either chicken or pork tenderloin. Sprinkle the top of each bowl with chopped parsley and green onions.
There are many other such dishes, such as Yet-Ca-Mein. They all consist of noodles of rice served in individual bowls, seasoned and garnished with different condiments; fish with curry, meat and eggs with different sauces, any combination of this sort you would desire to make would be quite in keeping with the name Yet-Ca-Mein.
Jade Bamboo Shoots—These make a picturesque as well as novel dish. Cut the contents of one can of bamboo shoots into two inch strips. Mince fine quarter cupful of chicken, half cupful of cold ham and quarter cupful of water chestnuts. Add to the minced meat and chestnuts one and a half tablespoonfuls corn starch and the whites of two eggs. Beat to a paste. Roll each bamboo strip in the paste, steam ten minutes. Garnish with minced parsley and serve on a bed of parsley.
Chinese Salad—Add a little of the soy bean sauce to any mayonnaise dressing and use with any green salad. Combination salads made of the long Chinese cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, rings of green peppers, green onions sliced thin and hard boiled eggs are often served. Sprouts or bamboo shoots may be used also if desired.
Chicken Noodles—Cut a three or four pound chicken into pieces, put the bones, skin and a slice of onion on to simmer. Cut the meat of the chicken into shreds and brown it in a skillet with plenty of dripping and butter. When the chicken is cooked, stir in a heaping tablespoonful of flour, brown, then add one cupful of water and one cupful of milk, season, cover and let simmer. Strain the stock off the chicken bones, bring to boil, season well, then drop in the noodles. When the noodles have cooked, place them in a shallow wide bowl. Pour the chicken over them, garnish with hard boiled eggs (sliced) and mushrooms (heated in butter,) if desired.
Chow Eggs or Eggs Canton—Mince one half cupful of any cooked meat, cut up quarter cupful of canned or fresh mushrooms, half cupful Chinese water chestnuts, half cupful bamboo shoots. Beat thoroughly six eggs, season well and mix with other ingredients. Pour in a hot well greased skillet, stir until cooked. Garnish with parsley. If the mushrooms are fresh, fry them until done in butter before cutting them up.
TN CHINA, sweets are served first, they
consist of candied fruits, watermelon seeds or the candied rind of melon or
citron, ginger, and the delightful thinshelled Chinese nuts (Lichee ; which somewhat resemble a walnut in shape. The shells of these nuts are paper thin and the meat is like a date. In serving the sweet fruit cocktails, often used to-day in our menus, we are patterning after the Chinese.
If you are planning a Chinese luncheon or supper, an imitation of Chinese Nuts to use for dessert, may be made as follows. Select some large dried prunes, soak them in hot water for a half hour, squeeze and drain them well, remove the pit.
I Stone a large date, place in the seed
I cavity a blanched almond or half walnut broken in two pieces, stuff the prune with the prepared date. Roll the prune in a thin covering of doughnut mixture and fry in deep fat until brown. Sprinkle with sugar. Small doughnut balls with a centre of candied ginger would also be appropriate to serve.
Ginger ice cream sundaes served in sherbet glasses surmounted by a tiny paper parasol is also another idea for a desert. To make the parasols, cut the top off a small cork, stick twelve toothpicks branching out the sides of the cork for the ribs, and paste over the top rounds of paper slightly smaller in circumference than the frame. Cut bright bits from the corners of gay Chinese napkins to cover. Use a small gilded twig or skewer for the handle. Sharpen one end of the twig and press it into the cork.
Small pasteboard cups covered with
flowered paper or tiny pink tissue paper peach blossoms may be used for candy or nuts. To make the peach blossoms, cut two tiny circles of pink paper, one just a bit smaller than the other. Rut a drop of paste on centre of the largest one and press centre of small ring down on it. Pinch them up to form a blossom.
For place cards cut a small odd-shaped Chinese lantern, about three inches long, out of stiff paper; using this for a guide, outline as many as you require on one or more sheets of heavy white paper. They may be of different shapes if you so desire. Do not forget to form a band top and bottom simulating the tiny thin wooden framework. Dampen the sheet of paper, dabble on the lantern dots of pink, blue, green, orange, purple, or red water color paint, in any color combination you may wish, and let the colors run together. Paint the top and bottom bands black. When the lanterns are dry they may be decorated with twisting dragons, flowers, or left as they are. Print the names on the lantern with black ink. Cut the lanterns out of the sheet of paper, glue a black thread handle on the top of each on wrong side. Fix some small twigs in blobs of black sealing wax so that the twigs will stand upright, and attach a lantern to each twig. The twig should be small enough to bend forward with the weight of the lantern and let it hang free but if it does not do so, a little sealing wax affixed to the bottom of the lantern will give the desired weight.