Posts in Food Hisotry
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There’s are a lot of fruit in Chinese cuisine which leads to delicious meals but did you ever wonder why? Well, Jacqueline Newman has done the research on why! Check it out below!

Chinese Food Symbolism: Fruits (Part I)

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Foods and Symbolism

Spring Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(1) page(s): 16

Fruits are temple offerings. Did you ever wonder why? What about oranges? Did you get any this past Chinese New Year holiday? Were they fresh? The Chinese love fruits, they like them big and beautiful, and they prefer fresh fruits, though sugared ones are common at this time of year. Fresh fruit at the New Year symbolizes life and a new beginning. Sugared ones are a wish for a sweet year. Traditionally, the pomelo, mandarins or what we call the tangerine or clementine, as well as limes, bananas, pineapple, and water or winter melon are seen as temple offerings. And speaking of traditions, during the harvest festival, the Lunar New Year, and other special occasions, fruits are common gifts, as well as common offerings.

The orange is a prayer or wish for good fortune. That is why it is probably the most common food offering. As a harbinger of wishes for good luck, they are often eaten on the second day of the New Year. Why not the first, because once an Emperor distributed oranges to his officials on the second day of the New Year. Thus you are also wishing for officialdom if you eat them on this day.

The mandarin and other fruits in the citrus family have other interesting roles. For instance, after her wedding, the bride is given two of these fruits by her new in-laws. She is to peel them the evening of the nuptials and share them with her husband. These two fruits are symbolizing a family wish that the bride and groom share a happy and full life together. Also, the name of the mandarin in Cantonese also means gold, clearly a dual wish here adding hopes for a life loaded with prosperity.

I was told that in the north of China two types of dried fruits are placed under the marriage bed, both wishing for many offspring. These are dried lychees and dried longans. The reason for these particular items, the words for them also mean "to have children quickly."

Melons and the pomelo are symbolic of family unity, they hold out the wish that the family will, like the moon, stay round, large, whole, and also united. Families love to share them and many other fruits. That may be why they buy large fruits and share them together.

Pomegranates have special family meaning, too. They symbolizes fertility; this fruit is full of seeds. A picture is often a wedding gift, a special picture with one of these fruits shown half-opened. The meaning is a hundred seeds, or more completely, a hundred sons. The word for seed is zi, it is also the word for sons.

The pomegranate is one fruit not used for sacrifice. The reason, it is considered to be too seductive. If you see a pomegranate on an old sash or cap of office in an ancient painting, the meaning has nothing to do with the seeds of this fruit, rather, it is saying or maybe praying to keep the title or rank from generation to generation in the same family. As in the two meanings for zi, what we call a homonym, only in this case it the word shi which also means generation.

Banana, found on some offering altars are there for other reasons. This fruit's leaves are one of the fourteen precious items to scholars. So on the offering table or altar, you are finding a wish for education, brilliance in work or school, or a related thought.

Apples have meaning, too. They symbolize peace. The word for apple in Chinese is ping, the homonym of ping is peace. Should you wonder what a homonym is, think of the word bear, the big four-legged animal and then think bear as in to bear fruit. Now the blossom of the apple is different; it stands for beauty. If you see one in a picture along with magnolias, the meaning is a hope that your house be honored and rich (with beauty).

Apricots are symbolic, too, they can stand for or mean a beautiful woman. But beauty had best not be to give your husband a red one. If you did, it would tell him that his wife is having an affair with a lover.

The loquat in Chinese is called pipa, which is the name of a Chinese musical instrument. Now this fruit ripens in early spring. So young boys out with less than honorable women were said to be running with loquat blossoms. Peaches portend longevity, and one almost always sees them in the hand of a man. That could be because the peach blossom advises of a somewhat loose lady. One rarely sees these two fruits together. though in real life less han honorable women could be out with young boys.

Pears symbolize something else. For example, lovers should never share a pear because the word for pear is identical to the word for separation. Many fruits are shared, but never is the pear divided with a husband, a lover, or a friend. And, whatever you do, don't give pears as a gift, especially on the 15th day of the 7th month; if you did, you would be wishing a separation from or to someone loved.

Symbols in fruit and other foods are fascinating. Allow me to end with a tripartite Chinese image wishing you (with a peach, a pomegranate, and a finger-lemon) a long life, many sons, and every happiness.

History of Food: Egg Drop Soup
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What are some of your favorite soups at Windchimes Chinese restaurant? Did you know we have more than just Hot and Sour soup?

Egg drop soup or Danhuatang (traditional: 花湯; pinyin: dànhuātāng; literally "egg flower soup") is a Chinese soup of wispy beaten eggs in boiled chicken broth. Condiments such as black pepper or white pepper, and finely chopped scallions and tofu are optional, but commonly added to the soup. The soup is finished by adding a thin stream of beaten eggs to the boiling broth in the final moments of cooking, creating thin, silken strands or flakes of cooked egg that float in the soup. Egg drop soup using different recipes is known to be a simple-to-prepare soup in different East Asian and Western countries.

In the United States, egg drop soup is often one of the main soups offered in American Chinese cuisine, and is also called egg flower soup, a literal translation of its Chinese name, on the menus of some restaurants. Cornstarch may be used to thicken it.

What is Sesame?
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Sesame is a common ingredient in Chinese food but where does it come from?

Sesame  is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum, also called benne. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalized in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods or "buns". World production in 2016 was 6.1 million tonnes, with Tanzania, Myanmar, India, and Sudan as the largest producers.

Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Sesamum has many other species, most being wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa. Sesamum indicum, the cultivated type, originated in India and is tolerant to drought-like conditions, growing where other crops fail.

Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. With a rich, nutty flavor, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world. Like other nuts and foods, it can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Sesame seeds are sometimes sold with the seed coat removed (decorticated); this variety is often present on top of baked goods in many countries.

Sesame seed is a common ingredient in various cuisines. It is used whole in cooking for its rich, nutty flavour. Sesame seeds are sometimes added to breads, including bagels and the tops of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds may be baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks. In Sicily and France, the seeds are eaten on bread (ficelle sésame, sesame thread). In Greece, the seeds are also used in cakes.

History of Food: Lychee Fruit
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Since Lychee is this years lucky fruit I thought we should learn a little more about this history behind it!

Lychee: The lychee is also a spiky red fruit, a bit bigger than a cherry, with a pit surrounded by an inedible peel and somewhat translucent milky flesh. It is very high in Vitamin C and is juicy and sweet with a pleasing hint of tartness. It’s mostly eaten fresh but can also be canned. It can be found in many frozen yogurt places in the U.S. as a popular topping. It is also a popular flavor for many Asian drinks, snacks, and dessert products.

It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, where cultivation is documented from 1059 AD. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa. A tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes.

What are some of your favorite Lychee treats?


Fruit in Chinese Food
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As I slowly eat my way through the Windchimes Menu I realized that there were a lot of dishes that included an ingredient that typically isn’t part of a main dish: Fruit. I was curious why this was such a staple in Chinese food ranging from Orange, Mango, to even Pineapple. I dug around to see why this was an important ingredient to some of my favorite dishes and here’s what I found:

One way chefs create new dishes is to make use of fruits in season. Doing so produces dishes with new color, texture, and flavor. When fruits are not in season they need not despair, but use them dehydrated. They can and do use fruits such as raisons, dried apricots, sugared preserved fruits such as jams, and even canned and frozen fruits.

In southern cooking, such as that around Guangzhou, chefs make use of local fresh fruits frequently using peaches, lychees and longans. Perhaps because of influences from neighboring south sea islands, they also find and use pineapples, bananas, coconuts, and rambutans. In the mid-Yangtze valley in and around Shanghai, Hwaiyang and Yangzhou, chefs use fresh apples, dates, and pears and their preserved relatives. In the north, around Beijing and Shandung, apples, apricots, pears, persimmons, and dates are popular fresh and dried. And in the west, chefs from the Hunan and Sichuan provinces add fruits to their spicy dishes including oranges, longans, and lychees to satisfy their yen for sweet in their dishes. Occasionally sweet dishes without spiciness are even used departing from the routine flavorings in this region.

Since Chinese do not make clear demarcations between medicinal herbs and fruits or vegetables, in their cooking they also use herbs such as dried san tza which are crab apples or go ji better known as Lyceum Chinese. Both of these herb-fruits have a slight sweet and an acidic taste; people like them because they are good for you and highly nutritious.

So, next time you are in check out some of the dishes that include fruit and think about how great it is to be able to have this dish all year round!

Food for Thought: Chinese and Japanese Cuisine
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Here’s a great expert from an article about Chinese and Japanese food culture in the United States:

Chinese food has been part of American food culture for as long as most of us can remember, thanks to the pioneering emigrants who opened early Chinese restaurants. The chop suey and chow mein our grandparents associated with Chinese food, however, were created to please the American customer. Real Chinese food ranges from the elegant simplicity of Cantonese cuisine to the fiery flavors of Sichuan fare, and there are no canned sprouts involved. The tofu of China is of the very firm, porous style, sturdy enough to stir-fry. Fermented black beans, which are actually black soy beans, supply a wonderfully funky flavor that goes well with a little sesame oil and chile. Toasted sesame  and hot sesame oils are both meant to be used as flavoring agents, not cooking oils. Seafood and vegetable dishes are often flavored with a drizzle of nutty sesame oil to give them a meaty quality, so try doing the same with your own seafood and vegetable creations. Sesame paste is used in sauces and dressings, and when I can't find the Chinese variety (made from toasted sesame seeds), I substitute tahini (made from untoasted sesame seeds), to make Chinese style noodle sauces and dressings. Try stirring some with soy sauce, sugar and vinegar and drizzling over salad or a stir fry just before serving. Dried vegetables, like dried mushrooms or cabbage, are important flavors in the Chinese kitchen, and I use dried mushrooms to add heartiness to vegetable stocks and stir fries.

Japanese food has become synonymous with sushi and tempura, but those popular dishes are just the beginning. Slow simmered stews, grilled skewers of meats and vegetables, savory pancakes and endless noodles are just a few more. The Japanese gave us silken style tofu, the slippery soft kind that is usually floated in the miso soup I love. Miso is just one of the many fermented and pickled foods developed centuries ago as a way to preserve food that endures today and enhances the flavor of so many Japanese dishes. Tamari, shoyu, rice wine and rice vinegar are other fermented, deep aged flavors. Use tamari and shoyu for salt in darker colored dishes, and substitute rice vinegar—with its wonderful tang—for white or red vinegar in dressings.  Most of us might never have tried seaweed if not for sushi or miso soup, but sea vegetables are a way of life in Japan. I like to crumble nori over salads, add soaked arame to soups, or add a piece of kombu to simmering beans, which is said to make them more digestible, and certainly adds minerals.

Both China and Japan are known for their use of very fresh ingredients, whether it's dispatching freshly caught fish right into the pan, or frequent shopping trips to pick up the freshest produce. As a chef and eater, I appreciate this practice, as well as their convention of stretching a small piece of meat by stir-frying it with lots of vegetables and accompanying it with rice and noodles for a satisfying and filling meal.

Food Facts: Benefits of Eating Nuts
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In general, nuts are good sources of fat, fiber and protein.

Most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. However, they do contain some saturated fat.

Nuts also pack a number of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin E.

Many studies have investigated the health benefits of increased nut intake.

One meta-analysis of 33 studies found that diets high in nuts do not significantly affect weight gain or weight loss .

Yet, despite having little effect on weight, many studies have shown that people who eat nuts live longer than those who don't. This may be due to their ability to help prevent a number of chronic diseases.

For example, nuts may reduce risk factors for metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels .

There are several yummy dishes at Windchimes that include a type of nut like our Honey Glazed Shrimp, any Kung Pao dishes, any Cashew dishes, and my favorite Honey Glazed Cashew Chicken!

Unique Vegetables in Chinese Food: Bamboo Shoots
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China is a large continent which in turn brings a lot of different food varieties. One vegetable that is seen in a lot of different Chinese cuisines in Bamboo shoots. What are they you ask?

As the name implies, bamboo shoots are the edible shoots of the bamboo plant, which is native to Asia. They are cut from the plant once they appear above the ground to preserve their tenderness and because if they are left to grow exposed, they will turn a green color. 

Fresh bamboo shoots are available at Asian or Chinese markets, or you can find canned bamboo shoots at most local grocery stores. Fresh shoots need to be boiled until tender, then husked and cut into pieces. Canned bamboo shoots only need to be heated since they are pre-cooked.

You may have eaten bamboo shoots at a Chinese restaurant as they are often part of a stir-fry. You can try them at home in almost any stir-fry dish, including stir-fry beef with bamboo shoots and stir-fry mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

Next time you order your favorite dish from Windchimes thing…does this have Bamboo shoots in it?

 
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Pad Thai: Food History
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What is Pad Thai?

Pad thai is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and is flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar and served with lime wedges and often chopped roasted peanuts. It may contain other vegetables like bean sprouts, garlic chives, pickled radishes or turnips, and raw banana flowers. It may also contain fresh shrimp, crab, squid, chicken or other animal products. Many of the ingredients are provided on the side as condiments such as the red chili pepper, lime wedges, roasted peanuts, bean sprouts and other miscellaneous fresh vegetables. Vegetarian versions may substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce and omit the shrimp.


Where did it come from?

A dish of stir-fried rice noodles is thought by some to have been introduced to Ayutthaya during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom by Chinese traders and subsequently altered to reflect Thai flavor profiles.

During World War II, Thailand suffered a rice shortage due to the war and floods. To reduce domestic rice consumption, the Thai government under Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram promoted eating noodles instead. His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle called sen chan (named after Chanthaburi Province) was created. Pad thai has since become one of Thailand's national dishes. Today, some food vendors add pork or chicken (although the original recipe did not contain pork because of the government's perception that pork was a Chinese meat). Some food vendors still use the original recipe.

Come in to Windchimes today to try our version! You wont’ be disappointed!

The Tien Tisn Pepper
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One thing Chinese food has is great flavor! From sweet to savory it showcases how pleasurable eating can be.

One main element they use in dishes are peppers. They can range from a slight heat to making your mouth feel on fire. A common pepper used a lot in dishes is the Tien Tsin Pepper. You may know Tien Tsin peppers by another, more descriptive name – Chinese red peppers. These are the surprisingly hot, dried chilies that you sometimes find in you Kung Pao chicken or one of many other Szechuan or Hunan dishes. They’re popular to use as a flavoring spice that are removed prior to serving (unless you order your meal extra hot).

Can you eat the Tien Tsin Pepper? Think of it as a small cayenne peppers with extra pop and you’ll be on the right path for both looks and tastes. Tien Tsin chilies are branch-like thin, one to two inches in length. They age from green to a vibrant red, at which time they are picked and dried for their typical usage

The Tien Tsin pepper’s slimness is very reminiscent of cayenne, and it has a neutral, almost musty, flavor behind the heat similar to cayenne too. This is not a complex chili in terms of flavor; the heat is the star here. And that certainly colors how it is used in the kitchen.

All in all it’s a great element to any Chinese dish and makes each bite DELICIOUS!

Tien Tisn Pepper in Kung Pao Trio (look for the pepper flakes in the dish!)

Tien Tisn Pepper in Kung Pao Trio (look for the pepper flakes in the dish!)