Archive for August, 2010

I could’ve posted about making chicken stock out of the wing tips that the store discarded using the already established convention of calling chicken feet phoenix claws, I expanded the idea. Hope you like it.

Once upon a time, animals such rats, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, horses, and cows had magical powers to serve the gods. There were other magical animals such as dragons and phoenixes that also existed and roamed the earth.

A young dragon named Long and a young phoenix named Feng were favorites of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. They lived in the mountains near the village of Bei. Although Long and Feng did not live in the village (dragons and phoenixes tended to be shy) the villagers were friendly enough so that all could co-exist peacefully.

The villagers would share their vegetables and meats with Long and Feng. In return Long would help provide fire for the ovens and hearths in the village.

Long would also put on colorful fire shows for the village. After eating hot rocks, onions, garlic, and the like,  Long would often have to burp. When Long burped, he expelled flames that could reach hundreds of feet.  Depending on what he ate, Long’s flame would burn in different colors.

Feng was different. When she flew, she became almost pure fire. She could light up the darkest nights, looking like a comet with streaks of flames following in her wake. She helped the villagers see at night when they foraged for mushrooms or look for lost children.

Another animal with magical powers also lived in the village, and kept a very low profile. He was a rat named Lao Shu sent by Guan Yin. Because Long and Feng were very young (both were less than one thousand years old), Guan Yin asked Lao Shu to look after them. Lao Shu also served as the village herbalist and made ointments and tonics when the villagers became sick or injured.

Although this village lived in peace, the situation was different in many parts of the world. Warlords ravaged areas trying to extend their kingdoms or demolish their enemies.

One such warlord, was so fierce and feared, he was known only as the Warlord. One night, while he was scouting for more territory to conquer, he came across the village of Bei. That night Feng was helping Lao Shu look for herbs that only could be harvested at night.

The Warlord knew that dragons and phoenixes often lived or traveled in pairs. He decided to kidnap the phoenix to expose the dragon. He would then use both of them as weapons to further his conquests.

The Warlord sneaked up behind Feng and threw a water-soaked net over Feng. The net extinguished her flame and knocked her unconscious. He then cut off her wing tips so that she would not be able to fly. After her wings were clipped, Feng could no longer contain her magical properties and turned into a chicken.

Chicken in Tall Grass by Jessica Coulter Smith

The Warlord was too fast for Lao Shu to react. The only thing he could do was to follow the Warlord and his men back to camp. Before following them, Lao Shu picked-up Feng’s wingtips and put them in his pouch.

The net that Feng was caught in was so cold and wet, she caught a fever. Lao Shu was so small that he escaped the notice of the Warlord and his men. He was able to get close to Feng. Lao Shu tried to reattach the wing tips but couldn’t. He gave her some bitter herbs to chew to help with her fever and told her not to worry, he would return.

As he was running back to the village, Long came flying by and picked him up. He sensed that something happened to Feng and went looking for her. When Lao Shu explained what happened, Long wanted to storm the camp. Lao Shu stopped him and told him he had a plan. If Long stormed the camp now, he, Feng, and probably the villagers would be killed and the village destroyed.

Long and Lao Shu returned to the village and gathered the villagers. Lao Shu had the villagers gather all the garlic, peppers, ginger, raw soybeans, and onions they could. Lao Shu had Long gorge himself with the garlic, some of the peppers, the raw soybeans, and onions along with all the hot rocks he could handle. Lao Shu made a tonic with Feng’s wingtips, rice wine, the rest of the peppers, and ginger. Lao Shu had to restore Feng’s qi balance, her magic.

Before dawn, Lao Shu sneaked into the warlord’s camp and spoon fed her his tonic and told her to be ready at dusk. Just before dusk, Lao Shu had Long and the villagers hide outside of the warlord’s camp. All the vegetables and rocks that Long ate began to churn in his stomach. The villagers had to keep rubbing his stomach so he wouldn’t peak too soon.

At dusk, Feng felt her magic returning. Long started to fly in a circle around the camp. The gases that built up in his stomach were creating flames that were coming out of both ends of Long were the largest he ever made in all the colors of the rainbow. The Warlord and his men were temporarily blinded by the brilliance of the flame. Long’s flames also produced a stink that disoriented the warlord and his men. Feng turned back into a phoenix with her flames burning brighter and stronger than ever. The Warlord’s men that were closest to Feng were turned to ash. In the confusion, the villagers captured the Warlord and his men.

Image by Nela Dunato, Used with Permission

Guan Yin presided over the trial of the Warlord and his men. Although Guan Yin is the goddess of mercy, the capture and torture of Feng, and the death and destruction they caused to villagers and villages they conquered was unforgivable. Guan Yin turned the warlord and the remaining men into ducks. They had to travel the earth and see the devastation they caused.

Feng was reunited with Long and the villagers. Guan Yin covered the village with a mist so that no one else could find them. The mist also protected Long, Feng, and the villagers from aging and sickness. A few months later, the villagers caught ducks that were bullying other ducks and animals in the pond. The villagers, with the help of Long and Feng roasted the duck so that their skin was crispy.

Chinese Roasted Ducks

Because of the mist that Guan Yin used to protect the village, the need for Lao Shu’s services as an herbalist became less and less. Guan Yin asked if he would assist a general named Sun Tzu. For the next couple of years, he helped the general maintain his health. Lao Shu also had some suggestions for the general in battle strategies (but that’s another tale).

Thanks for indulging me with my tale. Food and eating should involve as many senses as possible. When I know the background or story of an ingredient, food, or dish, I become more interested.

After all that, I bought a package of chicken wing tips over the weekend (very cheap, little over one dollar). I think they chopped off the tips to use the rest of the wing sections for drumettes.

Chicken Wing Tips

I made a simple broth with the wing tips, Shao Xing wine, and ginger.

Chicken Wing Tip Soup

After the broth was done, I removed the wing tips and soaked them in Shao Xing wine (drunken wing tips).

Wing Tips in Shao Xing Wine

The broth will be used for either a base for vegetables, saimin, or look fun noodles.

Chicken Broth

The broth did not contain as much collagen as chicken feet, but it still jelled.

Here are the references for the pictures I used from other sources:

The image of the phoenix is from an artist from Croatia, Nela Dunato. When I asked for her permission to use the image, she replied that she was not thrilled to associate her image of the phoenix with chickens, but gave her approval anyway, thank you. I hope I used the image to her liking. I like many of her images at her website: http://inobscuro.com/

Hope you liked my attempt at elevating something as mundane as chicken broth to something different. If not, I’ll send Long after you. Just kidding. 🙂

Chinese Dragon


The Mouse

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The other day, I bought thick sliced belly pork from our local Korean market.

Thick Sliced Belly Pork

Our Qi Master suggested we marinate the pork in hua jiao and Shao Xing wine. I separated the slices out into five portions. Into each container I tossed in some hua jiao and poured some Shao Xing wine.

Marinated Pork Belly

The containers went into either the refrigerator or freezer.

Hua jiao, also known as Szechuan pepper is the outer pod of a fruit.

Szechuan Pepper

More information is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper.

The first time I went to Chinatown to look for hua jiao, it was like buying some kind of illicit drug. The shopkeeper got a package from under the counter and quickly put it in an unmarked bag. She almost whispered the price and quickly took my money (if I remember correctly, the package was about $1.50.).

Sorry, got off track for a bit. The next day, I stir-fried the pork with cabbage.

Marinated Pork Belly with Cabbage

I love kalua pork with cabbage. I prefer more cabbage and a little bit of kalua pork. Sometimes the restaurants will be too generous with the kalua pork which throws off the balance. When you eat pork and beans do you expect pork and beans? Same concept. I want just a little bit of meat to flavor the cabbage or beans. I’m probably in the minority with this.

Anyway, The Cat liked the marinated pork flavor, and she always likes cabbage. A quick and easy dish to throw together.


The Mouse

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Zhong Zi, Revisited

Back in July, I posted about zhong zi, the Chinese steamed glutinous rice packages (see 9 July 2010 post). At that time, I didn’t have pictures for “plain” zhong zi. I do now. I’ve always known this as “plain” zhong zi but the Wikipedia article calls it jianshui zong. The rice is treated with lye water (aqueous sodium carbonate), giving them their distinctive yellow color (information from Wikipedia). This a picture of the wrapped zhong zi.

Wrapped Zhong Zi

In comparison to the zhong zi with filling, this “plain” zhong zi is “rectangle” shaped instead of “triangle” shaped. Here’s the zhong zi after its been disrobed.

Zhong Zi, Disrobed

The rice has a yellow color from the treatment with lye water. Here’s the dissected view.

Zhong Zi, Dissected

The rice in the middle is colored red from the piece of stem/stick that placed in the zhong zi (upper left of the zhong zi). I’ve asked what the coloring is for years and I’ve still not found the answer.

Growing up, I always choose the “plain” zhong zi over the filled ones. I used to (and still do) eat it with a sprinkling of sugar. The Mouse has a sweet tooth.

Here’s the Wikipedia article (if you missed it the first time): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zongzi.


The Mouse

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Koshihikari Echigo Beer

A couple of posts ago (see 26 August 2010 post), I showed you our inventory of bottle openers based on Beijing opera masks. I thought I would follow-up with Koshihikari Echigo beer. We are not big beer or alcohol drinkers (maybe once every couple of months). But we do enjoy trying different beverages once in a while. This pattern does not include trips to China (that’s a whole different ball game for another post).

Several people recommended this beer to us. they described as being light and refreshing. One of the different things about it is that one of the ingredients is rice. I couldn’t find the company’s website.

Koshihikari Echigo Beer

The Cat and I shared this bottle purchased at our Japanese membership warehouse market. The beer was indeed light and refreshing. We were not able to taste the rice. I tasted a slight sweet aftertaste. For some reason, it reminds me of ginger ale soda. The beer has a 5 percent alcohol content. It’s brewed and bottled by the Echigo Beer Company in Niigata, Japan. The artwork on the label was also a plus.

I think the beer would pair well with sashimi and sushi (perfect for us).

Gan Bei! Kanpai!

The Mouse

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Sardine Sandwich

A couple of weeks ago, I visited The Willows restaurant for their buffet lunch (see 21 August 2010 post). On display at the restaurant was one of their old menus describing their world-renowned curry,


daily favorites,

Daily Favorites

and sandwiches.

Sandwiches and Desserts

Can you imagine getting a complete lunch for around three dollars?

The staff could not tell me what year(s) the menu was in effect.  Understandable since the restaurant changed hands a couple of times since opening 4 July 1947. I wonder if they need the services of a researcher? 🙂

Besides the prices, I was interested in one of their sandwich selections. Can you guess which one? It’s the seventh from the top. The answer: sardine sandwich!

I grew up with tuna sandwiches. When I was a little mouse, sardines were rare in our house because they were deemed “too fishy.” The only time we ate sardines is when my father would sneak a can in the house when he was in charge of dinner. His version was sardines, soda crackers, and butter.

When I make sandwiches, I tend to keep them very simple. I think it stems when I was little and sandwiches with too much stuffing would always fall apart on me. I also think that it’s hard to “taste” a sandwich with too many ingredients. That’s just me.

I used sardines packed in soybean oil, wheat germ bread, a touch of mayonnaise on one side and a combination of mustard and ketchup on the other side in honor of other sardines packed in tomato or mustard sauce (lol).

Sardine Sandwich, Open Faced

Sardine Sandwich, Cross-Cut View

It was very good. Although next time I will toast the bread.

Although The Cat likes sardines, she prefers them with rice, pasta, or noodles, and furikake (just like real cat food).

If you are interested, here are links to The Willows restaurant:



Sardine sandwich, peanut butter sandwich, grilled cheese sandwich, yum.


The Mouse

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