Cook Chinese...: July 2006 Cook Chinese...

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Jiuling (Drinking Games)

At the very beginning, alcohol was mainly a beverage in the ceremonial rites. The drinking games, Jiuling called in Chinese, were just aids for drinking. Certainly there were other aids for drinking, such as archery, chess playing and arrow pitching. Aimed to restrict overdrinking to keep drinkers be gentlemen and preserve courtesy of the time, there were even special designated officials to manage these aids for drinking. Later, drinking games which added entertainment to rites, gradually became artifice to persuade, wager and force overdrinking. Jiuling is a unique part of Chinese culture.

Now Jiuling has many forms, depending on the drinker's social status, literacy status and interests, which can be classified into three categories - general game, contest game and literal game.

General game includes those games every body can play, such as joke telling, riddling and Chuanhua (passing flowers one by one). This category usually appears on banquet for ladies.

Contest game consists of archery, arrow pitching, chess playing, dicing, finger guessing and animal betting. Among these, the latter two are common.

In finger guessing, two players stretch out their right hands, with several fingers sticking out while the others closing to their palm and at the same time, each of them, usually roars a number from nil to ten. If fingers sticking out adds up and the sum equals to a player's number, then he wins and the loser will have to drink. There are many differences in different regions.

Animal betting is a very interesting game every Chinese can play. In the game, one uses his Chopstick to tap the other player's chopstick and at the same time speaks out one of four terms. The other does the same. There are four terms: stick, tiger, cock and insect. The regulations are simple: Stick beats tiger; tiger eats cock; cock pecks insect; insect bores stick.

Literal game is mainly popular in bookworms since they receive good education and have refined knowledge and know the essence of Chinese traditional culture. Intellectuals sometimes play the other two category drinking games too, however they consider those games vulgar. Beaux-esprit and cultured ladies prefer the elegant game, literal game.

Usually literal game is unique and artful literal contest, which requires superior wisdom, broad knowledge sphere and fast response. In order to animate atmosphere, players will do their best to produce original, novel, unpredicted and extremely fine literal pieces improvitori, with quotations from scriptures, history, poems, proverbs, and fairy tales embedded. Many Jiulings of this category, very artistic, are pleasingly worthy of literary appreciation. Bai Juyi, one of Chinese greatest poets, even thought elegant Jiuling was much more interesting than music accompaniment.

Alcohol in Chinese Culture

Alcohol and its use in China

  • Sacrifice ceremony - first and still remaining use of alcohol to show respect to ancestors and gods.
  • Warrior foy - Chinese usually will toast for their warriors' victory before their departure.
  • Triumph celebration - military tradition held after victory.
  • Banquet - alcohol appears on the state banquet, business banquet and family feast.
  • Cold resisting - Chinese people have used it to resist cold for thousands years.

Alcohol and arts

Alcohol had great impact on Chinese artists than any other ones, since many of them produced their peak-of-perfection masterpieces drunken, right after drinking. Being drunk and into the state of free production was and is the important tip Chinese artists resort to free their artistic creativity. Many famous poets, such as Li Bai and Du Fu, had excellent performance and left us surprisingly marvelous poems after drinking the mysterious liquid. Not only poem but also painting and calligraphy were raised to higher level by the aid of alcohol. Wang Xizhi, Chinese famous calligrapher respectfully called Calligraphy Saint, retried dozens of times to overwhelm his most outstanding work, Lantingxu (Orchid Pavilion Prologue) which was finished when he was drunken, and he failed. The original one was the best.

Alcohol and health

Chinese people do believe that moderate drinking of alcohol is good to health and excessive drinking will jeopardize physical constitution. As a result, few Chinese, although there are some, will cling to bottles. However, many Chinese do sip a little alcoholic beverage at intervals to keep them fresh and healthy. Some even soak traditional Chinese medicine into liquor to achieve better effect, which was proved to be successful.

Alcohol and sociality

In China, alcohol has internal connection with sociality. Drinking provides more chances for one to make more friends as the old saying says, "Frequent drinking makes friends surrounding". Moreover, alcohol also serves effectively to deepen and strengthen friendship. Since it shows one's friendliness alcohol is always used to relieve misunderstanding and hatred which no matter how strong is.

Alcohol and business

Banquet, is the place where businessmen hunt business chance and slightest rip and change can be discovered and their rivals' business information may be on your hand and help you take the rein, thus greet your success. Certainly, banquet will form, strengthen and consolidate business partnership and alcohol, of course, plays a very important role.

Alcohol and entertainment

Most people have alcohol just for entertainment. It is used to add to the fun during festive times to highlight the happy and exciting moment due to its inciting effect. Surrounding tables and playing drinking games, with glass clinking, people will soar up both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, there are always some drunk after too much consumption.

Alcohol and military

In the vicissitudes of dynasties, wars followed all the way. Alcohol was the only entertainment of the military in the time of cold weapons. It was used as stimulants and rewards for the army men. The stimulating agent can make cowards brave and stir up the exhausted and heighten the morale of the army. Therefore it was the most important and effective material resorted to raise morale before and in the campaign and reward the triumphant military after. According to history records, in the Warring States period, Qin Mugong of the Qing kingdom, poured the insufficient liquor into the Yellow River and drunk with his soldiers. There were many stories like this, and generals who did this always won their wars. In historical novels, alcohol and battles frequently cohabited. Such as in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu, the Chinese Ares, chopped Hua Xiong's head off while his wine was still warm; Zhang Fei, pretending drunk, captured his enemy's fortress easily. In the novel, almost every chapter associates with alcohol.

Chinese Alcohol Overview

Many Chinese alcoholic drinks are quite distinctive from those of other countries and foreign visitors coming across them for the first time may a little wary of them. However, once they have tasted a sample or two, they may well acquire a taste for the various drinks available and find they really enjoy them!

An important component of Chinese cuisine and culture, the use of alcohol can be traced back to the dawn of the nation's history. Over the centuries many different kinds of alcoholic drinks have been developed and brewing methods as well as distillation has become more sophisticated. At the same time the way of consuming these desirable products has become a vital part of custom and culture.

Alcoholic beverages have inspired many writers resulting in thousands of poems and other works relative to 'the magic elixir'. People drink it when they are joyous and for fun and although we are aware that an over indulgence can harm the constitution, nevertheless drinking in moderation is considered beneficial. No banquet would be complete without it, while a toast can seal a business enterprise, send troops into battle with a prayer for victory as well as endorse a wish for the health and happiness of family and friends. One of the classic examples of the ceremonial use of alcohol is described in the famous story "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". The three heroes in the epic tale, become blood brothers by drinking bowls of wine into which they have mixed drops of their own blood from cuts in their fingers! This act may seem extreme but was a symbol of faithfulness in those days.

Chinese Alcohol - Introduction

Alcohol is part of Chinese folklore. In ancient China, since alcohol was regarded as sacred liquid only when people made sacrificial offerings to the Heaven and the Earth or ancestors was it used. After the Zhou dynasty, alcohol was deemed as one of the Nine Rites and every dynasty put much emphasis on alcohol administration to set up special ministries to manage alcohol producing and banqueting. Later, along with the development of zymotechnics and brewery, alcohol became ordinary drink. Thus, many customs concerning alcohol formed and evolved which had and have various relationships with our daily life.

In modern China, alcohol remains its important role in folklore despite many social vicissitudes. It still appears in almost all social activities, and the most common circumstances are birthday party for seniors, wedding feast and sacrifice ceremony in which liquor must be the main drink to show happiness or respect.

Chinese Alcohol

  • Chinese Alcohol - Introduction

  • Chinese Alcohol Overview

  • Chinese Alcohol - Classification

  • Alcohol in Chinese Culture

  • Jiuling (Drinking Games)

  • How To Pair Wine with Chinese Food
  • Monday, July 24, 2006

    Beef With Rice Noodles

    3 servings

    16 ounces fresh rice noodles
    8 ounces beef, very thinly sliced (1/16 inch thick) across the grain
    Vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, as needed
    1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger
    1/2 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions (spring onions, scallions)
    1 tablespoon chopped garlic
    1 tablespoon fermented black beans (soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
    2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water

    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon rice wine (or dry sherry)
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    5 tablespoons water
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

    Rinse the rice noodles in boiling water and drain.
    Marinate the beef for 1 hour in the marinade ingredients.
    Heat the wok and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger. Stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the beef.
    Stir-fry the beef for 20 seconds, or until the color changes. Add the green onion, garlic, and the fermented black beans.
    Add the noodles, heat and then add the salt, sugar, black pepper, sesame oil and the cornstarch slurry. Stir for another minute and serve hot.
    you can also add dried chiles or chili paste if desired.

    Enjoy this easy stir-fry

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    How To Pair Wine with Chinese Food

    When it comes to alcoholic beverages, beer is often touted as the drink of choice to serve with Chinese food. In fact, the Chinese have been avid wine drinkers for centuries. But unlike the French and Italian grape wines, traditional, grain-based Chinese wines haven't caught on in the west. Part of the problem - aside from the sheer difficulty of finding a liquor store or restaurant that carries Chinese wine - may be its high alcohol content. For example, Shaohsing, a traditional sherry-like wine made by fermenting sweetened rice or millet, can pack a whopping 18 percent alcohol. And then there's the notorious Mao Tai: a fiery, 55 proof concoction served to foreign dignitaries at diplomatic banquets.

    Recently, the Chinese have been experimenting with grape and other fruit wines. Lychee wine, plum wine, and a honey grape wine made from white wine and honey are all on the market. Unfortunately, like rice wine, the selection of Chinese fruit wine in liquor stores and restaurants is not likely to increase anytime soon (although I recently enjoyed a grape wine from Northern China). But the difficulty in obtaining Chinese spirits doesn't mean you must forego wine with your meal altogether. There are several French, German, and Californian wines that are well suited to Chinese cuisine.

    When choosing a wine, consider where the various dishes you are sampling originated. China is a huge country, with regional differences in climate and resources, and each region has developed its own culinary style.

    For highly spiced Szechuan dishes, try a Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer literally means "spice grapes" and the California variant in particular has a "spicy-peach" flavour with a hint of ginger. Other possibilities include a French Puilly Fousse or a Sauvignon Blanc.

    Known as China's "haute cuisine," Cantonese dishes are much more subtly seasoned. For the best result try a sweet fruity wine, such as a German Riesling. Meanwhile, a red Bordeaux is particularly appropriate for Shanghai cuisine. Dishes such as Lion's Head - large pork meatballs, topped with cabbage to suggest a lion's mane - are quite rich, and the tannin in the wine cuts the grease. A Merlot works well with Peking cuisine, which often features heavier meats like duck and beef. So does a burgundy such as Pinot Noir.

    Of course, there's nothing to say that you can't enjoy a cold brew with your Chinese food. Beer is especially suited to spicier dishes, and, unlike wine, Chinese beer - especially Tsing Tao - is readily obtainable. Or you can stick with your own personal favorite. And cocktail aficionados may want to try some of the alcoholic concoctions listed below. Kan Pei! ("Bottoms up").

    Autor: Rhonda Parkinson

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Pan Fried Noodles

    4 servings

    1/2 pound barbecued pork strips
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    1 pound fresh thin noodles
    1 tablespoon thin soy sauce
    Peanut oil
    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry
    2/3 cup chicken broth

    1 tablespoon oyster sauce
    2 tablespoon peanut oil
    1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 T cold
    1 pound bok choy -- in 2-in sections
    - chicken broth

    Blanch 1 pound of fresh noodles in boiling water to wash away the starch and to loosen them up (about 2 minutes). Drain them well. Scatter the noodles in a baking pan. Use a pair of chopsticks and your hands to untangle them as much as possible. Put a layer of the noodles 1-inch deep in each of 2 large, heavy skillets. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/3 cup chicken broth in each. Cook
    over a low flame until the broth boils away and the bottom becomes brown and crisp. From time to time, add a little oil and broth to keep the noodles moist and allow the crust to develop slowly. This should take about 10-to-12 minutes. To flip, first shake the pan to make sure the cake is not stuck to the bottom (if it is, dribble some oil around the edge to loosen it). Cover the pan with a wide lid. Flip the skillet over, holding the lid firmly. The cake will drop onto the lid. Slide the cake back into the pan to brown it on the other side. Add more oil around the edge if it seems to be sticking. To serve, slide it out onto a plate and use it as a base for any dish with sauce.

    TO MAKE THE PORK AND VEGETABLE SAUCE: Heat the peanut oil in a wok. When it is hot, add the bok choy and stir-fry to coat with oil. Add the pieces of pork and stir-fry to heat through. Add the broth. Stir in the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and oyster sauce. When the sauce is hot, thicken it with the dissolved cornstarch and serve on the bed of pan-fried noodles.

    This is a basic chow mein. You can add meat or vegetables as you like.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Crab & Shrimp Toast

    6-8 servings
    Preparation: ~15 mins.

    8 slices white bread
    8 ounces cooked peeled shrimp
    8 ounces cooked lump crabmeat
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    4 garlic cloves, crushed
    2 teaspoons sesame oil
    2 large eggs
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds, fryied
    oil, for frying

    Remove crusts from the bread.
    Using a food processor, blend shrimp & half of: soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and egg until a smooth paste has formed.
    Proceed same way with crab meat & rest of other ingredients.
    Spread pastes evenly on top of bread.
    Sprinkle bread with sesame seeds and press them into spread.
    Cut bread from corner to corner twice, to form small triangles.
    Heat oil in wok and fry toasts, sesame side up, for 4 to 5 min, until golden.

    WARNING: watch them carefully. they may take considerably less than 4 min to become golden. Drain toasts thoroughly.

    Serve with sweet and sour sauce.