Chocolate Tofu Pie

March 21, 2017

China was making tofu from soybeans more than two thousand years ago.

Shape.com says, ““Generally, less processed soy products, like tofu, are safe and healthy for most people. On the other hand, heavily processed soy-based products should be consumed in moderation, if at all,” advises Ochner, who says edamame, fermented soy, and tofu are considered among the healthiest in the soy family.

When in China, I get up early to go to the nearest market that makes fresh soy juice and I buy it without sugar or sweetener added. There is no comparison. It’s warm. It’s fresh. It’s China. It’s different from the genetically altered, American, factory-farmed soy juice sold in American markets. That stuff is “yuk” and I don’t touch it.

The Chinese invented tofu, but some Americans are reinventing it. For instance, I was introduced to Chocolate Tofu Pie at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa, California, and I was hooked,.

Back home, I figured out how to make it by experimenting. The following recipe was the result.

Ingredients:

  • Two 10-ounce containers of soft or silken organic tofu
  • Two four-ounce packages of baker’s, unsweetened chocolate—but use only six of the ounces. This chocolate has no milk or sweeteners added.  Use six ounces of the eight.
  • One bag of malt-sweetened chocolate bits. There are no dairy or refined sugars in this chocolate. Use half of this bag. If you skip this ingredient, add more of the baker’s, unsweetened chocolate.
  • Agave nectar. This low absorbing sweetener is absorbed into the body slowly. You can use any sweeter you want.
  • One package of ready-made whole-wheat pie crust (recommended for fiber). You could also make a pie crust out of dates and nuts (see next video)
  • Use one tablespoon of arrowroot for a thickener

Directions:

  • Mix the tofu in a blender with the arrowroot or another natural thickener.
  • Heat the chocolate in a pan (double boiler hopefully) until melted and pour into blended tofu and mix.
  • Add the Agave nectar.
  • Taste to make sure it is sweet enough and that the bitterness from the baker’s chocolate is gone. Add more Agave if desired. Our daughter enjoys this step the most, since she is the taster.
  • Blend until it is all one smooth color.
  • Pour equally into the pie pans.
  • Put pies in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Let pies cool after cooking; put in refrigerator after they are cool.

The pies will be ready the next day.

Note: I usually shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for the ingredients used in the tofu chocolate pie.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Eating Out in China’s Oldest Capital

February 14, 2017

In 1999, in China’s oldest capital, our hotel was in sight of Xian’s city walls.  We had a view of the ancient battlements that were several hundred years old and sinking. At night, the walls and towers were outlined with white Christmas lights.

I ached to get up there and walk on those walls that were wide enough to drive cars on.  I’d have to wait more than nine years before that happened.

To get an idea of the history of this city, it helps to know that it was the capital longer than any other city in China, and was first called Chang’an before it became known as Xian.

Several dynasties ruled China from this city:

BC 221-206 – Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty
BC 206 – 9 AD – Han Dynasty
581-618 AD – Sui Dynasty
618-906 AD – Tang Dynasty
Timeline of Chinese History and Dynasties

Beijing wouldn’t become the capital of China until 1279 AD during the Yuan Dynasty when Kublai Khan was emperor.

On our second day in Xian, we walked from the hotel and through an opening in the ancient wall into the city to a Xian restaurant. I went in first and the hostess, who didn’t speak a word of English, handed me a menu written in English.

Anchee, dressed more like a Chinese peasant than an American, walked in after me, and she was handed a menu written in Chinese. Then she glanced over my shoulder at my menu before taking it out of my hands and giving it back to the hostess.

“We’ll use the Chinese menu,” she said. Anchee grew up in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and didn’t leave until she was 28.

The prices in Mandarin were less than half the English version.  A stunned look appeared on the hostesses face.  It was a Candid Camera moment, and it was all I could do not to laugh.

This doesn’t mean every restaurant in China does this. In fact, most don’t. The double menu caper was probably the idea of the owner of that specific restaurant in a city known for tourism due to the Terra Cotta warriors and the tomb of China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

Discover The Return of Confucious

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Eating Bird Nests

September 28, 2016

The idea of eating soup made from bird saliva gives me the shivers. However, there is a history behind this Southeast Asian delicacy and there may be health benefits but also some degree of danger for a few people.

Myths say the Chinese have been eating bird saliva for 1,500 years since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). But another myth says China’s most famous eunuch, Admiral Zheng Hi, brought these nests made from bird saliva back to China in the 15th century.

What we do know for sure is that the Chinese have been making soup from imported swiftlet nests from Southeast Asia for centuries.

A few comprehensive scientific studies in Asia and China in the 1990s revealed that this particular bird saliva appears to play a crucial role in major normal cellular processes and may help resist the effects of aging.

However, the Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology reported that for a few people there is a major risk of an allergic reaction after eating Bird’s Nest Soup that might cause death.

To be fair to the birds and their saliva, eating peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, shellfish (Medical Daily), and getting flu shots (CDC) can also end in allergic reactions with severe symptoms for a few.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review Updated August 26 - 2016_edited-2

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What Peanut comes with Health Benefits – boiled or roasted?

September 20, 2016

The first time I tasted boiled peanuts was in China in 1999. Since I was used to oil-roasted, salted peanuts, it took time for me to acquire a taste for the Chinese way of boiling peanuts.

Although archeologists have dated the oldest known domesticated peanuts to Peru about 7,000 years ago, it was Portuguese traders in the 17th century that introduced peanuts to China.

Peanuts became popular and are featured in many Chinese dishes, often being boiled, which enhances the health benefits of the peanut.

What scientific studies have proven about the boiling process is that peanuts prepared this way are preserved and the presence of phytochemicals are enhanced having the same qualities as antioxidants, which are noted for protecting the body’s cells against heart disease, diabetes and several different forms of cancer. – Live Strong.com

In fact, a 1990 Harvard study determined that women who ate five ounces of more of nuts per week were only 65 percent as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease as women who avoided eating this legume.

Another study in 2007 at Alabama’s A&M University’s Department of Food and Animal found that the health benefits for boiled peanuts were far healthier than oil-roasted, dry or raw. The states of Florida, Mississippi, George, Alabama, and North and South Carolina also have a tradition of eating boiled peanuts.

The Chinese boiling process brings out and enhances the health benefits of the peanut, and the Chinese eat more boiled peanuts than any country on Earth.

Perfect Insider.com reports that, China leads the world in peanut production with 18.7 million metric tons (one metric ton is 2,205.62 pounds). India is in 2nd place with 6.8 million metric tons. The United States is 3rd with 4.1 million.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s challenge to preserve its arable land

September 7, 2016

Arable land is where countries grow the food people eat. According to Nation Master, the U.S. has 174.5 million hectares (one hectare is almost 2.5 acres) of arable land, India has almost 160 million hectares, Russia almost 122 million, but China has less than 105 million (almost 40 percent less than the U.S). The trouble with that is that China has more than 1.3 billion people to feed compared to America’s 320 million.

Then there’s the water. Live Science.com reports that after 3 days, you’ll need water or you’ll die, but you can survive for 3 weeks without food.

To make China’s challenge more daunting, it almost has the same amount of total renewable water that the U.S. has at 2,813 billion cubic meters vs. 2,818 for the U.S.

Don’t forget that China has more than four times the people to feed.

That’s why it is vital that China protects as much arable land as possible while conserving water. That challenge is tough because almost one third of China’s land is desert — a process that has accelerated due to development and human activities. The deserts of China have also become a tourist attraction and that doesn’t help.

In addition, another third of China is mountainous with an additional 10% covered with hills. Combine deserts, mountains and hills and that accounts for about 70% of the country’s land surface.

One strategy to slow the spread of the deserts has been to create a grid of plant growth that will hold the sand in place. The Economist reported that since 1978, 66-billion trees have been planted by Chinese citizens with the goal that by 2050, there will be a forest stretching 2,800 miles along the edges of China’s northern deserts that will increase the world’s forest cover by more than a tenth.

However, due to the natural resources needed to fuel China’s growth and a huge population, northern China has become a boomtown and is attracting millions of people because of the opportunities to earn better money. At the same time herders have also been restricted from allowing their animals to graze on the areas that are being reclaimed from the desert.

This has caused a reduction in the size of herds, for instance, sheep and goats.

Yet, even with these challenges, China still produces more food than any other country on the planet. Agriculture is a vital industry in China, employing over 300 million farmers. China ranks first in worldwide farm output, primarily producing rice, wheat, tomato, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oilseed and soybeans. Although accounting for only 10 percent of arable land worldwide, it produces food for 20 percent of the world’s population.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s Long Love Affair with a Root

July 6, 2016

Ginseng is a dried root that the Chinese believe possesses magical powers because it’s shaped sort of like a little person.

My wife often cooks with ginseng. She slices the ginseng thin and it goes into the wok with what she is cooking—tofu, cabbage, edamame, Bok Choy, etc.

The Chinese also use Ginseng as a powerful herbal medicine.

At one time, modern scientists rejected these claims, but recent research shows it does help the body resist illness and heal damage caused by stress by stimulating the immune system.

I’ve never taken the herb for its healing properties, but I like what it does for the taste of food.

Ancient Ginseng History reports that ginseng was used as an herbal medicine over 3,000 years ago and in cooking as far back as 5,000 years. Chinese emperors valued ginseng enough to pay for the herb with its weight in gold.  In America, ginseng was also used by several North American Indian nations.

In fact, some Chinese are willing to pay a very high price for older ginseng roots. Business Insider.com reports that one ginseng root from a plant that lived for 65 years in the wild was going for more than a half million U.S. Dollars, because some buyers think roots that lived in nature for a long time are much more potent than farmed ginseng that costs a lot less.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man who unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Falling in Love with Stinky Tofu

March 29, 2016

China has a unique food culture compared to the West. For instance, my wife loves noodles. I’ve followed her down narrow Shanghai streets to a well-known won-ton and noodle shop on the corner of Chang-le and Shang-yang Road. The front is open and the ceiling low with each narrow table crowded with Chinese sitting on small chairs shoveling noodles in with chopsticks.

My wife orders a small bowl of noodles with peanut sauce for me and a bowl of blood soup and another bowl of noodles with spicy hot Sichuan peppercorn sauce for her.  As she eats, sweat beads her face but there is not one word of complaint—not one sign that she is suffering. Instead, this seriously satisfied look spreads across her face as if she has entered a Chinese noodle heaven.

When visiting Nanjing Road in Shanghai between People Square and the Bund, we always stop at the same food shop where my wife orders steaming hot noodles with the same peppercorn sauce, and I order deep fried, fresh chou dofu (stinky tofu) with the same sauce that causes me to sweat too.

At celebration feasts, a wider variety of food will be served from whole fish, crab, a variety of vegetable dishes and tofu.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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