Monthly Archives: July 2009

Spicy Chinese Eggplant

 23 July 2009

My pen pal June just put a recipe on her blog. 
Rather than plagiarize, I’m simply going to put a link to that recipe
at the end of this entry.  I highly recommend this dish!  Even if you
think you don’t like eggplant (aubergine), try this anyway!   

Let’s
put it this way.  When I first met David, he didn’t like "any"
vegetables.  Over time, he came to like certain things but eggplant
(aubergine) was certainly never at the top of our list.  But that
changed when we moved to China.   One day David confessed to me, "Ten
years ago, if you had told me that eggplant would be one of my favorite
foods, I’d have thought you were crazy!"  Contrary to all our
expectations, this dish has definitely become one of our family
favorites (except that it’s too spicy for small children). This
particular recipe Yunnan Province in Southwestern China, but I’ve had
varieties of it all over Southern China.

Aubergine is a veggie
that soaks up flavors of the food around it.  In this case, the
eggplant soaks up the flavors of garlic, ginger, pepper, and soy.  In
Guangdong Province, it often has a bit of salted fish cooked in with it
and is slightly less spicy than the dish as served further West.  No
matter what the variation, this is a delightfully spicy, flavorful dish
that definitely stands on its own two feet, but the texture is soft
with just a bit of firmness for a very satisfying texture on the
palate.  In my opinion, it must definitely be served with rice.  If you
were using a Chinese style serving method, you would take a bit of this
food from the serving dish, place it on top of your rice, and then eat
it from there.  The juices from the dish then go down into your rice
and flavor that too.  The blandness of the rice is a perfect contrast
to the spiciness of the eggplant. 

Unlike some authentic
Chinese dishes, you can readily find the ingredients in an American
food market:  young fresh aubergine, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, hot
red peppers, scallions (green onions), soy sauce and (hopefully) a bit
of sesame oil. Use young, non-bitter eggplants.  In my opinion, the
long slender, bright purple eggplants are far superior to the big, fat,
black ones I usually find in American produce markets.  If you can only
find the round variety, purchase the smallest ones you can find in the
hope that they won’t yet be bitter. 

And now (drum roll) … click here for the link to: Eggplant Cooked In Red Sauce  

Quote

Recipe: Eggplant cooked in red sauce – GoKunming: Kunming news, events, listings, travel, business,

 

Recipe: Eggplant cooked in red sauce

Today
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Editor’s note: As interest in Yunnan cuisine increases around China and the rest of the world, GoKunming contributor Guo Duomi will occasionally offer recipes for traditional Yunnan and Chinese dishes. If there is a certain dish you would like to see a recipe for, please send us your ideas via our contact form.
Eggplant cooked in red sauce – Hongshao qiezi (红烧茄子)
Eggplant or aubergine is a staple in not only Yunnan cuisine but Chinese cuisine around the country. Similarly, soy sauce-based hongshao dishes are available all over China.
Two types of eggplant can be found at produce markets around China. The first is the plump, dark purple vegetable well known in the West, the second is a longer, thinner version with striking bright purple skin. The bright purple variant is more prevalent but it may be substituted with the other as taste does not differ between the two.
Ingredients
2 medium eggplants
5 sprigs of spring onion
2 small green Chinese capsicums*
5-10g ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
Oil for frying
* Using zhoupi lajiao (皱皮辣椒) – a slightly spicy wrinkly-skinned variety of capsicum – is recommended for this dish. If zhoupi lajiao is unavailable, you can substitute with a standard green or red capsicum.
Method
Slice off the top and then slice the eggplants into strips around 3 centimetres long. Wash and chop up the spring onion into two centimetre lengths and chop the capsicum into small pieces. Wash the ginger thoroughly and slice thinly, leaving the skin on. Peel the garlic and slice it thinly.

Heat 3 – 4 tablespoons of oil in a wok on high heat and add the eggplant. Stir thoroughly until the eggplant has taken up all of the oil, then fry for around five minutes, shifting the eggplant around occasionally but giving it time to cook without being disturbed.
Ultimately you want your eggplant to be browned on the outside and reasonably mushy, you will find it gives back a lot of the oil to the pan when ready.
Once cooked remove the eggplant to a plate, leaving the oil in the wok.
Lower the heat slightly and add the spring onion, capsicum, garlic and ginger to the wok. Stir fry them together for around a minute and then return the eggplant to the wok.
Add in the salt, pepper and soy sauce and stir to mix thoroughly. Transfer to a plate and serve.
Happy Eating!

Recipe: Eggplant cooked in red sauce – GoKunming: Kunming news, events, listings, travel, business, living

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The Wrong Direction

20 July 2009

The N.Y. Times reports today that hundreds of ethnic Uighurs in Urumchi (in the Xinjiang Province of China) have been arrested and held for days now without being allowed to communicate with lawyers or family.  For full text click here

The Times reports:  "In a sign of the sensitivities surrounding the unrest, the Bureau for Legal Affairs in Beijing has warned lawyers to stay away from cases in Xinjiang, suggesting that those who assist anyone accused of rioting pose a threat to national unity. Officials on Friday shut down the Open Constitution Initiative, a consortium of volunteer lawyers who have taken on cases that challenge the government and other powerful interests. Separately, the bureau canceled the licenses of 53 lawyers, some of whom had offered to help Tibetans accused of rioting last year in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet."*

In my last entry in this blog just a few weeks ago, I suggested that the mob violence results from frustration over lack of legal means for redress.  When people cannot rely on the justice system for justice, then they feel they must take matters into their own hands.  On the other hand, if people knew they could rely on the legal system for justice, they would do so. 

Sadly, this action by the Chinese government in favor of repression is a step in the opposite direction.  It reminds me of the quotation from Shakespeare’s play Henry VI, "The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers."  The surest way to tyranny is to eliminate those sentinels in society who guard against it.  Rather than strengthen the legal system so that citizens can rely on it for redress (and hence reducing the actual need for "self help justice"), it appears the Chinese government simply intends to snuff out all outward signs of unrest. 

That’s like putting a lid on a pressure cooker, instead of turning off the heat.  Repressing evidence of unrest does nothing to address the underlying causes.  Instead, it foments more discontent and future riots, resulting eventually in the need for even more repression and a government that is so weak it cannot stand without military intervention.     

___________

*Facebook continues to be blocked, as well. 

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Mob Violence and the Rule of Law in Urumchi

A blog entry to do justice to this story would take more time than I have available.  However, I want to help bring attention to the present situation in Urumchi.  This area  is inhabited by nomadic, Muslim peoples  who are not ethnically Han Chinese but rather of Turkic descent.  China incorporates this territory, which is south of Russia and west of Mongolia, as part of its Xinjiang Province (which roughly translates from Mandarin as "new frontier".) 

Just as in another high plateau location, ethnic peoples feel their culture is being systematically eliminated.  Most recently, Chinese announced plans to demolish the old town of Kashgar, which is a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site and a hub of the overland silk road.  Kashgar was a filming location for The Kite Runner.   Ethnic Uyghur receive special privileges from the government, but they are also restricted in the practice of their religion, and the central government encourages Han Chinese to relocate to Xinjiang.  Just as in other places which have not traditionally been dominated by Han Chinese, the Han are resented by locals and at the same time the Han resent the locals for their special privileges.  To make matters worse, any time the local / indigenous people express discontent and / or riot, rather than acknowledge the kernel of truth that seeds their discontent, the government portrays them as irrational, ungrateful, violent separatists intent on damaging innocent Han.  This further fuels the seeds of hatred by Han against the ethnic group.  In China, hatred easily leads to mob violence. 

Mob violence is a chronic issue.  When citizens are angry, they often react violently.  For instance, in Guanxxi Province a few years ago, police cars were overturned, public officials assaulted, and offices burned, by people angry over enforcement of China’s one child policy.  In another incident, widespread violence directed against Japanese broke out after a Japanese exchange student at a university jokingly performed a dance which  Han Chinese found insulting.  When factory workers are disgruntled, they often turn to violence against management.  In part, this is due to lack of legal remedies for redress of grievances. 

The human tendency toward mob behavior is not limited to China.  One of my first cases as a criminal lawyer had to do with "lynching".  While the average American associates "lynching" with racial violence in the American deep South, this is a misconception.  Lynching, in fact, is the legal term which refers to any violence by a mob.  The first legal cases involving lynching arose out of the English War of the Roses.  The Anglo-American legal response to this natural, human tendency is to use a carrot and stick approach to build public reliance on legal mechanisms for redress of grievances.  Participation in lynching (mob violence) is a serious crime in and of itself, but from the time of the Anglo Saxon kings, every effort has been made to persuade the public that it can rely on the legal system for redress of wrongs.  Fundamentally, when the public is persuaded that it can rely on the legal system for justice, then the public will accept that avenue and forgo the natural impulse toward immediate and more or less indiscriminate violence. 

That same level of trust of the government systems of redress seem to be lacking in China.  Last week, it was rumored in a distant province (Guangdong) that ethnic Uyghurs had raped two Han Chinese women with impunity.  I am not aware of all the details of the tit-for-tat blow by blow events, but violence ensued.  At some point, a photo was circulated showing a pile of bodies of ethnic Ughyurs surrounded by police.   Violence begets violence.  This was the spark which was then fanned by rumors, distrust, lack of legal means of redress for wrongs, years of misleading news information into a conflagration. 

On the morning of July 6th, I was informed by a friend that due to riots in Xinjiang Province, Google and much of the internet had been shut down.  Clamping down on information makes it much easier to control the news.  By doing so, witnesses are prevented from reporting, images don’t get circulated, and popular opinion is much easier to control.   Then I noticed more specific reporting by the N.Y. Times ( to read article click here  )  that riots had broken out in Urumchi.   That afternoon, I read FB status update from ethic U friend sent via cell phone: "UYGHURLAR, stay inside, lock your doors!! Uyghur girls killed with their heads hung on the streets. Mass killings happening outside–let’s all pray for this t[ ]".  The message ends there.  I understand that at this time cell phone service as well as internet has been knocked out.  Indeed, most forms of communication are now blocked in an effort to reduce the ability of the mob to organize as well as to stop the spread of information generally.  New York Times and Al Jazeera English are both reporting that government riot troops are having to cordon off the Ughyr areas of the city Urumchi in order to prevent Han Chinese from going in to sack that area of the city.  It’s reported that the Han Chinese are armed with batons and clubs. 

Much is made by westerners, including myself, over relative lack of freedom of the press in China.  The Chinese response to this criticism, generally speaking, is that information must be controlled in order to prevent the type of mob violence we see in this instance.  I believe I have written earlier entries in my blog about the fact that Chinese students are not taught how to sift, decipher, and evaluate the credibility of news as gleaned from various sources.  (Unfortunately, this critique is not limited to non-Western countries, as any look at the "Fox News" channel and the popularity of Rush Limbaugh among uneducated Americans attests.)  The Chinese viewpoint is reinforced by instances of mass mob violence, as here. 

On the other hand, this mob violence has been fueled by years of government response to the Ughyur situation which oversimplifies and justifies a predetermined, governmental policy which does not take into account or adequately address the conflicting and real reasons for ethnic tension.  Further, governmental controlled media has oversimplified and vilified, thus adding to the well of anger and feeling that grievances are not adequately addressed. 

The real solution, I propose, would be rule of law, without propaganda, without oversimplification, without generalization, and without corruption.  And with adequate means of redress for injustice.  Only then, will the population be willing to accept legal redress in place of do-it-yourself "justice". 

*Update:  Today (July 18 2009) I read in the NY Times  ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/world/asia/18xinjiang.html):  "’The absence of an independent legal system is the party’s biggest
mistake, because when people can’t take their grievances to the courts,
they take them to the streets,’ said Nicholas Bequelin, an Asia
researcher for Human Rights Watch."  I’m glad to see someone agrees with me!  🙂  

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