My dad showed off his dried tangerine peel collection to me. Some of them over 10-years-old. Chen-Pi, as it’s called, is used for medicine, teas, soups and even Orange Chicken. I didn’t realize they actually used old fruit peels in my Orange Chicken. I never liked it when they put it in my juk (congee). I thought it was gross.
I do remember eating the sour dried peels as a kid. It was useful for nausea, but I ate it like candy.
Then my dad showed me his old Chinese cookbooks. I believe I asked him earlier how he learned how to cook Chinese food. I don’t know if I got a real answer. I suppose he learned from these books and from other cooks he worked with.
I remember looking at these books when I was little. They had some wild photos in there with chicken heads and food shaped into animals. This stuff’s pretty exotic (Chin Yin Duh: Stuffed egg & ground pork into pork stomach, Chang Hsing Hua Do: Stuffed duck feet with shrimps, Chi Szu Dong Row: Shredded chicken congeal). Google searching these brings me to a bunch Kung Fu images. I wonder if I can still find these dishes these days.
My dad wanted me to take home some dried tangerine peels, but I wasn’t sure how to explain it to the TSA. So I just took one of the cookbooks instead.
I started cooking Chinese in graduate school about 40 years ago, even though I am not Chinese and grew up in the southern US where there were then few Chinese restaurants.
Today I went to one of the largest Chinese stores in the DC area (Great Wall Store in Arlington, VA) to buy two things – Szechuan pepper (also known as prickly ask) and dried tangerine peels. Had no luck finding the tangerine peels, which have a really intense flavor. Even though I needed only two items, I did end up buying a full cart of various flavors and produce to experiment with.
By the way, I have several of the Pei Mei cookbooks in my collection. I think they are sort of the Betty Crocker cookbooks of Hong Kong. Recipes are good and in theory you might learn a little Chinese by reading the untranslated recipe on the other side.