Many favorite U.S. foods have their roots in Asia

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Troy University College of Communication and Fine Arts provided an Asian Experience for more than a thousand students and adults during the “Experience Asia Festival” at Troy University Sept. 18-20.

On Thursday about 300 third, fourth and fifth graders heard classical Asian stories and then participated in a variety of hands-on experiences at the university. On Friday, the Ronin Taiko Drummers performed at Troy Elementary School and then for the general public on Saturday night at the Claudia Crosby Theater.

Experience Asia included storytelling, music, Kung-Fu, art and a bit about the food culture of the Asian countries.

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Grace Collins, emcee for the event, provided interesting and surprising information about what Americans consider “Chinese” foods.

“Did you know that noodles originated in China, not Italy as spaghetti lovers might think,” Collins said. “Chinese noodles are called Lo-Mein. In Japan, the same noodles are called ‘ramen.’ Ramen noodles are to Japan what baked beans are to Boston. And

Ramen Noodles are what college coeds call staples. As poor, starving students, Ramen Noodles are part of our daily food pyramid.”

Collins said that Nissin Food introduced “Top Ramen” to the United States in 1970.

“And as the saying goes, ‘the rest is history,’” Collins said. “About $10 billion worth of Ramen Noodles are sold each year and, at an average price of 17 cents at package, that’s a lot of noodles.”

But that’s almost nothing compared to the tea that is consumed worldwide each year.

“Tea was actually discovered almost 5,000 years ago by a great Chinese emperor named Shen Nung,” Collins said. “One day the emperor was boiling water outside when leaves from a nearby bush fell into the open kettle. Before he could retrieve the leaves, they began to brew. He smelled the sweet aroma of the mixture and once, he tasted it, the world was given tea.”

Collins said that, after plain water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world today.

“Can you imagine a world without tea,” she said. “There would be no teapot or tea kettle. No teaspoons or tea towels. Two of the world’s most famous tea parties would never have happened. The colonists wouldn’t have had the Boston Tea Party in 1773 where they threw 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. And ‘Alice in Wonderland’ would never have had a Mad Hatter tea party.”

And, to think, that the first tea was brewed by accident.

But the famous Asian fortune cookie was no accident and has certainly garnered no small amount of “dough.”

The fortune cookie was actually invented in San Francisco by a Japanese gardener who designed the famous Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

“The mayor, who didn’t like Japanese, fired the gardener in 1910 but soon Mr. Hag-i-wara was rehired by a new mayor,” Collins said. “Grateful to those who stood by him during his period of hardship, Hag-i-wara created a cookie in 1914 that included a thank you note inside. He passed them out at the Japanese Tea Garden and began serving them there regularly.”

In 1951, Hag-i-wara’s cookes were displayed at San Francisco’s World Fair.

“Fortune cookies became common in Chinese restaurants after World War II,” Collins said. “Since desserts are not traditionally part of Chinese cuisine, fortune cookies gave Americans a dessert with an exotic flair. Today, the world’s largest fortune cookie manufacturer, Wonton Foods of Queens, New York makes 60 million cookies a month.”

Those who attended the Asian Experience Festival at Troy University now know a lot more about the most popular “Asian” foods.

“Starving” college students will continue to eat Ramen Noodles, the world will continue to drink oceans of tea and “Chinese” fortune cookies will be baked in New York.

It is a small world after all.

Ramen Skillet Casserole

½ pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped

2 packets Ramen noodles

1 ½ cups water

1 can kernel corn

Brown ground beef and onion. Drain. Add flavor packets from Ramen Noodles. A corn and cook 5 minutes and serve. Note: You may the meat to seafood or poultry and use different canned vegetables and get a lot of variety out of this one recipe.

Ramen Eggs

4 eggs

2 package Ramen Noodles

1 cup frozen English peas

1 package honey ham, cut in bite-size piece

In a skillet, scramble eggs in butter. In a saucepan, cook 2 packages Ramen Noodles in water for 5 minutes then drain Add the cooked Ramen to the cooked eggs along with the flavor packets. Stir in English peas and honey ham. Heat and serve. You could stir in cooked meats or added cooked seafood, as well as other vegetable and change the flavors of Ramen.

Ramen Steak, Broccoli and Cheese

2 packages Ramen Noodles

1 cup broccoli, cooked

1 cup chopped steak, cooked

½ jar cheese sauce

¼ teaspoon garlic

Cook 2 packages Ramen Noodles in water. Drain. Add 1 cup chopped cooked broccoli. Mix 1 cup cooked chopped steak with 1 flavor packet and ½ jar cheese sauce. Add garlic. Microwave for 20 seconds. Mix all ingredients. Serve.

Ramen Spaghetti

Cook a brick of Ramen Noodles for each person. Drain the noodles when done. Place in center of a plate. Add some butter, salt, and pepper, and some heated canned spaghetti sauce and toss well to mix ingredients. Serve with garlic toast and a green salad.

Ramen Sesame Grilled Chicken

Cook Ramen. Drain. On a plate, put 2 teaspoons sesame oil and mix in some of the flavor packet. Brush this mixture on chicken breast and grill until done. Brush same mixture on asparagus and grill. Mix remaining flavor packet in noodles. Add 2 teaspoons sesame seeds. Mix everything together. Top with chopped green onions. Serve.

Thai Tea

6 cups water

8 tea bags, black

1 cup evaporate milk

4 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

4 teaspoons cardamom

Ice, crushed

Boil the water and steep tea bags with cardamom for 5 minutes. Strain out teabags and let cool. Put ice into 4 glasses, and add tea. Leave about a quarter of the glass empty. To each glass add, 1 tbs sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup of milk.

Peach Tea

3 12-ounce cans of peach juice

2 quarts tea

1 cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

Combine everything and chill. Serve over ice.

Boston Iced Tea

4 quarts water

1 cup sugar

15 tea bags

12 ounces frozen cranberry juice concentrate

Heat water to boiling and add sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add tea bags. Remove from heat and let steep for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and add cranberry juice concentrate. Stir until melted and mixed. Then allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Serve over ice.

Fortune Cookie Recipe

2 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

8 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 teaspoons water

Write fortunes on pieces of paper that are 3 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 9-X-13 inch baking sheets. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff. Sift the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a separate bowl. Stir the water into the flour mixture. Add the flour into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon. Note: if you want to dye the fortune cookies, add the food coloring at this point, stirring it into the batter. For example, used 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring to make green fortune cookies. Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a circle 4 inches in diameter. Bake until the outer 1/2-inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (14 – 15 minutes).Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. To form the fortune cookie shape, fold the cookie in half, then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass, wooden spoon or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue with the rest of the cookies

Cook 1 pkg. Ramen Noodles in water for 5 minutes. Drain. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese and 1/4 cup milk. Heat. Stir until cheese is melted. Serves one.

Cook a brick of Ramen Noodles for each person. Drain the noodles when done. Place in center of a plate. Add some butter, salt, and pepper, and some heated canned spaghetti sauce and toss well to mix ingredients. Serve with garlic toast and a green salad.

Brown 1 lb. ground beef with 1 chopped onion. Drain off fat. Cook 4 pkg. Ramen, without the flavor packets and without breaking the noodles up, in 2 cups boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. To the meat mixture add 1 can Spaghetti Sauce, 1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning, 1 tsp. minced garlic. Mix well. Pour over the cooked Ramen Noodles. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with crusty French bread and a tossed green salad. Serves 4 hearty appetites.