Vegetarian ham (buddhist)

Yield: 1 appetizer

Measure Ingredient
2 ounces (3 sheets) dried bean curd
3 tablespoons Soy sauce
2 tablespoons Water
1 \N Level teaspoon sugar
½ \N Level teaspoon MSG
1 \N Level teaspoon fennel
½ \N Star anise
2 \N Cloves, crushed
½ \N Level teaspoons wild pepper, crushed. [Szechwan peppercorns S.C.]

"The Buddhists, whether monks or ordinary people, mingled freely with the non-vegetarians, and because the manners of Chinese society are all-embracing and diffuse, felt obliged to provide food which looked and almost tasted like meat. This was a sign of hospitality. Their cuisine was based on nuts, spices, vegetables, sauces, sesame, peanut and vegetables oils, and bean curd. The last was the factotum, now appearing as duck, then as chicken, then as fish. Its very lack of personality made it an excellent actor." Soak the bean curd in water for about ½ hour until soft. Mix together the remaining ingredients, and marinate the bean curd in this mixture for about 2 hours. Select the largest and smoothest sheet and lay it on a flat surface.

Place the remaining sheets on top of it evenly, so that when rolled up it will form a cylinder of regular dimensions. Roll it up VERY tightly. Place it on a single piece of cheese-cloth or old sheet and roll it up, with the cloth overlapping both at both ends. Tie the bundle at both ends like a toy firecracker at the two points where the bean curd ends. Steam the roll for about 1 hour. Cool the roll and unwrap it. Slice the roll into ¼-inch slices and serve cold.

From "Chinese Gastronomy" by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin, First Harvest/HBJ, New York, 1977. Introduction by Lin Yutang.

Posted by Stephen Ceideburg; December 20 1990.

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