Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fortune Cookie

Although fortune cookies are a modern invention, a legend has been developed and circulated to explain their origins. According to this legend, in the 14th century, when the Mongols ruled China, a revolutionary named Chu Yuan Chang planned an uprising against them. He used mooncakes to pass along the date of the uprising to the Chinese by replacing the yolk center of the mooncake with the message written on rice paper. The Mongols did not care for the yolks, so the plan went on successfully and the Ming Dynasty began. It is claimed that the Moon Festival celebrates this with the tradition of giving mooncakes with messages inside. Immigrant Chinese railroad workers, without ingredients to make regular mooncakes, made biscuits instead. It is these biscuits that may have later inspired fortune cookies.

Another theory of the origin of the fortune cookie dates back to the 19th century. A cookie very similar in appearance to the American Fortune cookie was made is Kyoto, Japan, and there is a Japanese temple tradition of random fortunes, called omikuji. The Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger; are made of darker dough; and their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter. They contain a fortune. Most of the people who claim to have introduced the cookie to the United States are Japanese, so the theory is that these bakers were modifying a cookie design which they were aware of from thier days in Japan. Fortune cookies moved from being a confection dominated by Japanese-Americans to one dominated by Chinese-Americans sometime around World War II.

This information compliments of a Wikipedia search on "fortune cookies".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Imperial Palace

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Time: Approx. 11:45 a.m.
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: Imperial Palace
Overall Rating: 4

Egg Roll:
Food Quality: 4
Price: 4
Atmosphere: 5
Service: 3.5

Last Wednesday, Andrea had the splendid idea to go to Imperial Palace for lunch. I, of course, accetped. Immediately when you step into this place it has a great ambiance. There are Chinese artifacts all over and the detail from the chairs to the ceiling surrounds you with Chinese culture. This would be a great date restaurant or just a fun night out with the family. The lighting is dim. Feels a bit like stepping out of a dungeon when exiting, but that all adds to the uniqueness.

We started off with Egg Drop Soup. It wasn't the best I've ever tried. After a couple slurps, I had to add some soy sauce. However, I rarely find an egg drop soup where I don't have to add soy sauce. The soup also had corn, carrots and peas. For a main entree, I chose the Cashew Chicken lunch combo with Sweet & Sour Pork. Note, the lunch combos come with choice of soup but no side item. The Cashew Chicken was excellent! I'm salivating thinking about it right now. It has a garlicy flavor to it, which was unlike any cashew chicken dish I've ever tasted. The change was delightful. All the vegetables were the same as usual in this dish (celery and carrots) and the chicken was what you'd expect. The Sweet & Sour Pork was average with thick breading and a very sweet, thick sauce. The pork pieces, although small (plus), had occasional hard pieces that I had to spit out (minus). That's as far as I'll go with that description. The Egg Rolls were vegetable only, and from my inspection it looked like they were only stuffed with cabbage. The outer crust was light and flaky, but there was no real flavor to it. I had to add some sweet & sour sauce to the last few bites. I would guess this may be more what a "traditional" Chinese egg roll would taste like, since this restaurant is more on the authentic side (I've heard). I did like that it was not massive and not too filling, so I could try more of everything else on my plate. The Crab Rangoons were smaller than I'm used to seeing, but that's not necessarily bad. The breading was light and crispy, even around the filling part. Very nice! Andrea tried the Vegetable Tofu dish. She said it was "nothing special". The tofu was a little softer than she prefers. So, if you like a softer consistency tofu, go for it.

The prices were reasonable for such sizeable portions and tasty food. The lunch specials range around $6. The two egg rolls were $2.75 and half an order (4) of crab rangoon was $2. The service was prompt and the food came out super fast. You can definitely tell the owners of this restaurant have been around for a while and know what they are doing when it comes to running a reputable restaurant. Just after I got back from this lunch, I received an email from a friend. This friend said she works with a doctor from China and he recommended this place BUT to order off of the "Chinese menu". Apparently, there is a special menu for Chinese people or anyone else who cares to look at it. It comes in Chinese or English. I'm very curious and will be going back be continued.

Fortune: "Time makes you wise. Ask advice from someone older than you."