Chinese Ingredients: Borax Powder, Mushroom Extract
- David A. Sep 11, 2005 11:50 AM
My Taiwanese wife uses some strange ingredients and I'm wondering whether anyone can reassure me that they are not blatantly poisonous:
1) Borax Powder (pingsha). This is used to he make "he fun" (rice noodles).
2) Mushroom extract. This is a flavor enhancer used very much like MSG but without the weird chemical flavor and potential side effects. It's a miracle product: makes everything taste better somehow. A bit of extract in a pot of water and you have surprisingly passable soup stock. We use it a lot. Hence my concern.
... how much of the mee fun (? rice noodles) and mushroom soup have you eaten? .....
Any strange appendages appear yet? .... is the dog ok?
. I doubt that any of this will kill you.... I've been told me that that the process to make tofu includes adding in some plaster of paris .... Billions of Chinese are still around after eating that .... so ...I think that you are probably ok ... but do check the dog. Doubt that your 'taitai' is trying to do you in ... although you never know ... sent flowers and candy lately?
I googled borax powder and could not find any food uses for it. See attached link (apparently Late Ronald Reagan had appeared in an ad for borax powder a long time ago).
Mushroom extract: (also on google) there is someone selling shiitake mushroom extract capsules at $29.99 (reduced from 99.99), so this looks an OK ingredient.
Have you taken out any substantial life insurance policy and talked about it ?. Maybe you can get her to taste everything from the same pot first :-)
Are you normally argumentative with her ? Maybe its an old folklore that using such ingredients would make the husband docile and obedient, or maybe she believes it will improve your sex life -any noticeable changes ?
If Borax powder is what I think it is, Chinese people do use it, but it's not considered the most healthful thing to ingest. I think another use for it is to 'crunch-ify' shrimp, to make them taste more fresh and less mealy if unfresh. Restuarnts use them, hence my mother doesn't think restaurant shrimp are trust worthy.
Regarding the mushroom powder- if it is like the one I have at home- large foil packet with a picture of some veggies on it- it promotes itself as a healthful alternative to MSG. My Vietnamese cooking muse gave me a pack and I use it fairly often in Asian style veggie preparations (just a hint). The ingredient list as I recall as I am at work and not with the packet, made me think more of a TVP sort of product- ie giving a "meatiness" to veggie products. It definately adds a certain undefineable something to things. In the long run I think it is fine and almost like the "secret ingredient" in alot of Mexican preps- Knorr chicken bouillon powder.
Borax Powder or boric acid is indeed used in recipes for he fen or hor fun in Cantonese also known as rice flour sheets. Boric acid makes the sheets glossier, more elastic and less sticky. It is an optional ingredient.
I have eaten thousands of plates of beef chow fun, cheung fun filled variously with shrimp, beef or cha siu, and other assorted dishes made with rice flour sheets over the years without any major health problems...except for modest weight gain ...
The only other use of boric acid I am aware of is as an insecticide for cockroachs...
Never heard of mushroom extract...can't help you there