A Chinese Delicacy via Marco Polo

430px-marco_polo_-_costume_tartare

Marco Polo in Tartare costume, courtesy Wikimedia commons

Marco Polo ranks right up there with Hannibal and Alexander the Great as a pioneer traveler. But Marco Polo was an explorer, not a conqueror. He left Venice in 1271 and spent the next twenty-four years traveling through China, India, and the Middle East before heading back to Venice.

With his pasty Caucasian skin, the Chinese considered Marco Polo a barbarian. But Polo may have brought some of his own culture with him to China. Delicacies shared today in both Italy  and China are meat-filled pastries. Like the traveling Finger Game  featured in last week’s blog, no one is certain in which country they originated. These pastas are known in Italy as ravioli, and in China as jiao-tze.

At Oriental gatherings, we enjoy watching Chinese women form an assembly line, fill thin-skinned wrappers with meat or vegetable combinations, and pinch them with a fluted seal before setting them to boil in a steaming pot. Rich with plumpness, the jiao-tzes never break.

My husband, born in pre-World War II China to expatriate parents, will go anywhere any time for a savory jiao-tze. We go early to Chinese parties to watch the ladies make these morsels with the marvelous speed that can only come from years of practice.

Do your taste buds favor a special international treat?

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