New-style Japanese Rice Balls (おにぎり)

There are four savoury rice balls and one sweet ball. The toppings of the savoury balls are shrimp and coriander, shrimp and mascapone, Italian tuna mayo, and smoked salmon. The sweet ball has matcha cream topping.

Food: Why Are China’s Fish Disappearing?

Adam Minter wrote . . . . . .

It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel: The fresh fish in many of Beijing’s biggest supermarkets simply disappeared last week, as if summoned to another realm. Social media buzzed with alarm and paranoia. The Beijing News placed a photo of an empty aquarium and an underemployed fishmonger on its front page.

The truth turned out to be something earthier and more familiar. According to state media, someone had tipped off the supermarkets about an impending health inspection. Rather than risk a problem, the stores — including Wal-Mart and Carrefour outlets — unloaded their fish. So far, at least, nobody seems to know where they went.

The incident suggests a few underlying problems. One is that a huge amount of food production in China remains small-scale and untraceable. A 2006 government census found more than 200 million individual agricultural holdings. Some consolidation has taken place since, but not nearly enough. According to state media, the vast majority of Beijing’s freshwater fish supply comes from thousands of independently owned ponds in neighboring provinces, some within an hour or two of the city. During a recent road trip through rural Guangdong Province, I saw small fish farms located willy-nilly throughout the countryside, sometimes next to factories.

Supervising those millions of little farms is nearly impossible, and the farmers know it. On Tuesday, the Beijing News reported that its journalists had visited fish farms near the city that routinely flouted the law, including requirements that farms be registered and that they keep track of the fertilizers and chemicals they put in their ponds. (Alarmingly, some farmers said that they wouldn’t eat their own fish.)

This situation is worsened by China’s fractured system of oversight. The central government tends to pass off regulation of the food supply to local authorities. Those regulators, in turn, typically have little money or incentive to conduct inspections, and don’t coordinate with their counterparts in other cities and provinces. While agricultural officials oversee what’s produced on farms, meanwhile, food-and-drug agencies monitor what’s in the market. The upshot is that it’s exceedingly unlikely that any one regulator can trace a fish from production in a contaminated pond to a Beijing Wal-Mart. Supermarkets often end up as helpless to control what they buy as their customers are.

A final problem is petty corruption. Although President Xi Jinping has cracked down on misbehavior among senior party leaders, China’s score on Transparency International’s Corruption Index has actually gotten worse since he assumed power. Safety regulators who look the other way when fish ponds are polluted, or who tip off markets that an inspection is coming, are pretty familiar characters to most Chinese.

All these problems extend beyond the fish supply. China has been navigating periodic food-safety scandals for more than a decade, and the toll on public confidence is mounting. Last year, 77 percent of respondents in one poll listed food safety as their top concern. Neighbors often trade tips and rumors about what might be in their food. Two weeks ago, in the southern manufacturing town of Foshan, I was warned off a hotel restaurant because it allegedly served “fake eggs” — whatever that means.

Fixing these problems will require more than patchwork remedies, such as increased reporting requirements or stiffer penalties. China needs rural land reforms that would allow small-time farmers to easily rent or sell their property. Bigger, consolidated farms are much simpler to regulate, and hence typically produce safer food. Regulators need more coordination and more funding. And, finally, the government should encourage and protect journalists who uncover the small-scale corruption underlying all these issues.

Past governments could make excuses for avoiding these problems. The current one, officially the most powerful in a generation, probably can’t — especially if the fish keep disappearing.

Source: Bloomberg

Steamed Sea Bass with Lemongrass

Ingredients

four 8-ounce boneless sea bass or striped bass fillets, skin on
1/2 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 or 3 lemongrass stalks, crushed
2 tablespoons peeled, minced ginger
1 dried chili or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped scallions, plus more for serving
12 large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded
1 small bok choy, halved and sliced lengthwise into wedges
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste, or to taste
lettuce leaves, for lining the steamer basket
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Pour the clam juice, sherry, soy sauce, and coconut milk into a heavy-bottomed saute pan or pot the same diameter as your bamboo steaming basket and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering and add the lemongrass, ginger, chili, scallions, mushrooms, bok choy, and curry paste. Continue to simmer gently for 15 minutes to let the flavors mingle.
  2. Arrange a layer of lettuce leaves in the steamer basket to keep the fish from touching the raw bamboo. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and arrange them on the lettuce in the steamer. Set the steamer over the simmering liquid, cover with the bamboo cover, lower the heat, and steam gently until the fish is cooked through, 8 to 9 minutes.
  3. Remove the steamer from the pot. Use tongs to remove the bok choy and mushrooms from the liquid and divide them decoratively among 4 dinner plates or wide, shallow bowls. Arrange the fish fillets on top of the vegetables on each plate. Pass the rice family style from the bowl.
  4. Use tongs to fish out and discard the lemongrass and ladle a little of the broth over the fish on each plate. Scatter some scallions over each serving and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Nightly Specials

Video: Fish-farming in Troubled Water

Shocking Insight into the Fish Farm Industry.

Everybody agrees that fish is healthy. In 40 years, its global consumption has doubled. Each year, the market needs to find more fishes and new ways of production.

Where does the fish of our daily sushi come from? How is it fed? In which water does it live? A dramatic investigation about healthy food…or maybe not?

Just what exactly is inside – the Fillet of Farmed Fish!

Watch video at You Tube (54:28 minutes) . . . .

Vestibular Function Declines Starting at Age 40

A new study led by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear found that vestibular thresholds begin to double every 10 years above the age of 40, representing a decline in our ability to receive sensory information about motion, balance and spatial orientation. The report was published online ahead of print in Frontiers in Neurology.

“In our study, vestibular decline was clearly evident above the age of 40,” said senior author Daniel M. Merfeld, Ph.D., Director of the Jenks Vestibular Physiology at Mass. Eye and Ear and a Professor of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School. “Increased thresholds correlate strongly with poorer balance test results, and we know from previous studies that those who have poorer balance have much higher odds of falling.”

More than half of the population will see a doctor at some point in their lives with symptoms related to the vestibular system (e.g., dizziness, vertigo, imbalance and blurred vision). The vestibular system, made up of tiny canals in the inner ear, is responsible for receiving information about motion, balance and spatial orientation.

With the goal of determining whether sex or age affected the function of the vestibular system, the researchers administered balance and motion tests to 105 healthy people ranging from 18 to 80 years old and measured their vestibular thresholds (“threshold” refers to the smallest possible motion administered that the subject is able to perceive correctly). While they found no difference between the thresholds of male and female subjects, they found that the thresholds increased above the age of 40 for all motions studied.

The researchers also found that these increasing thresholds strongly correlated with failure to complete a standardized test for balance. This correlation shows that fall risk is substantially impacted by vestibular function. Using data from previous studies, the researchers suggest that vestibular dysfunction could be responsible for as many as 152,000 American deaths each year. This estimate would place vestibular dysfunction third in the United States behind heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death among Americans.

The correlation between vestibular thresholds and balance also suggests that there may be better ways to screen vestibular function and ways to develop therapies that may improve their thresholds.

“We’ve known for a long while that patients with vestibular disorders have disturbed balance,” said Dr. Merfeld. “If worse vestibular function leads to falls, perhaps we can develop balance aids or physical therapy exercises to improve balance or vestibular function and prevent those falls.”

Source: Massachusetts Eye and Ear


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