Recently, Manischewitz has been found, on sale, by the cases, at certain Chinese grocery chains in the San Gabriel Valley. They were at a rather low $3.99 per bottle, just as cheap as most Kosher stores. This wasn’t even the “select” Concord Grape variety, this was the Extra Heavy Malaga by Manischewitz, considered barely palatable to even the most kosher of Jews.

Manischewitz at SG Superstore

And before anyone asks: no, the Chinese, save for the Kaifeng folks, do not celebrate Passover, nor perform seder.

From casual observation (empty bottles seen by Chinese restaurants, empty bottle at a Chinese hospice — always empty bottles), I gathered it was mostly the mainland Chinesers who were buying these $3.99 bottles of Jewish ridicule. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why, especially because reports of enlightening Chinese taste recently spread through the grapevine.

For months this puzzle was unsolved, until a nanny cum horticulturist dropped a wine-making bombshell: “5:1”, she said. I was thinking: what the F are you talking about lady, you better not be making crazy gravies for dinner again. “5:1”, she repeated. “Of what exactly?” “5 grape to 1 sugar”, she points to the empty bottles from DomaineLA. I was, despite her gesticulation, confused. Then the recently immigrated vintner spilled her vino production technique.

“[Pointing to the fruiting loquat tree by which she buried 2 kilos worth of dog poop] You buy grape tree. I make better wine [no shiiiet eh?]. This stuff you have no good [Sorry Jill]. Smells bad, not sweet, taste no good, won’t give you face red. You take red grapes, 5 Kg, and 1 Kg of good sugar, rock sugar, you mash it, store it in jar, keep it in a shady cool place for a month, and the grapes will absorb all the sugar and give you big red face when you drink the juice”

Well heck, I knew Eric Asimov was a nutter but this was just mind boggling. 16% by weight “rock sugar” wine making? And then the stupid a-ha hit me. This is The Chinese Manischewitz Connection The Atlantic didn’t want to report. Hipsterism didn’t hit the FOB Chinesers in WSGV. The Kosher Council probably had no idea why Shun Fat was buying pallets of extra-sweet Manischewitz. After a bit of digging, I found proof:

The Chinese, especially Northerners, has been making sweet 葡萄酒 (grape wine) at home for ages. Above video demonstrated a 3:1 ratio which probably yields an even more sickly product than Extra Heavy Malaga. It also made sense of what I had in Shanghai nearly a decade ago, watered down by 7-Up. Yes, this stuff is sweeter than 7-Up, and it’s nanny approved. Tonight, I may go buy some Manischewitz just to relate to the Communists, but there still won’t be any matzah ball on the table.

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  • haha, I love it. cross-cultural sleuthing at its finest.

  • More substantiation of the Chinese/Jew connection. And, I love that the criteria for a good wine is whether or not it gives you a red face! The untended loquat tree in our backyard is brimming with juicy, ripe fruit, even without the application of dog poop. Now I know what to do with all that fruit. BTW, the technique the nanny describes is nearly identical to the raisin wine technique historically used by Jews who lived in cold climate countries where raisins, but rarely grapes, were available to make wine.

  • Loquat is for cough and lung in Chinese medicine. Sometimes i would take the Ninjiom Pei Pa Koa which is an extract of loquat when got sore throat.

    You can access info online @
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nin_Jiom_Pei_Pa_Koa
    http://ninjiom.50webs.com/

  • sku

    Wow! That’s a great story. What’s next, Judaica stores stocking old pu-ehr cakes?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for that Teresa. Indeed loquat is (but) one of the ingredients of pi pa gao. Recently, a Chinese elder spoke of looking forward to being sick just to sample the sweet sticky tar of pi pa gao. She mentioned the country was (supposedly) so poor that confections were rare after WWII.

    I recently bought a small bottle in Hong Kong to combat an annoying cough. IMNSHO, it doesn’t work worth diddly.

  • This is awesome! Great digging, I had no idea the Chinese were so fond of Manischewitz…Makes me want to go to my nearest 99 Ranch just to play a game of “one of these things is not like the other”.

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