Pork 22: Lizhi Pork (荔枝肉)

持牲單:荔枝肉:
用肉切大骨牌片,放白水煮二三十滾撩起;熬菜油半斤,將肉放入炮透撩起,用冷水一激,肉皺撩起;放入鍋內,用酒半斤,清醬一小杯,水半斤,煮爛。

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Lizhi Pork
Slice the pork into large domino-like pieces. Boil them in plain water and remove them after twenty or thirty guun. Heat half a jin of vegetable oil, fry the pork until done, then strain it out. Immediately immerse the pork in cold water to shock it, which will cause the meat to wrinkle-up. Strain out the cold pork and cook it in half a jin of wine, a small cup of soy sauce, and half a jin of water until soft.

Contemporary Fuzhou’s famous Lizhi Pork in all its flourescent-red glory. It is similar to Yuan Mei’s version only by the fact that it has the same name and is also made of pork. (Credit: Royal Shi)

The “lizhi” in the name is the same as that of the “lychee” in lychee fruit. But in looking through this recipe, we see that not only does it not use any lychee, none of the ingredients could create flavours that even vaguely resemble that of the fruit. One can only conclude that the namesake of this dish comes from the wrinkles on the pork resulting from the special “cold shock” technique. Maybe through one’s vivid imagination, the cold-shocked pork looks somewhat like the shell on the lychee fruit?

It should also be noted that this recipe is very different from that of the modern lizhi pork, which is more or less a variant of “gulao pork” (咕咾肉), or in North American parlance “sweet and sour pork”. The modern explanation of the name is that dish imitates the sweet and sourness of the lychee fruit through the judicious use of vinegar and sugar. Fancy contemporary preparations of gulao pork would often go so far as to cut the meat in a crisscross pattern part way through so it vaguely resembles the surface of lychee shells when fried. More often though, its ends up looking like spiky meat.

This brings to mind the question: How did a recipe drift so far from its original preparation?  As usual one can only guess, but it feels like this is just another case where a dish with a poetic name had been read quite literally by uneducated fools. Generations of such foolishness later, it should not be surprising that the once rather stayed dish describe by Yuan Mei had morphed into some sugary, neon-red item. Why, I myself had always thought that lizhi pork was actually made with lychee syrup.

Which is precisely why I am not going to call this section “Lychee pork”. Rather than bring these centuries long cycles of foolish readings into the English language, I am using the dish’s pinyin spelling, which is still mostly devoid of fruit-like connotations. Hopefully this will allow it a new start.

Format Changes to Posts

From the very beginning, all the Suiyuan Shidan translations I did followed the “Chinese Text->Translation->Random Notes” format. But truth is, even then it annoyed me a bit that this format relegated the content in Random Notes to the side when quite the opposite should be true. Problem was, I wasn’t sure how I would format the posts to highlight this content, until a month or so ago while writing up WWII Horror in Doll Country.

The answer was super simple: make the content that would have been in Random Notes the narrative guts of the post and make the translated and Chinese text the supporting material.

Initially I was worried that I was so used to writing in the old format that changing things would slow down my throughput of translations. But after some wrangling with myself, I decided to give it a go and try the new format in see how I feels. If it works, it’ll stay, but if it doesn’t I’ll go back to the old format

Pork 21: Furong Pork (芙蓉肉)

持牲單::芙蓉肉
精肉一斤,切片,清醬拖過,風乾一個時辰。用大蝦肉四十個,豬油二兩,切骰子大,將蝦肉放在豬肉上。一隻蝦,一塊肉,敲扁,將滾水煮熟撩起。熬菜油半斤,將肉片放在眼銅勺內,將滾油灌熟。再用秋油半酒杯,酒一杯,雞湯一茶杯,熬滾,澆肉片上,加蒸粉、蔥、椒,糝上起鍋。

Furong is a type of Hibiscus, but the name is also used to describe irregularly shaped foods, as in the case of this recipe. (Credit: Shizhao)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Furong Pork[1]
Slice one jin of lean pork, dip each of the slices in light soy sauce, and let them dry in open air for two hours. Shell forty large shrimp and cut two liang of whole lard into small dice. Place one whole shrimp and a piece of lard on each slice of pork and pound the shrimp and lard flat onto the pork. Place the pork in boiling water to cook through. [2]

Heat half a jin of vegetable oil, place the pieces of pork onto a large skimming spoon, and ladle hot oil over them until done. Bring to boil half a wine-cup of autumn sauce, one cup of wine, and half a tea-cup of chicken broth, and pour on top of the pork. Finish by adding steamed rice noodles [3], green onion, and Szechuan pepper to the pork before serving.

Random notes:
[1]: This is same “furong” as “fu-young” in egg fu young. In Chinese cuisine, the name of this complex-looking hibiscus flower is given to irregularly shaped foods or egg-based dishes. In Northern China, egg-based foods are almost almost always called “furong”-something.

[2]: The steps here as described in this first part by Yuan Mei are pretty vague and incomplete, and required me to look up a few contemporary recipes to piece things together. Basically, it’s a translation with a few bits added here and there to make things make sense.

[3]: Zhengfen (蒸粉) should be a type of steamed rice noodle, it seems rather strange to use it in a Chinese dish in such a manner that I’m wondering whether I got this wrong.

The Toronto Chum-n-Rice Festival

More than any other food I know, sushi is something to be eaten as much with one’s eyes as with one’s mouth. When well prepared, sushi are edible pieces of jewellery: slabs of shining marble nested on translucent pearls. Each slice of fish, cool, supple, and smooth against one’s tongue, each grain of rice sweet and tender, yet slightly resistant against one’s teeth. When done right, sushi is sublime.

Done badly, what is served as sushi is no better than mounds of hacked-up raw fish dumped on wads of bad rice, which is sadly all too typical of the fare from Toronto and most North American sushi restaurants. To distract the unenlightened from this fact though, the same restaurants would thickly ladle on the gimmick, offering mutilated Frankenstein creations with inane names, smothered in some horrid type of whitish/pink mayonnaise sauce. Sometimes, I think the creation of the “Kamekaze” was desperate and subtle plead from the self-respecting sushi chef forced to bring them into existence.

Which brings me to a recent article on BlogTO dissecting the gigantic shortcomings of the recent Toronto Sushi Festival. Analysis of the finances and logistics of the festival is good and all, but the article misses the point ENTIRELY. This question of “What went wrong?” can be easily explained by reviewing the heading image of the post and dispensing with the article altogether.

I cannot un-see this horrific scene. (Credit: BlogTO)

Quite simply, the festival did not serve sushi. What they did serve were a mass of sad misshapen objects, which in the case of the picture was barely held together by flaccid nori. If you had trouble swallowing this garbage, have no fear, there is even a giant bottle of mayo to lubricate the descent. How incredibly considerate of them.

True be told, these results are not entirely surprising given that most Toronto sushi restaurants could hardly craft an acceptable piece of nigiri or maki (or hold off on the mayo) on their best days. Shut them in the same convention hall with a cranky mob and what gets produced is “sushi” of disappointingly high quantity to quality ratios.

While all this is lamentable, what ultimately leaves me in utter dejection are the complaint of many of these festival goers. It seems they minded ever so slightly that they were being serve crap sushi, but they were furious that they could not be served enough of these wads of chum-n-rice fast enough. Seriously people, are you so desperate to eat badly prepped raw fish that being prevented from doing so makes you so irate? What is being signalled here to the restauranteurs is that they can get away with serving terrible things with minimal repercussion and will thus attempt to get away with even more next time. [See Things to Avoid 14: Sloppiness

For people that love sushi, spend the time and educated yourself about the food. Become the descerning clients that your favorite sushi restaurants deserve, and demand from them food made with craftsmenship that honour the flavours and textures of the quality ingredients they use. Be vocal. Complain loudly if your sushi is made with warm rice and demand they remake your kappa roll if the nori is not crisp, but also comment on how well the fish is sliced if it is uniform and beautiful and if the rice is a joy to look at and delicious to eat. If they meet your challege, support them and eat there everyday, otherwise leave and never go back.

This is a battle we must all willing to fight for. Should we success, we shall see in the future a glourious Toronto (or your favourite city) with well-priced pieces of jewel-like sushi served throughout its neighborhoods. A city where its gentle souls can go to actual sushi festivals and be served real sushi. But should we lose the battle, Toronto will see its streets filled with restaurants serving that delightfully “innovative” chum and mayo filled maki-roll, named after the city itself.

And that is not a future I want to live in.

Pork 20: Smoked Braised Pork (燻煨肉)

持牲單::燻煨肉
先用秋油、酒將肉煨好,帶汁上木屑略燻之,不可太久,使乾濕參半,香嫩異常。吳小谷廣文家,制之精極。

A modern interpretation of smoked braised pork by the Morning Shanghai Restaurant in Richmond, BC. (Credit: Morning Shanghai Restaurant)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Smoked Braised Pork
First, braise the pork in autumn sauce and wine until done. [1] Next, smoke the braised pork briefly with its cooking juices over smouldering wood shavings. The pork will be slightly dry on the outside, moist inside, and extremely fragrant and tender. The household of Wu Xiaogu “Guangwen” [2] excelled in preparing this dish.

Random notes:
[1]: Considering how strong the smoke taste will be, the braising can be done either in the manner of Red-braised pork or the second method of White-braised Pork.

[2]: I could not find any information about what is a Guangwen (廣文), but it sounds rather Official-like. So there. thankfully Mr/Mrs/Dr Chan was kind enough to point out that it’s likely a pen name.

Pork 19: Fen-Zheng Pork (粉蒸肉)

持牲單::粉蒸肉
用精肥參半之肉,炒米粉黃色,拌麵醬蒸之,下用白菜作墊。熟時不但肉美,菜亦美。以不見水,故味獨全。江西人菜也。

A dish of Fenzheng rou
A dish of Fenzheng pork that looks like what this recipe should produce. (Credit: Ching Ching)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal):: Fen-zheng pork[1]
For this dish, use pork that is half lean and half fatty. First, toast coarsely ground rice until it is golden brown, [2] then mix it together with tianmian sauce [3] and the pork. Next, steam the pork in a steaming basket lined with Napa cabbage.

When finished, not only is the pork excellent, the cabbage is also delicious. By not using any water in the dish’s preparation, all the flavours are retained within the ingredients. This is a dish from Jiangxi. [4]

Random notes:
[1]: Though it is not well known by most Westerners, Fenzheng pork is a staple dish for many Chinese families and eaten quite often at home. That is, assuming you know how to make it. It’s not my favorite, but this is the dish that many of my culinarily uninclined Chinese friends “order” when visit their parents.

[2]: Ground toasted rice is known in modern Chinese cuisine as “pork/meat steaming powder”(蒸肉粉)and seems to been used mainly for this purpose and not much else. The only recipes I’ve seen using toasted rice are the Laap (ลาบ) meat salads of Southeast Asia.

[3]: I don’t know if “mian jiang” (麵醬, lit. dough sauce) refers to tianmian sauce, but it seems entirely plausible so I’m going with it. Many modern recipes use douban sauce instead.

[4]: Spice and picked ingredients feature prominently in Jiangxi cuisine. Indeed, while this recipe is quite benign, I’ve seen several other fenzheng pork recipes that are quite spicy or mala.

Pork 18: Pork Braised with Taixiang (台鯗煨肉)

持牲單::台鯗煨肉
作法與火腿煨肉同。鯗易爛,須先煨肉至八分,再加鯗;涼之,則號「鯗凍」。紹興人菜也。鯗不佳者,不必用。

Xiang, or dried-salted yellow croaker, being aired out on a sunny Hong Kong street, infusing the surrounding air with its pungent and alluring fragrance. (Credit: Leesia)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Pork Braised with Taixiang[1]
The technique for this dish is essentially same as the recipe for “pork braised with ham” from before. However, since dried fish softens rapidly when cooked, it should be added only when the braising pork is close to being done [2].

When this dish is allowed to cool and jellify, it becomes a Shaoxing dish known as “xiang aspic” [3]. Note, if the dried fish is of bad quality, do not even consider using it.

Random notes:
[1]: Taixiang (台鯗) is the Chinese name for this particular type of salted and dried yellow croaker. For the same reasons why people don’t call miso soup, “Japanese fermented bean-paste soup”, I will not call the recipe “Pork Braised with Chinese Dried Fish”. However, I’ll use the term “dried-fish” in the actual translation since it does make it more readable by those unintiated to Chinese cuisine.

[2]: Ba-fen (八分) translates to “eight parts” or 8/10 or 80%. Although it would have been more accurate to say “braise the pork until 80% done”, fact is this is a completely qualitative metric and I will not translate it in a manner that allows it an “air” of accuracy. I’ve been doing this in previous recipes and will continue doing so.

[3]This dish in now known in China as “鯗凍肉” or “白鯗燜肉”. Google for pictures.