Vegetable Dishes (雜素菜單)

Dishes can be split into those that are meat-based or vegetable-based, just like clothes can split into those worn over or under other garments. Those privileged and wealthy indulge themselves more on vegetable dishes than they do with meat-based dishes.1 The following is the list of “Assorted vegetable dishes”.2

菜有葷素,猶衣有表裡也。富貴之人,嗜素甚於嗜葷。作«素菜單»。


Notes:

1Saying that rich and well-connected people prefer vegetarian fare, conversely implies that only the poor, powerless, or the newly-rich crave meat. Which is not to say that the vegetable dishes preferred by the wealthy of Yuan Mei’s time aren’t heavily flavoured with meats and seafood. Quite the opposite, many use concentrated broths and extracts from countless animals just to infuse tofu and vegetables with rich savoury flavours, similar to what is done with sea cucumbers and shark fin. This is line with the whole Chinese “gentlemanly” (junzi 君子) ideal of “wenya” (refined/elegant 文雅), where all the mess and blood of killing and dead animals, raw or cooked, is hidden from view and only the savoury animal broths with its clean vegetarian ingredients are visible. I personally find this whole deal rather hypocritical and rather offensive in that Marie Antoinette’s peasant village way. Consider this in context with number of people in China who were always teetering on the border of starvation, picking every last grain of rice from their bowl and cooking pots. Then think about those few elite using the meat and bones of several chicken and pigs just to make a broth to flavour some elegant and refined vegetable dish, then essentially tossing all the other meat ingredients. Did they really have the right to sneer at the famished peasant for craving meat?

2Following the previous note, the tofu recipes in this section contains some of the most extravagant and refined court dishes that Yuan Mei had during his life. A window into another world.

Advertisements

Sugar Chicken

I’ve been wanting to say this for a while but things have been rather busy and it sorta slipped my mind.

If you look at the “Birds” Chapter you’ll see tonnes of Chicken recipes with a fair amount of sugar in them including at least 3 or 4 that actually tells you to top the finished chicken dish with a generous quantity of sugar or rock candy. It seems serving chicken with chunks of sugar, and to a lesser extent making chicken sweet, was a relatively normal thing to do in Chinese cuisine several centuries ago, and even continues today with dishes like soy sauce chicken or sanbeiji. Chinese food in North America has extended this even further such that sugar actually becomes the main seasoning instead of simply a highlight.

Which goes to show, Sugar Chicken is not just some passing joke in Rick and Morty.

IT HAS HISTORICAL PRECEDENCE.

That is all.

P.S. Here’s an AUTHENTIC sugar chicken recipe.

AUTHENTIC SUGAR CHICKEN

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large spoons of water
  • 3 large spoons of whatever vinegar
  • 2 large spoons of whatever soy sauce
  • 4 large spoons of corn starch mixed with water
  • A bucket of fried chicken bits
  1. Mix sugar, water, vinegar, and soy sauce (add minced garlic for a dish that will surely impress the family connoisseur)
  2. Put oil in the pan and stir-fry sugar mix until all hot and molten.
  3. Add the corn starch mixture to the hot molten sugar and stir until thick, hot, and molten
  4. Throw fried chicken into thick hot molten sugar sauce and mix
  5. Serve SUGAR CHICKEN in a trough with rice

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 28: Tea Eggs (茶葉蛋)

Take one hundred chicken eggs1, add one liang of salt and coarse tea leaves. Boil for two incense sticks of time until done. If there are only fifty eggs, add five qian of salt, and increase or decrease the quantities of ingredients as required. They can be eaten as a snack.2

茶葉蛋
雞蛋百個,用鹽一兩、粗茶葉煮兩枝線香為度。如蛋五十個,只用五錢鹽,照數加減。可作點心。

Notes:
1This is definitely larger than “Family-Sized”.

2Tea eggs are one of the most commonly eaten Chinese snacks, and can be found in every neighbourhood in China. In Taiwan they are sold at all the convenience store next to the oden.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 27: Smoked Eggs (燻蛋)

Braise chicken eggs with seasonings1 until done. Slowly smoke them until dry, then slice and serve them on a plate as a side-dish.

燻蛋2
將雞蛋加作料煨好,微微燻乾,切片放盤中,可以佐膳3

Notes:
1What seasonings were used? Not sure, but you can be sure it’ll be something salty like soy sauce or brine.

2It is a mystery to me why this egg recipe was placed here in this chapter for scaleless aquatic critters. Perhaps they were misplaced and should have been in with the chapter on snacks or appetizers?

3Zuoshan (佐膳) does not have a good English translation. It is basically a dish good for accompanying rice, typically a salty and strong-flavored item. Stewed gluten, chili bamboo shoot, or soy-pickled cucumbers would all count as such.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 26: Frogs (水雞)

Remove the body of the frog and use only the legs. First sear them in hot oil, add autumn sauce, sweet wine, and soy-pickled ginger, then serve. Its meat can also be pulled off and stir-fried.

It tastes like chicken.

水雞1
水雞去身用腿,先用油灼之,加秋油、甜酒、瓜薑起鍋。或拆肉炒之,味與雞相似。

Notes:
1Shuiji (水雞), which literally translates as “water chicken” is used by Yuan Mei to refer to frogs, no doubt because of the similar texture of their flesh to chicken. They are also commonly called tianji (田雞) or “paddy chicken”, since they are commonly found in the flooded fields where rice is grown.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 25: Fresh Razor Clams (鮮蟶)

The cooking method of razor clams are similar to that of giant clams. They can also be stir-fried. The household of He Chunchao makes such an incredible tofu in razor clam broth that it can be considered a masterpiece.

鮮蟶
烹蟶法與蛼螯同。單炒亦可。何春巢家蟶湯豆腐之妙,竟成絕品。