Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 18: Crab Geng (蟹羹)

Shell a crab and and make a geng1 from the meat, using its juices for braising. Do not add and chicken extracts since it is best to cook it on its own. I’ve seen vulgar cook adding duck tongue, sharks fin, or sea cucumber, which not only robs the crab of its flavours but add an irritating fishiness to the dish. A complete abomination!

蟹羹
剝蟹為羹,即用原湯煨之,不加雞汁,獨用為妙。見俗廚從中加鴨舌,或魚翅,或海參者,徒奪其味而惹其腥,惡劣極矣!

Notes:
1: A geng 羹 is a class of rich Chinese soups thickened with starch.

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Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 17: Crab (蟹)

Crab should be eaten on their own without accompaniment of anything. They are best boiled in a lightly salted brine and most enjoyable when shelled by eater themselves. Although crab cooked by steaming is fuller in flavour, it tastes bland and is less enjoyable.


蟹宜獨食,不宜搭配他物。最好以淡鹽湯煮熟,自剝自食為妙。蒸者味雖全,而失之太淡。

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 16: Stir-fried Shrimp (炒蝦)

Stir-fried shrimp is done in the same manner as stir-fried fish and can be cooked with garlic chives. It can also be cooked with mustard greens picked during the winter if one cannot eat garlic chives.1 There is also a recipe where the body of the shrimp is pounded flat2 and stir-fried on its own that was quite novel and interesting.

炒蝦
炒蝦照炒魚法,可用韭配。或加冬醃芥菜,則不可用韭矣。有捶扁其尾單炒者,亦覺新異。

Notes:
1 Chinese not eating garlic chives does so usually due to Chinese Buddhist dietary restrictions.
2 Chuibianqiwei (捶扁其尾) means “tail pounded flat”. But anatomically, it is not the tail of the shrimp that is the subject of flattening but the meaty abdomen instead. It’s unfortunate that across various cultures this part has also been named “the tail”, though understandably if one sees the cephalothorax with its head and guts as “the body”, the abdomen would logically be the tail.

PS: Real life has been crazy. Many apologies for the lack of recent posts!

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 15: Drunken Shrimp (醉蝦)

Pan-fry whole shrimp with shells over high heat in wine until yellow then remove them from the pan.1 Next, braise them in light soy sauce and rice vinegar. When done, cover the shrimp with the bowl to cook with its residual heat. When ready to serve, place them in a dish. Their shells should be tender enough eat.2

醉蝦
帶殼用酒炙黃撈起,加清醬、米醋煨之,用碗悶之。臨食放盤中,其殼俱酥。

Note:
1This is a a very different drunken shrimp compared to the modern version, which is basically shrimp marinated in wine.
2The shell has been made tender likely because the shrimp were braised in vinegar. While interesting, with all the braising, I wonder if the shrimp hasn’t also turned mushy and disgusting.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 14: Shrimp Cakes (蝦餅)

Pound the shrimp into a paste, form into balls and pan-fry. These are known as shrimp cakes.

蝦餅
以蝦捶爛,團而煎之,即為蝦餅。

Note:
A simple dish ingredient-wise, but complex in technique. Again much of the details crucial for this dish were not mentioned by Yuan Mei, most likely because he didn’t actually know them since he didn’t make the dish himself.

The shelled shrimp needs to be pounded well but not too finely. The paste must then be seasoned with salt and some starch, then the stirred until the salt has to tease out the albumin in the shrimp and the pounded mass really sticks together. Only then does one roll the paste into balls and fry them. For this dish I like to add chopped water-chestnut bits and green onions, seasoned additionally with white pepper and rice wine.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 13: Shrimp Balls (蝦圓)

Shrimp ball are made in the same way as fish balls. They can be either braised in chicken broth or stir-fried dry. When pounding the shrimp to a paste, be sure to not pound it too fine otherwise its original flavours and textures would be lost. This is the same with fish balls.1 The shrimp can also be peeled in whole then mixed with laver, which is excellent.2

蝦圓
蝦圓照魚圓法。雞湯煨之,乾炒亦可。大概捶蝦時不宜過細,恐失真味。魚圓亦然。或竟剝蝦肉,以紫菜拌之,亦佳。

Notes
1 This is somewhat surprising since modern fishballs tends to be rather homogenous and fine in texture.
2 It’s not clear exactly how this is prepared. However, whole shrimp that has been semi-butterflied and fried until it just curls into a round form is also know as “shrimp balls” (蝦球), so it’s likely junh that. Mixing in chopped laver with shrimp prepared thus, either before or after frying, will undoubtedly result in excellent dishes.