After seven bowls, a person turns manic like the wind. Even after just one cup they would not have a care in the world. One cannot avoid mentioning the “six clear”1 items. As such, I wrote the “List of tea and wine”.
1 Important drinks from the Zhou dynasty included: plain water, clear wine, unfiltered wine, roasted rice tea, medicinal wine, diluted congee (水, 漿, 醴, 涼, 醫, 酏). Yuan Mei refers to them here to indicate that one cannot avoid talking about all the important drinks if one want to drink.
*It’s been rather hectic this last while. But in any case…We’re on the the LAST CHAPTER of the book!!!
Wang Mang1 stated: “Salt is the commander of hundreds of meat and fish dishes.” I would say: Rice is the foundation of hundreds of flavours.”2 The Classic of Poetry said: “When washing rice it rustles and rustles.3 When steamed it gurgles and gurgles.”4 This shows that the Ancients also ate steamed rice, and were critical of rice has not been permeated by its cooking liquid. For a person who is good at cooking rice, regardless of whether they were boiling or steaming rice they would still be able to cook it such that each grain remains distinct and has a texture that is soft yet dense as one chews.5
The are four keys to making rice: First, one must use a good rice, such as “fragrant rice”, “winter frost”, “late rice”, “Bodhisattva xian“, or “peach blossum xian”6. Rice ripens in the spring, so on humid days it must be spread out to dry, otherwise one risks it becoming mouldy and sickly. Next, one must also rinse the rice well and not skimp on effort when doing so. Rub the rice with ones hands while rinsing it in a sieve and let the water flow through it. Rinse until the water flows clear, without any colour from the rice.7 One must also know how to control the fire, starting first with an aggressive flame and following with a gentle flame. It is best to let rice finish by leaving it to rest covered over very low heat. Finally, one must determine the amount of water to use according to the quantity of rice, with neither too little nor too much water. Just the right dryness and dampness.
One frequently sees wealthy families who are quite discerning over the quality of their dishes but not their rice. In pursuing trifles and forgetting their foundations8, they are quite worthy of ridicule. I do not enjoy ladling soup over rice since it robs the rice of its original flavours. If there is good soup, one rather separately take a mouthful of soup then a mouthful of rice, eating one after the other to enjoy the best of both items. If I must do so, I would rather pour on tea or hot water, which would not deprive the rice of its true flavours.9 The sweetness of rice is superior to a hundred other flavours. When a connoisseur is served good rice they can appreciate it without needing any dishes on the side.
王莽云︰「鹽者，百肴之將。」余則曰︰「飯者，百味之本。」《詩》稱︰「釋之叟叟，蒸之浮浮。」是古人亦吃蒸飯。然終嫌米汁不在飯中。善煮飯 者，雖煮如蒸，依舊顆粒分明，入口軟糯。其訣有四︰一要米好，或「香稻」，或「冬霜」，或「晚米」，或「觀音秈」，或「桃花秈」，春之極熟，梅天風攤播 之，不使惹黴發疹。一要善淘，淘米時不惜工夫，用手揉擦，使水從籮中淋出，竟成清水，無復米色。一要用火，先武後文，悶起得宜。一要相米放水，不多不少， 燥濕得宜。往往見富貴人家，講菜不講飯。逐末忘本，真為可笑。余不喜湯澆飯，惡失飯之本味故也。湯果佳，寧一口吃湯，一口吃飯，分前後食之，方兩全其美。 不得已，則用茶、用開水淘之，猶不奪飯之正味。飯之甘，在百味之上；知味者，遇好飯不必用菜。
1Wang Mang (王莽) is a Han Dynasty official that overthrew the dynasty and later himself was over thrown with the restoring of the Han Dynasty.
2Indeed. It is the canvas in which the flavours of a meal are best presented.
3“Sou sou” (叟叟): *swish swish* onomatopoeia
4“Fu Fu” (浮浮): *glug glug* onomatopoeia. I heard this has a slightly different meaning in Tagalog 👀
5When going to a Chinese restaurant, one can tell what the proprietor thinks about their customers and their own establishment by which kind of rice they serve. Distinct grains that are soft, sweet, and el dente? Or the mush and paste most places serve?
6Xian (秈) is specialize term describing non-glutinous long grain rice such as jasmine or basmati rice.
7This is crucial on how to keep each grain distinct and shiny after cooking.
8This reinterpreted phrase is probably from “qiben zhumo”(棄本逐末) taken from Hanshu (漢書．卷二十四．食貨志下), which translates to “paying attention to the trivial but neglecting the essentials”
9This is pretty much like the Chinese version of Ochazuke.
If one sees water but no rice, it is not congee. If one sees rice but no water, it is not congee. The water and rice must meld harmoniously together as one in softness and richness before it can be called congee. Master Yin Wenrui1 stated: “It’s preferable that people wait for congee then letting congee wait for them.” There is much truth to this well known statement, since letting it sit too long would cause its flavour to change and its liquids to dry off. Recently there have been people making duck congee by adding pungent meats, or making “eight treasure” congee by adding fruits and nuts, all of which causes the congee to lose its proper flavours. If one really must do so, add mung beans in the summer and millet2 in the winter. By matching one of the Five Grains with another3 and combining things inside the same category, one avoids harming the congee.
I have eaten at the house of a certain Inspector, who served several dishes that were fine, but the prepared rice and congee were so coarse and unrefined that I had to force myself to swallow. When I returned home I became violently ill. I joke with others that: “Such misfortune was brought on by the violent wrath of the gods in my five organs,4 thus there was nothing I could do to prevent it.” 5
見水不見米，非粥也；見米不見水，非粥也。必使水米融洽，柔膩如一，而後謂之粥。尹文瑞公曰︰「寧人等粥，毋粥等人。」此真名言，防停頓而味變 湯乾故也。近有為鴨粥者，入以葷腥；為八寶粥者，入以果品︰俱失粥之正味。不得已，則夏用綠豆，冬用黍米，以五穀入五穀，尚屬不妨。余嘗食於某觀察家，諸 菜尚可，而飯粥粗糲，勉強咽下，歸而大病。嘗戲語人曰︰「此是五臟神暴落難，是故自禁受不得。」
1The posthumous name of Yin Jishan.
3The five cardinal grains of great nutritional and cultural importance to the Chinese.
4Wuzang (五臟), five organs in the TCM. Including the heart, lung, liver, kidneys, intestines. It is also known commonly as five organ temple, due to their importance, where the word “zang” also has Buddhist connotations. When someone tells you they will be doing some “worshipping at the Wuzang temple”, they’re basically telling you they will be feasting and drinking very well.
5This story is actually quite funny since Yuan Mei does not want to look overtly like a finicky and unappreciative guest, yet the food was really terrible in his opinion. So he makes this excuse for both himself, that it is actually the deities of his five organs that were causing problems and thus it was no one’s fault. However, one also realizes that Yuan Mei is pointing all the blame back at the inspector, and simultaneously insinuates that he makes terrible offerings to the gods, which brings trouble and misfortune to all.
Congee and rice are the foundations of a meal and all accompanying dishes are extras. And it is only through solid knowledge of the foundations, that one can begin to walk the Path.1 The following is the “List of Rice and Congee”.
1This is straight out of the Analects of Confucius, more specifically: Xue-er. No doubt Yuan Mei was serious about his cereals.
2This is the second to last chapter of the Suiyuan Shidan, and one of the more famous ones. We’re almost at the end of the book!
When the snake gourd1 is still small and young, collect the thinner specimens and marinate them in soy sauce. They are crisp, fresh, and sweet.2
2 Used in the context outside of vegetables, xian 鮮 translates to savoury or umami, but in this case it means fresh and sweet (and possibly every so slightly umami).
Marinate the jiaogua in soy sauce, then let it dry in the wind. Slice it and store it as a dried food item. Use it as one would dried bamboo shoots.
1Jiaogua 茭瓜 (or jiao melon) could refer to either wild rice stems (jiaobai) or zucchini, though the mention of dried jiaojua like dried bamboo shoots tell us it likely refers to the former. The recipe for Jiaobai in the chapter “Vegetable Dishes” talks about how to prepare the fresh item and the preparation of the dried item is described here.
The firm tofu manufactured in Niushuo is the best. There are, however, seven sellers of the item in the foothills. Still, those made in the household of the monk Xiaotang are the best of them all.
1The Niushou Mountains 牛首山 (lit. ox head mountains) are low-altitude mountains in Jiangsu Province near Nanjing, so named because the twin peaks resemble ox horns.