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。

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Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 24: Cheng Zegong’s Dried Razor Clams (程澤弓蟶乾)

The merchant house of Cheng Zegong produces dried razor clam1, preparing them by soaking them in cold water for a day, boiling for two days, and squeezing out its liquids five times. A one inch long dried item, once rehydrated will be two inches long with the appearance a fresh razor clam, which can then be braised in chicken broth.2 People from Yangzhou try to learn the method of its preparation, but they cannot make it better than Cheng’s household.

程澤弓蟶乾
程澤弓商人家製蟶乾,用冷水泡一日,滾水煮兩日,撤湯五次。一寸之乾,發開有二寸,如鮮蟶一般,才入雞湯煨之。揚州人學之,俱不能及。

Notes:
1Cheng (蟶) refers to the the razor clams of the genus Solenidae.

2This feels like the preparation of a texture food in its similarity to how deer tendon is prepared, with all the soaking, boiling, squeezing, and flavouring with chicken broth

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 23: Giant Clam (蛼螯)

Slice some pork belly, then simmer them until soft with the right seasonings. Wash the clam and stir-fry with sesame oil, then add the pork slice and its juices to cook. One should add more autumn sauce when cooking so there is sufficient flavour. Tofu can also be added if desired.

Giant clams are produced in Yangzhou. Due to concerns over spoiling, they usually are sold shucked and preserved in lard such that they can endure longer transport.1 The sun-dried item is also very good. When cooked in chicken broth, they are much better than dried razor clams. Giant clams can also be pounded until tender and flat as a pancake, then pan-fried and eaten like a shrimp cake. These are good with seasonings added.

蛼螯2
先將五花肉切片,用作料悶爛。將蛼螯洗淨麻油炒,仍將肉片連鹵烹之。秋油要重些,方得有味。加豆腐亦可。蛼螯從揚州來,慮壞,則取殼中肉,置豬油中,可以遠行。有曬為乾者亦佳。入雞湯烹之,味在蟶乾之上。捶爛蛼螯作餅,如蝦餅樣煎吃,加作料亦佳。

Notes:
1An interesting method of preservation, similar to ways of making French rillette or English potted meats.

2Che’ao (蛼螯) is likely the giant clams of Genus Tridacna or Hippopus. On top of eaten as a food, the thick shells of these clams are also carved and polished into beads for jewelery and treated as a type of gemstone.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 22: Cockles(蚶)

Cockles can be prepared in three ways. Splash with boiling water and when they are half done1 and remove one shell and marinade them in wine and autumn sauce until they are “drunk”. Or they can be cooked in chicken broth by remove one shell and putting them into the broth. Finally, they can also be shucked and made into geng. It is best to cook them quickly since overcooking will leave them dry and tough. Cockles are produced in Fenghua Prefecture and should be preferred over giant clams and venus clams.

2
蚶有三吃法﹕用熱水噴之,半熟去蓋3,加酒、秋油醉之;或用雞湯滾熟,去蓋入湯;或全去其蓋作羹亦可。但宜速起,遲則肉枯。蚶出奉化縣,品在蛼螯、蛤蜊之上。

Notes:
1There is no mention of any heat applied to cook the cockles, but what’s likely happening here is that the cockles are being cooked over a low flame with a few splashes of hot water, a technique known as “men” (悶).

2The character gan (蚶) is used to describe shellfish of the family Arca, which encompasses a whole bunch of clam-like shellfish with ridged shells commonly known as cockles. Some of them, like the popular blood cockle have so much to haemoglobin in their blood that their raw meat is bright red. The etymology of the word is also very interesting. On the left of the character is the radical “chong” (虫), which in modern Chinese would translate as “worm/insect” but the more archaic usage would more accurately translated as modern English term “critter”. The right is “gan” (甘) which mean sweet and pleasant tasting. As such, the character is saying that this is a delicious tasting critter, which it is.

3One usually use the word gai (蓋) for lids, like a pot lid. But in this case, Yuan Mei is referring to the shell of the cockles

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 21: Venus Clams (蛤蜊)

Venus clams1 are very good shucked and stir-fried with garlic chives. They can also be cooked as a soup. Overcooking will make them dry and tough.

蛤蜊
剝蛤蜊肉加韭菜炒之佳。或為湯亦可2。起遲便枯。

Notes:
1A large family of clam species of the Family Veneridae. The term geli (蛤蜊) usually describes manila clams or Asian hard clams
2This could either mean “cooked in broth” or “cooked as a soup”. Considering that the flavours of clams are easily ruined by the flavours of broths from other ingredients, it’s likely the latter.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 20: Steamed Shelled Crab (剝殼蒸蟹)

Shell an entire crab, take its meat and roe, and stuff it inside the carapace shell. Place five or six stuffed crabs on top of raw (chicken) egg and steam. When served at the table, the crab looks whole, less its claws and legs. This feels like a more novel take on stir-fried crab meat.

Officer Yang Lanpo mixes pumpkin1 with crab, which is rather unusual.

剝殼蒸蟹
將蟹剝殼,取肉、取黃,仍置殼中,放五六只在生雞蛋上蒸之。上桌時完然一蟹,惟去爪腳。比炒蟹粉覺有新式。楊蘭坡明府以南瓜肉拌蟹,頗奇。

Note:
1This will give the crab meat an appealing bright orange colour and a somewhat sweeter flavour.