Appetizers 2: Warm Noodles (溫麵)

Take thin noodles, boil them in broth, strain dry, and put them into a bowl. Combine with chicken and concentrated savoury shiitake mushroom broth when one is ready to eat. Each person ladles the sauce on the noodles themselves.

溫麵
將細麵下湯瀝乾,放碗中,用雞肉、香蕈濃鹵,臨吃,各自取瓢加上。

Note:
Similar in concept to eating cold Japanese somen and soba during blazing hot summer days or when you just want your meals to consist of things that are relatively cool. Except for this recipe, you’re straddling the fence since you don’t like the idea of eating cold noodles but the thought of having anything hot is unbearable considering the weather.

Appetizers 1: Eel Noodles (鰻麵)

Take a large eel and steam it until soft. Pull off its flesh and discard the bones, add it to wheat flour, combine with clear chicken broth1, and knead the dough.2 Roll the dough flat and slice into thin strips, then boil in chicken broth, ham broth, and mushroom broth.

鰻麵
大鰻一條蒸爛,拆肉去骨,和入麵中,入雞湯清揉之,擀成麵皮,小刀劃成細條,入雞汁、火腿汁、蘑菇汁滾。

Notes:
1Jitangqing (雞湯清) means “clear (part) of chicken broth” but the use of the word “qing” is somewhat odd. I wonder in Yuan Mei actually wrote the other thing while meaning to actually w rite down Jidanqing (雞蛋清), which mean “clear (part) of chicken egg”, or rather egg whites. This is a guess on my part since using egg whites for making Chinese noodles is quite common and chicken broth less, and the phrase here is strange.
2If you have been paying attention this is not a dish of eel on noodles or noodles served with eel. It is literally eel noodles, where the flesh of the eel is incorporated directly into the structure of the noodle’s dough itself. There are actually quite a few of these meat-based dough in Chinese cuisine, from the famous pork-based yanpi 燕皮 to the bouncy tender wrapper of yujiao 魚餃. I’ve made stuff like this is the past and it’s quite tasty and fun using commercial fresh fish paste you can buy at any good Chinese supermarket. This is how you do it:

  1. Empty the (small) tub of fish paste onto a flat surface generously powder with a thick layer of some starch (like potato starch)
  2. Add a generous spoonful on to of the pile of fish paste and press it down until well flattened.
  3. Roll it flat and thin, sprinkling well with more starch as needed to prevent sticking, then fold the flatten fish paste over against itself.
  4. Cover the top of the folded fish paste with a generously sprinkling of starch and then cut everything into noodles.
  5. Boil and eat with a sprinkle of green onions and a spoon of rendered lard. It’s heaven in a bowl.

Appetizers (點心單)

Liang Zhaoming ate appetizers for small meals, likewise aunt Zheng Xiu advised uncle to “have1 appetizers”. Appetizers certainly have a long history, thus the following is called “List of Appetizers”

梁昭明以點心為小食,鄭修嫂勸叔「且點心」,由來久矣。作《點心單》2

Notes:
1Qie (且) usually has a meaning of a time period or eventuality. Not sure what it means exactly in this case, maybe “Take time for appetizers/snacks”?

2I was feeling a bit conflicted between translating 點心 dian xin to either the more common “dim sum” or the somewhat more accurate term “appetizer”. While the former is actually an English transliteration of the exact same term in Cantonese, it is used in the Western context to describe the Cantonese dim sum/yum cha tradition and does not encompass the more general meaning of a small appetizer that quells hunger while “touching” one’s heart. I think a quintessential equivalent for dian xin in the Western traditions would be the little sandwiches eaten in afternoon tea since it does both of the above, though things served for antipasti, tapas, or hor d’oeuvres could also work. So Appetizer it is.

SO BUSY

Since my last post on my talk (which went awesome), life in North America had been flipped upside down by the ongoing global pandemic. With everything changed and me staying at home, life is now even busier and crazier than before. Which of course means the semi-regular posting I have done since the beginning of the year have come to an abrupt screeching halt.

A month later, now that I’ve gotten a bit more on top of the new routines, I will begin slowing posting the final bits of translation for the Suiyuan Shidan. I can’t promise regular posts, but I can promise I will get to them more often.

Stick around!

Upcoming Talk at the University of Toronto Feb 28th!

I will be giving a talk at the University of Toronto East Asian Library this coming Friday 28th at 1pm, on using the gastronomic principles defined by Yuan Mei in the Suiyuan Shidan to develop a framework for understanding Chinese Canadian gastronomy and cuisine.

If you are in Toronto and available in the afternoon, come by and say hi! All are welcome!

Wine: Epilogue

Other than that, Suzhou’s Nuqi, Fuqi’s Wanzao, Xuanzhou’s Zaoerhong, are all subpar and unworthy of consideration. Like the quince1 from Yangzhou, they taste crass and vulgar.

此外如蘇州之女貞、福貞元燥,宣州之豆酒、通州之棗兒紅,俱不入流品,至不堪者,揚州之木瓜也,上口便俗。

Note:
1The Chinese term for quince is “wood melon” (木瓜). Depending on your the ancestral region of Chinese heritage, the term may indeed refer to quince as it has for many that come from more temperate regions of China. But for those of us from the tropics or diaspora overseas where quince is rare and papaya are much more common, the “wood melon” refers almost exclusively to the fruits of Carica papaya.

Wine 10: Shanxi Fenjiu (山西汾酒)

If one is already drinking shaojiu,1 choose the more vicious ones since they are the best. And out of all shaojiu, fenjiu is the most vicious. I have refereed to shaojiu as thugs among man and cruel officials in the counties. But for holding fights in an arena one cannot be without thugs and to rid a region of bandits one cannot be without cruel county officials, likewise, to drive out the chills and clear one’s bodily stagnation, one cannot be without shaojiu. Ranked just behind Fenjiu is Shandong Gaoliang liquor. It can be stored for ten years, where upon the liquor will turn green in colour and becomes sweet in the mouth upon drinking. Just like thugs that have aged, they lose their violent tempers, and become more amicable.

I often see Tong Ershu’s household, infusing ten jin of shaojiu with four liang of goji, two liang of cangzhu,2 one liang of bajitian,3 all wrapped in a cloth. When the jar is opened in a month’s time, the aroma is incredible. When eating pig’s head, sheep’s tail, salted pork and the like, one cannot go without shaojiu, with each component providing it own benefits.

山西汾酒
既吃燒酒,以狠為佳。汾酒乃燒酒之至狠者。余謂燒酒者,人中之光棍,縣中之酷吏也。打擂臺,非光棍不可;除盜賊,非酷吏不可;驅風寒、消積滯, 非燒酒不可。汾酒之下,山東高粱燒次之,能藏至十年,則酒色變綠,上口轉甜,亦猶光棍做久,便無火氣,殊可交也。常見童二樹家,泡燒酒十斤,用枸杞四兩, 倉術二兩、巴戟天一兩,布紮一月開甕,甚香。如吃豬頭、羊尾、跳神肉之類,非燒酒不可,亦各有所宜也。

Notes:
1Shaojiu are a Chinese distilled alcoholic drink, also known as baijiu (白酒, clear/white liquor),and distinct from other distilled spirits in that shaojiu are quite distinctive in their flavour profiles that the unaccustomed may find challenging. In West, one of the most well known shaojiu/baijiu is undoubtedly Maotai.
2Canzhu is the dried rhizome of Atractylodes lancea used in traditional Chinese medicine.
3Baijitian are the dried roots of a tree of a mulberry genus Morinda used in traditional Chinese medicine.