Side Dishes 25: Radishes

Choose a large and thick radish and pickle it in soy sauce for a day or two before serving. They have a lovely sweet and crisp texture. Some experienced nuns know how to make them into items similar to dried-salted fish, cutting them to form a long chain of butterflies around one zhang1 in length, connected and fluttering without any breaks.2 It is a wondrous sight to behold. Cheng’en Temple has radishes for sale that have been pickled in vinegar, with the aged specimens tasting the best.


1Around a meter.
2Although the Chinese statements are somewhat disjointed, the use of the word jian 剪 (to cut with a pair of scissors) instead of the word qie 切 (to cut with a knife) evokes the image of a long chain of butterflies cut from paper, except that in this case radishes are used.


Side Dishes 24: Datoucai

Datoucai1 are produced in Cheng’en Temple in Nanjing, and the older they are the better. When added to meat-containing dishes, it really enhances its savoury flavours.


1Datoucai 大頭菜 literally means “big headed vegetable”. It likely means kohlrabi, but it could also refer to the mustard used to make a hot pickled mustards known as zhacai 榨菜, with its thick bumpy stem.

Side Dishes 23: Taicai Hearts

Take taicai hearts1 harvested at spring and pickle them, squeeze out their salty juices, and store the hearts in a small bottle. Serve them during the summer. When the flowers are wind-dried, they are known as “vegetable flower heads” and can be cooked with pork.2


1I believe these are the stems of cauliflower, but really any thick mustard stem would probably work.
2The recipe of this was given earlier in the Pork chapter in the section: Cauliflower Braised with Pork

Side Dishes 22: Pickled Greens

Wind-dry the hearts of some winter greens1 and pickle them lightly with salt. Add sugar, vinegar, ground mustard, and the pickling liquid to a jar.2 One can also add a bit of autumn sauce. This dish is suitable for when one is drunk and full at a banquet, since it awakens the appetite and takes away the effects of alcohol.


1The winter greens here is a cold tolerant mustard, which could be any one of more than half of all the Chinese mustard cultivars.
2Presumably the mustard greens had already been placed in the jar.

Side Dishes 21: Rice Lees Greens

Take some fully pickled wind-dried greens and wrap them with a vegetable leaf. For each wrapped package, cover it with a layer of fragrant rice lees and pack it tightly into a vat. When they are ready to eat, open each package of preserved greens and serve. The rice lees never touch the pickled greens, yet the greens are flavoured by the rice lees.1


1Think of this dish as a more refined Chinese version of Japanese kasuzuke 粕漬け.

Side Dishes 20: Wind-Dried Greens

Take the hearts of winter mustard greens and wind dry. Pickle them and afterwards squeeze out their salty juices and put them in a small bottle. Seal the bottle with clay and place it inverted over wood ash.1 When eaten in the summer, they are yellow in colour with an odorous fragrance.2


1The Chinese text only refers to ash, though due to its prevalence wood ash is the most likely candidate. The caustic chemistry of wood ash makes it an effective preserving agent, which is likely employed in this case to prevent fungal growth in the clay bottle seal that in Yuan mei’s time were not completely water proof.
2I could be wrong, but this appears to be a type of fucai 福菜, a type of bottled pickled vegetable made by the Hakka Chinese.

Side Dishes 19: Shredded Firm Tofu

Shred good firm tofu into very fine strips and toss with shrimp1 and autumn sauce.2


1The word 蝦子 in Chinese languages could mean either shrimp or shrimp roe. I tend towards the former though the latter could also be possible. While either ingredient would work in the dish, one would actually need a scholar specialized in word usages in Yuan Mei’s time and region to figure out which ingredient was actually specified.
2This dish is basically a minimalist version of liangban gansi 涼拌干絲, except today you can buy the tofu pre-shredded.