Appetizers 6: Straw Cape Cake (簑衣餅)

Mix cold water into dry flour, but not too much. Knead the dough and roll it flat, then roll-up the flattened dough. Roll it flat again, then spread lard and white sugar evenly on it. Roll the dough up again, then roll it flat into a thin bing, and sear in lard until golden brown. If one wants a salty version, one can use green onions, Szechuan pepper, and salt instead.



  • This name could come from the loose flaky layered texture of the bing, or “cake”, which would have roughly resembles that of the traditional straw cape used as rain coats in East Asia before the introduction of synthetic cloth.

It’s been a while! Let’s see if the second quarter of this year brings with it more free time.

Appetizers 5: Vegetarian Noodles (素麵)

First, simmer the mushrooms for one day to extract its juices and allow it to settle and clarify.1 The next day, simmer bamboo shoots for its juices and boil the noodles in it. This technique is from the monks of Yangzhou’s Dinghui temple, who makes it very well but refuse to transmit the recipe to others. However, one can approximate it to a certain extent. The dish has a pure dark colour, which some say is from secretly added shrimp broth. As for the original juice from the mushroom, simply let the dirt and sand settle but do not change the water. If the water is changed, its original flavours would become diluted.




1This is the trick of making edible vegetarian food before MSG: mushrooms mushrooms, more mushrooms.

Appetizers 4: Skirt Sash Noodles (裙帶麵)

Take a small knife and cut the dough into strips that are somewhat broad. These are known as “skirt sash noodles”. In general, when preparing this noodle dish, it is best when there is a lot of soup in the bowl such that the noodles cannot be seen being. One prefers to wait until the noodles have been finished before adding more, this way it hooks people in to keep eating.1




1The sentence in Chinese is a bit vague, without a mentioning the noodles to make them keep eating. However, this seems like the most accurate and rational interpretation.

*Some sources indicate this dish is a version of the famous “Biang biang noodle“. Whether this is true I can’t say.

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.


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.


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”


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.