Essential Knowledge 5 : Accompaniment (配搭須知)

諺曰︰「相女配夫」。《記》曰︰「儗人必於其倫。」烹調之法,何以異焉?凡一物烹成,必需輔佐。要使清者配清,濃者配濃,柔者配柔,剛者配剛,方有和合之 妙。其中可葷可素者,蘑菇、鮮筍、冬瓜是也。可葷不可素者,蔥韭、茴香、新蒜是也。可素不可葷者,芹菜、百合、刀豆是也。常見人置蟹粉於燕窩之中,放百合 於雞、豬之肉,毋乃唐堯與蘇峻對坐,不太悖乎?亦有交互見功者,炒葷菜,用素油,炒素菜,用葷油是也。

List of Essential Knowledge::Accompaniment
It is said in a proverb: “For each type of woman there is a matching man.” In Li-Ji (禮記) it is said: “One should compare a person against those most similar to him.” Are the methods of cuisine any different? The success of a dish depends on its ingredients’ mutual support and accompaniment. One should accompany light tasting ingredients with other light tasting ingredients, rich ingredients with other rich ingredients, soft ingredients with the soft, and firm ingredients with the firm, this way they are well matched and in harmony. Note that some ingredients can be used as accompaniment in either meat or vegetarian dishes, such as mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots, and winter melon. Ingredients the accompany meat dish well but not vegetarian dishes, include green onions, garlic chives, fennel seed, and garlic. Ingredients that accompany vegetarian dishes well but not meat dishes, include celery, lily bulbs, and sword beans. I often see crab roe being added into bird’s nest soup and lily bulbs being cooked with chicken and pork. This is similar to someone sitting two bitter rivals such as Tang Yao [1] and Su Jun [2] facing each other; a completely ridiculous decision. That said, there are ingredients that coordinate well despite being on opposite sides. For instance, one can quite effectively use vegetable oil to stir-fry meats and use animal fats to stir-fry vegetable items.

Random notes:

[1]: Tang yao (唐尧) was one of the mythic emperors sages from even before Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BC) little is know definitively about his life but wisdom is often attributed to him by Chinese scholars and Chinese emperors often claim descent from him.

[2]: Su Jun (蘇峻) was a warlord/general in the Jin Dynasty who fought bloody wars, rebelled and tried to overthrow his imperial goverment (succeeding for a short while), and died a bloody death.


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