Essential Knowledge 16: Using Starch (用纖須知)

須知單::用纖須知
俗名豆粉為纖者,即拉船用縴也,須顧名思義。因治肉者,要作團而不能合,要作羹而不能膩,故用粉以牽合之。煎炒之時,慮肉貼鍋,必至焦老,故用粉以護持之。此纖義也。能解此義用纖,纖必恰當,否則亂用可笑,但覺一片糊塗。《漢制考》:齊麯麩為媒。媒即纖矣。

List of Essential Knowledge::Using Starch[1]
Bean starch is known as “xian”, just as boats are towed using “qian” [2]; from each item’s name, we can elucidate their use. When someone is shaping ground meat and wishes to make it hold its form, or if they wish to make a soup thick and smooth in texture, they need only to add starch to make it happen. If meat being stir-fried gets stuck to the bottom of the wok, its texture will turn dry. To prevent this, one could simply add some starch to meat to preserve their texture. Such are the ways of using starch in cooking. When one understands how to use starch, they can make it do wonders in dishes. However, when one has no idea how to use starch, they will make a hilarious mess of everything.

In “HanZhi Kao” a document about political administration in Han dynasty: The nation fo Qi, refers to “Fu” as “Mei” (the same character for “matchmaker”). “Mei” essentially means “xian” [3].

Random notes:

[1]: This is a “blah” translation. “纖” means velvety and smooth, which is what starch confers onto meats and dishes accented with them. By saying “Using Starch” is not exactly right since you lose the velvety smooth meaning. However, saying “Using Smootheners” or “Using Velveters” sound kind weird. You can also say “Using Thickeners” for a functional compromise, but it still does not do the job. Expect an update to this in the future.

[2]: “Qian” here means tow-line. The character is pronounced the same and related to the characeter “牽”, which means to lead by holding

[3]: Qi is now a region of northern shandong. By the way, I don’t actually get the purpose of this last sentence.

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