“The three animals: cattle, sheep, and deer, are not commonly served in the households of Southerners. However, one cannot be ignorant of their preparations, thus necessitating this chapter on the ‘List of Assorted Livestock’.”
Things have dramatically changed since Yuan Mei wrote this introduction. While venison is even less commonly found on Chinese menus, beef and mutton/lamb has becomes dramatically more common, almost to the point of becomes something like a “staple” meat such as pork.
Nevertheless, mutton still retains an air of exoticism in Chinese cuisine due to their common use by Chinese of Central Asian and Mongolian ethnic backgrounds. This is in some ways reflected by the generous used of spices such as cumin and all the grilling or roasting involved in its preparation. Beef too, though now found everywhere in modern Chinese cuisine, is also still seen as a less “morally wholesome” meat in Taiwan and parts of Southern China.
It should also be noted that China still does not raise its own cattle and sheep, relying more or less completely on beef and mutton imports to satisfy domestic needs. Perhaps this too can be seen an echo of gastronomic preferences from an earlier China where these meats were considered rather exotic items.