“Take a fat hen, skin and cut off both breasts, then use the knife and scrape the breast meat into a fine paste. One can also use a planing knife for this task. Only scrape and do not chop the meat since the desired fine texture cannot be achieved by chopping. Use the rest of the chicken to make the broth for cooking the scraped meat. When one is ready to serve the dish, pound together a mixture of finely ground rice, minced dried-cured ham, pine nuts, and add the pounded mixture to the cooking soup. Finish by adding green onions, ginger, and a drizzle of chicken fat.
The soup can be either skimmed of froth from its surface or left as is if preferred. It is well suited for serving to the elderly. In general, if the breast meat was chopped for preparation of this soup, then the froth it should be skimmed. However, if the meat was scraped then no skimming is required.”
The Chinese name of this dish reads ji-zhou (雞粥), where ji (雞) translates to chicken and zhou (粥) translate to congee. Thus the dish should be chicken congee right? Well, for me at least, not quite.
When one reads the recipe, one sees that this dish is more a well textured chicken soup or chicken purée than rice congee with chicken in it. In fact the Chinese name is most likely referring to the texture of the chicken in the soup being like the grains of rice in a congee; clearly visible but soft and mostly structureless in the mouth.
Translating the dish as “Chicken congee” or “Chicken zhou” would not only distort this texture reference, but make one think this is some sort of chicken rice congee. Thus I’ve conceded using the descriptive name and call it “Scraped Chicken Soup”.
To be honest it’s a pretty terrible translation but I like it better than any other translations I can think of. Maybe someone out there in the “internets” has a better suggestion.
As for the technique, scraping is a commonly used in preparing fish balls, dumpling fillings, and other foods requiring fine textured meat. It is also used in making the decadent jin-tang (吊湯), an intensely flavoured broth made by clarifying a chicken broth using the scraped breast meat of another chicken. If well made, the broth is clear and almost colourless but shocks with the intensity of its chicken flavour.
The only other thing to note here is the term “細米粉” (xi mifen), which literally translates to “fine rice flour”. In modern parlance, “mifen” (米粉) usually refers to rice noodles, but when we look at the usage of the same term in other places in the Suiyuan shidan, it seems that Yuan Mei was talking about ground rice and not rice noodles. Thus I’m calling it such even though I not sure why one would add ground rice to this dish.