Side Dishes (小菜單)

Side dishes accompany main dishes, just like petty officers accompany and support the six high imperial officers. All these dishes here awaken the spleen, liven one’s appetite, and eliminate waste. The following is the list of side dishes.

小菜單1
小菜佐食,如府吏胥徒佐六官也。醒脾解濁,全在于斯。作《小菜單》。

Note:
1 Translated literally, the title of this chapter is “small dishes”, which are basically simple side dishes very similar to Korean banchan both in their character and in the manner in which they are served.

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Vegetable Dishes 47: Radish Cooked in Lard

Stir-fry the radishes in rendered lard, then add dried shrimp and braise them until completely done. When one is about to plate the dish, add chopped green onions. The radishes should be translucent and red like amber.

豬油煮蘿蔔
用熟豬油炒蘿蔔,加蝦米煨之,以極熟為度。臨起加蔥花,色如琥珀。

Note:
1The descriptions in this dish reminds me of the daikon radish in the oden they serve at Old Taipei’s Tien Tsia Restaurant (添財日本料理, the konyaku they serve is also mind-blowing).  There, they cook these enormously large tender chunks of radish until they take on a translucent ochre red lustre, becoming juicy and permeated with flavour. This is likely my favourite way of cooking/eating radish. Truth is, when radish is well-braised in this manner, you can pretty much toss everything else in the pot of oden since all the great fusion of flavours have melded into the soup and penetrated every pore in the chunk of radish. It redefines what great daikon radish can be and should be. It is magnificent.

*This is the last section of the Vegetable Dishes chapter! Onto the next chapter!

Vegetable Dishes 46: Stir-fried Shaggy-mane Mushrooms

The monks from the great monastery of Wu Lake wash the shaggy-mane mushroom1 to rid them of sand, then stir-fry them with autumn sauce and wine until done. They plate and serve them to guests at their banquets. This dish is incredibly good.

炒雞腿蘑菇
蕪湖大庵和尚,洗淨雞腿蘑菇去沙,加秋油、酒炒熟,盛盤宴客,甚佳。

Notes:
1The Chinese name “Chicken drumstick mushroom” sounds so much more appetizing than the English name, which sounds more like a dirty mop of hair on top of some unwashed animal. I remember reading about the English cultures being complete mycophobes in comparison to their continental cousins, which may explain the rather unappealing names given to many fungi.

China Daily Interview

With everything that has been happening I almost forgot to mention that I was interviewed by the China Daily the beginning of this year. Despite the 12 hour difference between myself and journalist Li Yingxue, along with our rather different states of wakefulness (first time I had to drink coffee in the evening in a while), the article turned out well.

We actually spoke for almost an hour for the article, so the content is an ultra-condensed version of that interview.

Those wanting to read the article can find it here: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201901/18/WS5c413744a3106c65c34e53ae_1.html

Vegetable Dishes 45: Wenzheng Shredded Bamboo Shoots

Wenzheng bamboo shoots are a type of bamboo shoots from Huizhou, brought in by people of that region and are typically lightly salted and dried. One must soak them until soft, cut them into shreds and braise them in a meaty chicken broth. Marshall Gong boils shoots in autumn sauce, bakes until dry, then serves them thus. The people of Huizhou eat this as a delicacy and are enraptured by its flavours.1 I laugh and cannot wait for them to awaken from their dreams.

問政筍絲
問政筍,即徽州筍也。徽州人送者,多是淡筍乾,只好泡爛切絲,用雞肉湯煨用。龔司馬取秋油煮筍,烘乾上桌,徽人食之,驚為異味。余笑其如夢之方醒也。

Notes:
1 A dried bamboo shoot snack similar to some Chinese beef jerkys and prepared in the same manner.

Vegetable Dishes 44: Yanghua Greens

Yanhhua greens1 are available during March in Nanjing. They are as supple and crisp as spinach. A vegetable with a truly elegant name.

楊花菜
南京三月有楊花菜,柔脆與菠菜相似,名甚雅。

Notes:
1Contemporary sources and modern practices together seem to suggest that these are the leaf shoots and unopened flowers from Chinese willow trees Salix matsudana.

Vegetable Dishes 43: Indian Aster

Choose the tender tips of the Indian aster1 and serve then mixed with bamboo shoots and vinegar. This dish can be served to rouse one’s spleen2 after having greasy food.

馬蘭
馬蘭頭菜,摘取嫩者,醋合筍拌食。油膩後食之,可以醒脾。

Note:
1Malan (馬蘭) is the Indian Aster (Aster indica)
2This is from traditional Chinese medicine, where the belief is that the spleen acts to absorb the vital energies from consumed food.