Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 28: Tea Eggs (茶葉蛋)

Take one hundred chicken eggs1, add one liang of salt and coarse tea leaves. Boil for two incense sticks of time until done. If there are only fifty eggs, add five qian of salt, and increase or decrease the quantities of ingredients as required. They can be eaten as a snack.2


1This is definitely larger than “Family-Sized”.

2Tea eggs are one of the most commonly eaten Chinese snacks, and can be found in every neighbourhood in China. In Taiwan they are sold at all the convenience store next to the oden.


Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 27: Smoked Eggs (燻蛋)

Braise chicken eggs with seasonings1 until done. Slowly smoke them until dry, then slice and serve them on a plate as a side-dish.


1What seasonings were used? Not sure, but you can be sure it’ll be something salty like soy sauce or brine.

2It is a mystery to me why this egg recipe was placed here in this chapter for scaleless aquatic critters. Perhaps they were misplaced and should have been in with the chapter on snacks or appetizers?

3Zuoshan (佐膳) does not have a good English translation. It is basically a dish good for accompanying rice, typically a salty and strong-flavored item. Stewed gluten, chili bamboo shoot, or soy-pickled cucumbers would all count as such.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 26: Frogs (水雞)

Remove the body of the frog and use only the legs. First sear them in hot oil, add autumn sauce, sweet wine, and soy-pickled ginger, then serve. Its meat can also be pulled off and stir-fried.

It tastes like chicken.


1Shuiji (水雞), which literally translates as “water chicken” is used by Yuan Mei to refer to frogs, no doubt because of the similar texture of their flesh to chicken. They are also commonly called tianji (田雞) or “paddy chicken”, since they are commonly found in the flooded fields where rice is grown.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 25: Fresh Razor Clams (鮮蟶)

The cooking method of razor clams are similar to that of giant clams. They can also be stir-fried. The household of He Chunchao makes such an incredible tofu in razor clam broth that it can be considered a masterpiece.


Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 24: Cheng Zegong’s Dried Razor Clams (程澤弓蟶乾)

The merchant house of Cheng Zegong produces dried razor clam1, preparing them by soaking them in cold water for a day, boiling for two days, and squeezing out its liquids five times. A one inch long dried item, once rehydrated will be two inches long with the appearance a fresh razor clam, which can then be braised in chicken broth.2 People from Yangzhou try to learn the method of its preparation, but they cannot make it better than Cheng’s household.


1Cheng (蟶) refers to the the razor clams of the genus Solenidae.

2This feels like the preparation of a texture food in its similarity to how deer tendon is prepared, with all the soaking, boiling, squeezing, and flavouring with chicken broth

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 23: Giant Clam (蛼螯)

Slice some pork belly, then simmer them until soft with the right seasonings. Wash the clam and stir-fry with sesame oil, then add the pork slice and its juices to cook. One should add more autumn sauce when cooking so there is sufficient flavour. Tofu can also be added if desired.

Giant clams are produced in Yangzhou. Due to concerns over spoiling, they usually are sold shucked and preserved in lard such that they can endure longer transport.1 The sun-dried item is also very good. When cooked in chicken broth, they are much better than dried razor clams. Giant clams can also be pounded until tender and flat as a pancake, then pan-fried and eaten like a shrimp cake. These are good with seasonings added.


1An interesting method of preservation, similar to ways of making French rillette or English potted meats.

2Che’ao (蛼螯) is likely the giant clams of Genus Tridacna or Hippopus. On top of eaten as a food, the thick shells of these clams are also carved and polished into beads for jewelery and treated as a type of gemstone.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 22: Cockles(蚶)

Cockles can be prepared in three ways. Splash with boiling water and when they are half done1 and remove one shell and marinade them in wine and autumn sauce until they are “drunk”. Or they can be cooked in chicken broth by remove one shell and putting them into the broth. Finally, they can also be shucked and made into geng. It is best to cook them quickly since overcooking will leave them dry and tough. Cockles are produced in Fenghua Prefecture and should be preferred over giant clams and venus clams.


1There is no mention of any heat applied to cook the cockles, but what’s likely happening here is that the cockles are being cooked over a low flame with a few splashes of hot water, a technique known as “men” (悶).

2The character gan (蚶) is used to describe shellfish of the family Arca, which encompasses a whole bunch of clam-like shellfish with ridged shells commonly known as cockles. Some of them, like the popular blood cockle have so much to haemoglobin in their blood that their raw meat is bright red. The etymology of the word is also very interesting. On the left of the character is the radical “chong” (虫), which in modern Chinese would translate as “worm/insect” but the more archaic usage would more accurately translated as modern English term “critter”. The right is “gan” (甘) which mean sweet and pleasant tasting. As such, the character is saying that this is a delicious tasting critter, which it is.

3One usually use the word gai (蓋) for lids, like a pot lid. But in this case, Yuan Mei is referring to the shell of the cockles