Pork 5: Two Ways of Preparing Lung (豬肺二法)

持牲單::豬肺二法
洗肺最難,以冽盡肺管血水,剔去包衣為第一著。敲之、僕之,掛之、倒之,抽管割膜,工夫最細。用酒水滾一日一夜。肺縮小如一片白芙蓉,浮於湯面,再加作料,上口如泥。湯崖少宰宴客,每碗四片,已用四肺矣。近人無此工夫,只得將肺拆碎,入雞湯煨爛亦佳。得野雞湯更妙,以清配清故也。用好火腿煨亦可。

Pigs lungs for sale at a Chinese market. Laborious and tedious amounts of cleaning required. (Credit: Earthengine)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Two Ways of Preparing Lung
Lungs are the most difficult to clean of all the organs.[1] First, one has to clear the lungs’ bronchi [2] of all traces of blood and remove the membrane surrounding each lung. Then comes the delicate tasks of beating, squeezing, inverting, hanging the lung, and pulling out its numerous bronchial branches and tubes. [3]

Prepare the lung by boiling it in a mixture of water and wine for a day and a night. When the lung has shrunk to the size of a white hibiscus blossom, floating on the surface of the liquid, season as required and serve. The lung should be so tender that it falls apart and melts in the mouth.

When the Ancient Official Tang Ya [4] hosted banquets, each bowl would be served with four pieces of lung that were originally prepared from four whole lungs. People nowadays no longer have such skill, thus the lungs are prepared by tearing them into small pieces and cooking them in chicken broth until soft, which is still good. This preparation is even better using pheasant broth, which accompanies the gentle flavours of the lung with its own delicate flavours. One can also braise the lung with good ham.

Random notes:
[1]: Just when you thought pig stomach was a pain to clean, along comes pig lungs. To be honest, I didn’t think the lungs were eaten, but I should have known better. It seems to be used as a restorative in Chinese medicine for, not surprisingly, the treatment of lungs and respiratory systems related conditions. The traditional process for cleaning lung as described by Yuan Mei is messy and tedious, but thankfully technology in the form of commercial kitchen faucets and pressurized water sources has spurred on the development of an innovative “flow-through” lung cleaning technique. Just look at that snow white colour of those cleaned lungs!

[2]: These are the branching cartilage supported tubes that bring air into the depths of the lung, so you (or the pig) can breath.

[3]: The modern recipes I have looked at don’t removed the bronchial tubes. It seems you just slice everything up and then braise.

[4]: Shaozai (少宰) appears to some sort Vice Administrative Official from Zhou dynasty. In the case of “湯崖少宰”, I’m assuming 湯崖 is the person’s name.

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Pork 4: Two Ways of Preparing Stomach (豬肚二法)

持牲單::豬肚二法
將肚洗淨,取極厚處,去上下皮,單用中心,切骰子塊,滾油炮炒,加作料起鍋,以極脆為佳。此北人法也。南人白水加酒煨兩枝香,以極爛為度,蘸清鹽食之亦可;或加雞湯作料煨爛,燻切亦佳。

A cleaned pork stomach ready for culinary action with all the slimy gunk scrubbed away, the tough membranes sliced out, and unsavory bits trimmed off. (Credit: Michel Venot)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Two Ways of Preparing Stomach
Wash the stomach clean and reserve its thickest part. [1] Discard its tough inner and outer membranes, using only the muscular middle layer. [2] Dice the stomach, stir-fry it in boiling hot oil, season, and then plate it. For this Northern method of preparation, the crisper the meat’s texture, the better it is. [3]

The Southern method involves braising the stomach in a mixture of water and wine for a period of two incense sticks until sufficiently soft. It is then eaten dipped in plain salt. The stomach is also delicious braised until soft with the rights seasonings in chicken broth, then smoked and sliced. [4]

Random notes:
[1]: Pig stomach has a fantastic crispness (脆彈, lit. crisp and bouncy) when cooked a-point and a soft springy texture (“Q”) when braised. The only problem is that it’s an absolute pain to clean. There is a lot of slicing, scrubbing, massaging, scraping, rinsing, and parboiling to rid the stomach of its sliminess and smell. Just Google “洗猪肚” (washing pig stomach) and you’ll see numerous articles devoted to the subject and numerous strategies to speed up the process. My mother cleaned tripe using Coca-Cola, which appears to also work for pig stomachs.

[2]:The inner membrane is the mucosa and the outer membrane is the serosa, both of which need to be removed before stir-frying due o their tough and unpleasant textures. Only the orthogonal layers of smooth muscle tissues and connective tissue are used in the dish, providing the a nice “crisp” bite.

[3]: An example of stomach cook in this fashion is the famous Shandong dish: Youbao shuangcui (油爆雙脆, lit. two crisp items stir-fried in boling oil), which consists of rapidly stir-fried “chrysanthemum” cut chicken gizzards and pig stomach.

[4]: Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this together make three methods and not two?

Pork 3: Trotters and Tendons (豬爪、豬筋)

持牲單::豬爪、豬筋
專取豬爪,剔去大骨,用雞肉場清煨之。筋味與爪相同,可以搭配;有好腿爪,亦可攙入。

Trotters for sale with their hocks or knuckles still connected. (Credit: MutHwaBC)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Trotters and Tendons
Take just the trotters, remove their large bones, and braise them in plain chicken broth. [1] The flavours of the tendons and trotters are similar and match each other well. In fact, if one has a good ham hock with the trotter [2] it can also be cooked with the tendon to support its flavour.

Random notes:
[1]: Just what does he mean by braising with a “chicken market/factory/arena” (雞肉場)? Google this section of Suiyuan Shidan and we see that å ´ was not a typo from Wikisource but rather it was printed this way in the actual text. In reading the sentence as whole, I’m tempted to believe that the Qing Dynasty typesetters that put together the First Edition of Suiyuan Shidan most likely made a mistake, erroneously setting the sort for å ´ instead of 湯 (soup/broth). This changes the statement from something that would have been expected: “stew using clear chicken broth” (用雞肉湯清煨之), to something completely non-sensical: “stew using a clear chicken market” (用雞肉場清煨之). I’m going with the “broth” and dumping the “market” interpretation.

[2]: 腿爪 (tuijua) means “leg and trotter” which likely refers to the ham hock (and a bit more) still connected to the trotter. Though it could also mean the entire ham with the trotter, it’s rare in Chinese cooking to cook the entire ham together in one dish in the manner similar to a Western Roasted ham.

Pork 2: Four Ways of Preparing Ham Hock (豬蹄四法)

持牲單::豬蹄四法
蹄膀一隻,不用爪,白水煮爛,去湯;好酒一斤,清醬酒杯半,陳皮一錢,紅棗四五個煨爛。起鍋時,用蔥、椒、酒潑入,去陳皮、紅棗,此一法也。又一法︰先用蝦米煎湯代水,加酒、秋油煨之。又一法︰用蹄膀一隻,先煮熟,用素油灼皺其皮,再加作料紅煨。有土人好先掇食其皮,號稱「揭單被」。又一法︰用蹄膀一個,兩缽合之,加酒、加秋油,隔水蒸之,以二枝香為度,號「神仙肉」。錢觀察家制最精。

A delicious looking red-cooked ham hock (紅燒元蹄) prepared using techniques similar to the third method of preparation here. If we look at the bones, this may actually be the knuckle (radius and humerus) and not the hock (mainly tibia). (Credit: Stu Spivack)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Four Ways for Preparing Ham Hock
Take a ham hock [1] with the trotter removed and boil it in plain water until soft. Discard the cooking liquid and add to the meat half a kilogram of good wine, half a wine cup [2] of light soy sauce, four grams of dried tangerine peel, and four or five dried red jujube, then stew the ham hock until meltingly soft. When it is done, remove the orange peel and red jujube and sprinkle the ham hock with green onion, Szechuan pepper, and wine to finish. This is one method. Another method is to stew the hock with wine and autumn sauce in a broth made by simmering dried shrimp in water.

Yet another method is to boil a ham hock until it is fully-cooked, then fry the skin of the hock in vegetable oil until it crisps and turns into crackling. Season and stew the fried ham hock in the manner for red-cooking [3] until done. Some country folk like to pull off this crackling to eat first before stewing, calling it “lifting-off the thin blanket”.

A final method involves taking a ham hock and putting it between two earthenware alm bowls [4] along with wine and autumn sauce, and then steaming it separately from the water for a period of two incense sticks. [5] This dish is known as “Immortal’s Pork”, [6] which is done incredible well at Observer Qian’s abode.

Random notes:
[1]: Ti-pang (蹄膀) is used to refer to the “shin” portion of the pig’s hind-limbs, known also as the ham hock. Some recipes however also suggest using the “fore-arm” portions of the pigs fore-limbs, known also as the knuckle. This article suggests that the hock has the right quantity of fat and the skin is thin, which makes it good for long braising or stewing as required in these recipes.

[2]: Up till now I’ve sorta cheated by translating “bei” (杯) as “cup” when fact is I have no idea how big was Yuan Mei’s cup, much less the size of a “wine cup” (酒杯). Annoyingly there does not appear to be records of how big is one 杯 or 酒杯. One thing’s for sure, they’re not the American Standard cup (236ml). Of the legal volume measures in Qing Dynasty China, “ge” (合) and “shao” (勺) appear to be most likely the units of measurement of Yuan Mei’s cup. Their volumes in metric are 103.54ml and 10.35ml, respectively. Given that the Japanese measure “go”, written also as 合, is also the volume of the standard traditional Japanese wine cup perhaps I can hand-wave myself into believing that the Chinese wine cup is also one 合. So there you go, ignoring the fact that the Japanese “go” is actually 180ml, that we still have no idea how big is one of Yuan Mei’s “cup”, and that all this mess is a guess, let’s just say one “wine cup” (酒杯) is one “ge” (合), or 103.54ml.

[3]: Red-cooking involves slowing braising meat in dark soy-sauce, sugar, wine, and sometimes caramel colouring. Ginger, star anise, and green onions are almost always added to flavour the mix. Black cardamom and cinnamon are also commonly used in flavouring.

[4]: These are of the form of the ceramic bowl that Buddhist monks use for collecting alms. I assume you take two of them and stack one upside down on top the other with the ham hock inside. Or maybe these things already have lids and you put the hock in the smaller bowl inside a bigger bowl and close them up like Russian dolls?

[5]: So how long is the two incense sticks? One incense stick can last anywhere from 5 minutes to more than 1 hour or even 2 hours, depending on its thickness. In my humble opinion, I think these incense sticks here are the one hour kind, making the required steaming time more than 2 hours, though the cooking time may be much longer.

[6]: This may be called this because it uses two Buddhist alms bowls. Or if the bowls for steaming the dish are “stacked one upside on top the other” such that they look a bit like a bottle gourd, a traditional symbol of the Chinese Immortals (神仙) and the mystical medicines that they carry in them.

American Chinese Food in “the Motherland”

An American-Chinese Cuisine restaurant opens in Shanghai to serve the standard horrific mess-of-a-cuisine Westerners here like to call “Chinese food”*. And to great success, no less.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275628045/cornell-pair-introduce-american-chinese-food-to-shanghai

*Okay fine, I admit I enjoy eating it too sometimes.

Pork 1: Two Ways of Preparing Pig’s Head (豬頭二法)

持牲單::豬頭二法
洗淨五斤重者,用甜酒三斤;七八斤者,用甜酒五斤。先將豬頭下鍋同酒煮,下蔥三十根、八角三錢,煮二百餘滾;下秋油一大杯、糖一兩,候熟後,嘗鹹淡,再將秋油加減;添開水要漫過豬頭一寸,上壓重物,大火燒一炷香;退出大火,用文火細煨,收乾以膩為度;爛後即開鍋蓋,遲則走油。一法:打木桶一個,中用銅簾隔開,將豬頭洗淨,加作料悶入桶中,用文火隔湯蒸之,豬頭熟爛,而其膩垢悉從桶外流出,亦妙。

Preparing to cut the pig’s head off of a pig. Considering the size of the carcass and the cuteness of the face, this is more likely a piglet. (Credit: 90.5 WESA)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Two Ways of Preparing Pig’s Head
Scrub clean a three kilograms pig’s head [1] and add to it two kilograms of sweet wine. If the pig’s head is around four to five kilograms in weight used three kilograms of sweet wine instead. Place the pig’s head in a pot with the sweet wine and cook it with thirty stalks of green onion and eleven grams of star anise in excess of two hundred moments[2]. After that add one large cup of autumn sauce, 75 grams of sugar, and cook until done. Taste and season with autumn sauce as needed, then add enough boiled water to cover the pigs head by an inch. Weigh the pig’s head down with something heavy and boil under high heat for one incense worth of time. Then reduce the head and braise using a gentle flame, reducing the liquid according to how oily it is.[3] When the pig’s head is tender and soft, immediately uncover the lid of the pot, otherwise the fat will be rendered from the flesh. [4]

Another method for preparing pig’s head is to first break open a wooden bucket and install a copper sieve in its center. [5] Wash the pig’s head clean, place it in the prepared bucket with the required seasonings, and gently steam everything elevated from the cooking liquid. When the pig’s head is cooked and tender, any greasy and foul drippings would have flowed out of the sieved bucket, making the dish exceptionally good.

Random notes:
[1]: Washing a pig’s head is pretty messy business, even more so than the trotters. You have burn off the bristles, then scrub-out all the mucus, dirt and filthy gunk located inside and around every nook and cranny of the ears, mouth, gums, eyes, and snout before you can consider it somewhat clean. Some people simplify the second for of this task by scrubbing using Coca Cola instead of water, which does an impressive job of cleaning due to the phosphoric acid in the drink. My mom used this technique to wash tripe, resulting in the most squeaky, mucus free tripe one can get without using industrial cleaners. Just imagine what a can of coke does to your stomach… The pig’s heads noted here are pretty heavy, so I doubt they have not been deboned.

[2]: In the Sturgeon section I decided to translate 滾 (gun) as a “moment” and so I will do the same here. In that section I’ve also tried to figure out what is a 滾 (in seconds) and came to a rather flaky conclusion that it’s anything from a few hundred milliseconds to a bit more that two second. I think the only way to figure what how long a period of time Yuan Mei’s “滾” actually amounts to, is to measure the cooking times of the foods being mentioned. This is something that I did in a cursory manner in the sturgeon section, but here we have another chance to recalculate to confirm the accuracy of the conversion. We know that the purpose of the technique lasting for 200滾 is to to par-cook the pigs head to seal-in most of the blood. This technique is done for making Dongpo pork as well, where the thick chunk of pork belly is boiled whole for several minutes. If we go by the ~2 seconds/滾 conversion from the sturgeon section, 200滾 would amount to 6-7 minutes, which is a bit short for par-cooking a large pig’s head (brain removed). In my experience with cooking pigs head, it typically takes around a good 10-12 minutes of boiling for the bones and meat in the head to stop oozing copious amounts of blood. This would mean that 200滾 is more likely around 600-720 seconds or rather 3-3.6 seconds/滾. This tells us our prior assumption that each 滾 is several hundred milliseconds is wrong, and that 3 seconds/滾 may be more correct. For a while I thought it was just me who had this question but truth is, it seems that nobody out there has any idea what this unique unit of time converts into. In this French translation posting someone asked a Chinese professor how long is 200滾, who replied in a half-knowing fashion that it means “200 bubbles from boiling”. Yes…very helpful indeed. It is in reading threads like this that affirms my belief that translating the Suiyuan Shidan is not just a task that can be done by someone with an academic background who knows Classical Chinese. You also need to be able to cook Chinese food well, can understand the animal species used as ingredients and their ecology, and have a firm grasp of the social context of each dish.

[3]: Yuan Mei teaches a rather advanced concept in this elegant six word phrase, namely that the degree of reduction of a sauce must be limited by its oiliness. A properly reduced cooking liquid can effectively suspend or even emulsify the oil to create a rich sauce, but overdo the reduction and the oil will break-out of the sauce, making it unpleasent and greasy. Just break a Hollandaise sauce and see if anyone will eat it. This points directly at one of the more basic Chinese culinary requirements of cooking meat, namely that it should be “油而不腻”, or loosely translated: “oily without being greasy”.

[4]: An noted in the chapter Things to Avoid 11: Rendering Fat, when you render out the fat in meat you also render out and remove its flavour.

[5]: I’m guessing here that one breaks out the bottom of a wooden bucket and wedges in porforated copper sieve to replace the structural support provided by the bucket’s bottom.

Pork: Introduction (持牲單:開篇)

持牲單::開篇
豬用最多,可稱「廣大教主」。宜古人有持豚餽食之禮。

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)[1]::Introduction
Pigs are such a widely used culinary animal that they can be considered “Spiritual leader of the Gastronomic realm”[2]. The ancients held the pig in especially high regard for the purpose of spiritual offerings and rituals.[3]

Random notes:
[1]: The Chinese name for this chapter doesn’t say “Pork”, but rather “List of the special sacrificial creature”(持牲單). For a while I considered naming this chapter “Sacrificial animal”, but this name utterly fails to indicate that everything in the chapter is about preparing flesh from the pig. At the same time, it lacks the reverential “aura” that the Chinese name holds. Although I may decide later that “Pork” is a terrible name for the chapter, for now I am doing it for the sake of clarity and practicality.

[2]: “廣大教主” literally translated means “The great and wide leader of the sect”, which in this context to me means that pigs are the chief animal of gastronomy, hence the rather long-winded translation.

[3]: This is still commonly practiced nowadays for certain “大拜拜”. Check out the photos of many sacrificed pigs and other animals here and here. And BTW: Goodbye 2014! Hello 2015!