Vegetable Dishes 1: Jiang Shilang’s Tofu (蔣侍郎豆腐)

Remove the skin on both sides of each piece of tofu. Cut each piece into sixteen slices and sun dry them slightly. Sear the tofu in hot rendered lard but only add them when whiffs of smoke appear over the lard. Sprinkle a large pinch of salt on the tofu, flip them, then add a tea cup full of good sweet wine and one hundred and twenty large dried shrimp. If one does not have large dried shrimp, use three hundred small dried shrimp instead.1 The dried shrimp must be first boiled and then soaked for two hours.

Next add a small cup of autumn sauce, let the tofu boil,2 then add a large pinch of sugar, and let it keep boiling. Finally, add one hundred and twenty segments of thin green onions,3 each half an inch long, and plate at a leisurely pace.

蔣侍郎豆腐
豆腐兩面去皮,每塊切成十六片,晾乾,用豬油熱灼,清煙起才下豆腐,略灑鹽花一撮,翻身後,用好甜酒一茶杯,大蝦米一百二十個;如無大蝦米,用小蝦米三百個;先將蝦米滾泡一個時辰,秋油一小杯,再滾一回,加糖一撮,再滾一回,用細蔥半寸許長,一百二十段,緩緩起鍋。

Notes:
1By going with the amount of dried shrimp, this is either a rather large dish of tofu or this dish uses as much dried shrimp as tofu.

2Terms like gunyihui (滾一回) mean something like “simmer/boil for one round”. I’ve opted to translate this as something like “let it boil”.

3This recipe is quite detailed, even prescribing the number of pieces of green onion to add to the dish. Weird thing is despite the clear instructions in this recipe, modern chefs that “recreate” the dish often do something completely different than what is presented in the recipe. The only person I could find that attempts an actual recreation is this lady who also read the Suiyuan Shidan.

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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.

水雞1
水雞去身用腿,先用油灼之,加秋油、甜酒、瓜薑起鍋。或拆肉炒之,味與雞相似。

Notes:
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 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.

蛼螯2
先將五花肉切片,用作料悶爛。將蛼螯洗淨麻油炒,仍將肉片連鹵烹之。秋油要重些,方得有味。加豆腐亦可。蛼螯從揚州來,慮壞,則取殼中肉,置豬油中,可以遠行。有曬為乾者亦佳。入雞湯烹之,味在蟶乾之上。捶爛蛼螯作餅,如蝦餅樣煎吃,加作料亦佳。

Notes:
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.

2
蚶有三吃法﹕用熱水噴之,半熟去蓋3,加酒、秋油醉之;或用雞湯滾熟,去蓋入湯;或全去其蓋作羹亦可。但宜速起,遲則肉枯。蚶出奉化縣,品在蛼螯、蛤蜊之上。

Notes:
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

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 10: Shredded Rice Eel Geng (鱔絲羹)

Boil the rice eel1 until it is half done, then slice it into thin shreds and remove its bones. Braise in wine and autumn sauce. Add a small amount of starch powder along with day-lily flowers,2 winter melon and long green onions to finish the geng3. The cooks in Nanjing like to grill rice eels until they are charred, which leaves one completely incredulous.

鱔絲羹
鱔魚煮半熟,劃絲去骨,加酒、秋油煨之,微用縴粉,用金針菜、冬瓜、長蔥為羹。南京廚者輒制鱔為炭,殊不可解。

Notes:
1Monopterus albus, also known by the less than savoury name, the swamp eel.
2Hemerocallis fulva, the Orange Day-Lily, is often sold dried and reconstituted before cooking. The fresh version, if it can be found should be preferred for this dish.
3Geng (羹) is a clear soup thickened with starch. Thick Chinese soups are technically all geng.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 8: Soft-Shelled Turtle Braised in Soup (湯煨甲魚)

Boil a soft-shelled turtle in water, remove its bones, and tear the meat into pieces. Braise it in chicken broth, autumn sauce, and wine, reducing the liquid from two bowls until there is one bowl. Serve the soup, blending it with green onions, Szechuan pepper, and ground ginger. The household of Wu Zhuyu prepares this dish extremely well. Use a small amount of starch such that the prepared soup is sufficiently thick.

湯煨甲魚
將甲魚白煮,去骨拆碎,用雞湯、秋油、酒煨湯二碗收至一碗,起鍋,用蔥、椒、薑末摻之。吳竹嶼家制之最佳。微用芡,才得湯膩。

*Happy Canadian Thanksgiving all!

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 7: Soft-Shelled Turtle with Grey Salt (青鹽甲魚)

Chop a soft-shelled turtle into four pieces and stir-fry thoroughly in a hot wok. For every jin of the turtle, braise it with four liang of wine, three qian of star anise, and one and a half qian of salt until half done. Add two liang of rendered lard and chop the turtle into small dice before braising, adding garlic and bamboo shoot tips. Before plating add green onion and Szechuan pepper. One can add autumn sauce before plating, but never add salt. This is a recipe from the household of Tang Jinghan of Suzhou. Large soft-shelled turtle are tough and small ones smell fishy. Its best to buy one that is medium in size.

青鹽甲魚
斬四塊,起油鍋炮透。每甲魚一斤,用酒四兩、大茴香三錢、鹽一錢半,煨至半好,下脂油二兩,切小骰塊再煨,加蒜頭、筍尖,起時用蔥、椒,或用秋油,則不用鹽。此蘇州唐靜涵家法。甲魚大則老,小則腥,須買其中樣者。

*  This can be also called Ragoût de Tortue au sel de Guérande. Sounds more “refined”, for whatever reason.