Vegetable Dishes 33: Tofu skin

Soak the tofu skin1 until supple, and mix with autumn sauce, vinegar, dried shrimp to make dish well suited for summer. The household of Jiang Shilang makes a nice dish by adding sea cucumbers to it. It is also good in a soup with laver and peeled shrimp. It can also be braised with mushrooms and bamboo shoots for a very good clear soup. Cook the tofu skin until soft.

Monk Jing Xiu of Wu Lake rolls the tofu skin into a cylinder, cuts them into segments, lightly browns them in oil, and braises them with mushroom for an excellent dish. Do not add chicken broth.

豆腐皮
將腐皮泡軟,加秋油、醋、蝦米拌之,宜於夏日。蔣侍郎家入海參用,頗妙。加紫菜、蝦肉作湯,亦相宜。或用蘑菇、筍煨清湯,亦佳。以爛為度。蕪湖敬修和尚,將腐皮卷筒切段,油中微炙,入蘑菇煨爛,極佳。不可加雞湯。

Note:
1 Tofu skin is not technically a tofu but rather made from the membrane of soy protein that forms on the surface of simmering soy milk. This is similar to what happens when one simmer cow’s milk on the stove. This thin membrane is lifted off the milk, folded, dried, and then shipped and sold everywhere you can buy Chinese dried goods. However, like many things, it is best to get them fresh. The Japanese make something more or less the same known as “yuba”.

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Vegetable Dishes 30: Two Ways of Preparing Eggplant

The household of instructor Wu Xiaoyen peels the skin off the eggplants1, soaks them in boiling water to rid them of their bitter taste, then sears them in rendered lard. When searing, one must to wait for the water used for soaking the eggplants to cook dry, then dry braise them in sweet soy sauce and water. This is exceptionally good. The household of Magistrate Liuba cuts their eggplant into small pieces without peeling the skin, fries them until slightly browned, and then stir-fry with autumn sauce in hot oil for a great dish.

I have learned these two recipes, yet I have yet to be able have success with them. Still, if one steams them until soft, then slice them open, and dress them with sesame oil and vinegar, one get a dish well suited for summer eating. They can also be braised until dry to make into jerky and served as-is on a dish.

茄二法
吳小谷廣文家,將整茄子削皮,滾水泡去苦汁,豬油炙之。炙時須待泡水乾後,用甜醬水乾煨,甚佳。盧八太爺家,切茄作小塊,不去皮,入油灼微黃,加秋油炮炒,亦佳。是二法者,俱學之而未盡其妙,惟蒸爛劃開,用麻油、米醋拌,則夏間亦頗可食。或煨乾作脯,置盤中。

Note:
1Peeled eggplant makes for a shockingly sensuous dish. Highly recommended.

Vegetable Dishes 28: Matsutake

Matsutake1 are the best when stir-fried with white button mushrooms. It is also excellent stir-fried hot with autumn sauce on its own. Unfortunately they cannot be kept long. They work well in dishes, providing them a delicate umami. Due to how tender they are, matsutake can also be added to line the bottom of the bowl of birds nest.

松蕈
松蕈加口蘑炒最佳。或單用秋油泡食,亦妙。惟不便久留耳。置各菜中,俱能助鮮。可入燕窩作底墊,以其嫩也。

Note:
1 Matsutake Tricholoma matsutake

Vegetable Dishes 16: Roast Vegetarian Goose

Boil some mountain yam until soft, cut them into inch long pieces, and wrap in tofu skin. Pan-fry in oil, then add autumn sauce, wine, sugar, and soy-pickled ginger, and cook until they are brownish red in color.

素燒鵝1
煮爛山藥,切寸為段,腐皮包,入油煎之,加秋油、酒、糖、瓜薑,以色紅為度。

Note:
1A recipe that is a rather poor substitute for real goose and requires quite the imaginative effort on the eater’s part. Still, when eaten without expectations it is remarkably delicious.

Apologies for the slow drip of posts… The planning and work for the on-coming book event is taking much more time than expected. More announcements to come!

Vegetable Dishes 14: Stone Hair

The preparation is the same as pearl algae. During summer, it is especially good mixed with sesame oil, vinegar, and autumn sauce.

石髮1
制法與葛仙米同。夏日用麻油、醋、秋油拌之,亦佳。

Note:
1This is an algae Ulva compressa or Ulva intestinalis, found growing on the rocks and boulders on the sea side. I originally thought of this was another name for facai (髮菜, Nostoc flagelliforme) but in looking at a variety of ancient and old medical texts, we can see the ingredient is most likely that of genus Ulva.

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.

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.