Vegetable Dishes 29: Two Ways of Preparing Wheat Gluten

For the first method, fry the gluten with oil in a wok until toasted and dry, then braise them plain with chicken broth and mushrooms. For the next method do not toast them but rather soak them in water. Cut into slices and stir-fry with concentrated chicken extract, then add winter bamboo shoots and green onions. The household of examiner Zhang Huaishu prepares this extremely well. When plating, it is more suitable to roughly tear the gluten than slicing them. Stir-fry them with the soaking liquid of dried shrimp and sweet soy-sauce1 for an exceptionally good dish.


1Tianjiang (甜醬), is basically a sweet fermented sauce. The question though, is what is it. Is it sweet flour sauce (tianmian sauce)? Or is it sweet soy-sauce like in Taiwanese thick soysauce? Or is it a soy sauce with sugar added? I defer the interpretation to the rtrieader.
2Mianjin (麵筋), literally translated is “dough tendon”, which may sound odd but is arguably exactly what gluten does for a ball of dough.

How to make gluten for cuisine:
Making wheat gluten for dishes is easy. First, make a ball of dough that’s not too firm nor soft. Knead it until the gluten in the dough is well-formed then allow to rest. Next, take the ball of dough and soak it in a large bucket of water with a colander, while lightly rubbing, squeezing, and recollecting the ball of dough. The wheat starch will start washing out and the water will turn cloudy. Change the water and repeat. After a while, work the ball of dough harder and squeeze and fold it in the water. The dough will start feel more “gummy” than “doughy” and the rinsing liquid will become clearer as most of the starch has already been washed out. That ball by then would consist of almost all gluten.


Vegetable Dishes 26: Spinach

Spinach are plump and tender and can be prepared by boiling with soy sauce, water, and tofu. In Hangzhou, people know this as “Gold inlaid on a slab of white jade”. This vegetable is thin but quite meaty2 and thus does not require cooking with bamboo shoot tips or shitake.


1Bocai (菠菜), or spinach, in Chinese literally translates to “Persian vegetable”, which points out the degree of trade between the two peoples in Ancient times.

2Say literally “lean but fat”, I’m going out on a limb here with this translation but I don’t think it is inaccurate.

Vegetable Dishes 23: Bok Choy

Bok Choy1 can be stir-fried, or braised with bamboo shoots. It can also be braised together with slices of dried-cured ham or chicken broth.


1 The names for the Chinese mustards are a fantastic mess be it in English or Chinese. When people people nowadays refer to baicai(白菜), they usually mean the “大白菜”, or Napa cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis), which in the Suiyuan Shidan is referred to as huangyacai (黃芽菜). The “baicai” referred to here is probably a mustard with the green leaves and thick white stalks related to the Napa cabbage, and similar to what is commonly sold in North America under the name “bok choy” (B. rapa subsp. chinensis), hence the translation. Of course this assumes that the braising described in the recipe is short (a few minutes) since longer braising (>10 minutes) is usually done with chinenesis

Vegetable Dishes 22: Taicai

Stir-fried taicai stem is quite smooth and dense in texture. Remove its outer skin, then add mushrooms and new bamboo shoots to make a soup. It is very good stir-fried with shelled shrimp.


1Taicai (台菜) is a rather confusing name since it could refer to many things, among them seaweed, a variety of mustard greens, or celtuse. The latter is now days more commonly known as wosun (窩筍) but also still occasionally referred to as taicai, though that is more commonly written as ”苔菜”. Adding to the utter confusion of things, taicai can also mean Taiwenese cuisine. However given that later in the chapter we have an entry for celtuce named using a more common name woju (萵苣), this recipe is likely not celtuce, but probably more a mustard green with thick stems such as “Choy Sum”, “Gailan” or one of the Western Mustards. Indeed there are soups of kailan stems when the tougher outer skin of the stem is removed. As well in the Pork Chapter, a recipe for Cauliflower refers to the mustard that produced the cauliflower as “taixincai” (台心菜), which points to the ingredient as the stem of cauliflower. Still, with the amount of ambiguity and the nagging suspicion that maybe this is still celtuce, I’ve decided to go by the pronunciation instead of listing out the vegetable’s name, and let the reader use their own judgement instead.

2To my knowledge nuo (糯) has two different meanings. The word is usually used with “rice” (米) to indicate sticky rice, or noumi (糯米). However, peeled mustard stem is not sticky, thus the word most likely refers to the dense smooth and fine-grained texture of the vegetable stem. Still, I will concede that there may be other meaning out there that I don’t know about.

Vegetable Dishes 21: Green Vegetables

Green vegetables that are tender can be stir-fried with bamboo shoots. During the summer, dress it with ground mustard and a little vinegar to awaken one’s appetite. One can make a soup with it using dried-cured ham. One must look for those that have been freshly picked to ensure that they will be soft and tender.


1Qingcai (青菜) means literally “greenish-blue vegetable” and is used to describe a wide variety of different greenish vegetables, typically mustards (like Brassica rapa). The term is sometimes translated to “Chinese cabbage” or “Bok Choy”, but I went with the direct translation since these English names tend to be rather inaccurate. Besides, most of these qingcai plant varieties do not have good or consistent names in English. Come to think of it, the rather colloquial English term for vegetables: “greens“, may actually be a better translation than the more typical ones.

Vegetable Dishes 18: Celery

Celery is a su vegetarian item.1 The plumper they are, the better they taste. Choose the white stalks to stir-fry, add bamboo shoots, and cook until done. People now like to stir-fry it with pork, confusing its flavour and rendering it largely unremarkable.2 When not fully cooked, celery is quite crisp but flavourless. When mixed raw with pheasant, it is quite dish to laud over.3


1Su 素 is basically the opposite of hun 葷, where there are no animal-based ingredients and only vegetables not of the allium family, which excludes garlic, onions, shallots, garlic chives, and the like.

2I would disagree here, the flavour of celery is strong enough to cut through any meat you can throw at it. I would argue that celery more often will take over any dish you add it to than not.

3The classic Chinese homestyle dish celery with chicken is more or less similar to this.

Vegetable Dishes 8: Frozen Tofu

Freeze tofu for one night, cut into square pieces, and boil them to rid them of their bean-like smell. Add them to a mixture of chicken broth and extracts, ham extract, and pork extract and braise. When serving, remove the chicken and ham and the like, leaving only the shitake and the winter bamboo shoots.

When tofu has been braised for a long time its texture becomes spongy, with its surface becoming honey-combed like frozen tofu.1 For stir-frying use soft tofu, while braising should be done with firmer tofu.2 The household of Officer Jia Zhihua cooks tofu with mushrooms, even during the summer they follow the same recipe for frozen tofu, since it is very good. Do not use strong flavoured hun meat broths3 for this dish since doing so would destroy to delicate light flavours of this dish.


1I think Yuan Mei is trying to say normal tofu looking like frozen tofu after prolonged boiling.

2This feels slightly off on a tangent, and may not apply exclusively to frozen tofu. In fact, the rest of the paragraph goes on a tangent.

3Though the term hun 葷 (pronounced hoon) is commonly used to refer to any meat from any animal, this is clearly not the meaning here. When Yuan Mei say’s “葷湯”, or “hun soup”, he is not saying “animal broth” since there is already chicken and ham used to make this dish. Most likely he is referring to the stronger and richer tasting pork, and possibly beef broth, thus I translating it as such. It seems that every “vegetable” dish here is full of animal ingredients. This is still true for most Chinese vegetable dishes where lard and broth (or MSG) are “musts”.