Vegetable Dishes 5: Furong Tofu

Take douhua,1 add boiling water to it and soak for three times to rid it of its bean-like smell. Add it to chicken broth at medium boil. When plating, add laver and peeled shrimp.

芙蓉2豆腐
用腐腦,放開水泡三次,去豆氣,入雞湯中滾,起鍋時加紫菜、蝦肉。

Notes:
1I used “douhua” in the translation, but the actual term used in the Chinese text is funao 腐腦, or “tofu brains”, which is rightly soft and tender, like brrraaaaaains. All tofu is made from this ingredient, which is what one gets immediately after curdling soy milk. Nowadays it more commonly referred to in Chinese as douhua (豆花). In English, this is sometimes called “tofu jelly”, which is culinary-wise an rather inaccurate term. Still it’s leagues better than the literal translation “tofu flower”, which is sadly also commonly used. Is such cases, where no equivalent English term exists for the Chinese concept, we should just borrow directly from the transliterated Chinese term and call it douhua instead.

2All furong (芙蓉) dishes, are so name since their main ingredients are generally pale in colour and has an irregular form or texture much like the Chinese hibiscus flower. Furong dishes typically involves egg, but in this case the use of douhua, a super soft unpressed tofu freshly curdled from soy milk, is irregular enough to be dubbed “furong”.

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Vegetable Dishes 2: Yang Zhongcheng’s Tofu

Take tender tofu and cook it in water to rid it of its bean-like smell,1 next put it into chicken broth, and boil with abalone2 slices for several moments. Add zaoyou3 and shitake then plate the dish. The chicken extract used must be quite concentrated and the abalone must be thinly sliced.4

楊中丞豆腐
用嫩豆腐煮去豆氣,入雞湯,同鰒魚片滾數刻,加糟油、香蕈起鍋。雞汁須濃,魚片要薄。

Notes:
1The text does not directly mention the used of water, but in this context of “cooking” (煮) it most likely involves it. The processing of douhua for Furong tofu below supports this reading.

2In Chinese, fu 鰒 means abalone. In Japanese, the same character 鰒 refers to the fugu or puffer fish. How this happened I don’t know.

3Zaoyou 糟油 is a sauce made from rice wine lees, salt, and spices, that has been aged. See the relevant section much much later in the book. (Probably will be posted next year.)

4For short cooking times, the abalone must be sliced thin as flakes, or else it will be too tough.

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.

程澤弓蟶乾
程澤弓商人家製蟶乾,用冷水泡一日,滾水煮兩日,撤湯五次。一寸之乾,發開有二寸,如鮮蟶一般,才入雞湯煨之。揚州人學之,俱不能及。

Notes:
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.

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 18: Crab Geng (蟹羹)

Shell a crab and and make a geng1 from the meat, using its juices for braising. Do not add and chicken extracts since it is best to cook it on its own. I’ve seen vulgar cook adding duck tongue, sharks fin, or sea cucumber, which not only robs the crab of its flavours but add an irritating fishiness to the dish. A complete abomination!

蟹羹
剝蟹為羹,即用原湯煨之,不加雞汁,獨用為妙。見俗廚從中加鴨舌,或魚翅,或海參者,徒奪其味而惹其腥,惡劣極矣!

Notes:
1: A geng 羹 is a class of rich Chinese soups thickened with starch.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 13: Shrimp Balls (蝦圓)

Shrimp ball are made in the same way as fish balls. They can be either braised in chicken broth or stir-fried dry. When pounding the shrimp to a paste, be sure to not pound it too fine otherwise its original flavours and textures would be lost. This is the same with fish balls.1 The shrimp can also be peeled in whole then mixed with laver, which is excellent.2

蝦圓
蝦圓照魚圓法。雞湯煨之,乾炒亦可。大概捶蝦時不宜過細,恐失真味。魚圓亦然。或竟剝蝦肉,以紫菜拌之,亦佳。

Notes
1 This is somewhat surprising since modern fishballs tends to be rather homogenous and fine in texture.
2 It’s not clear exactly how this is prepared. However, whole shrimp that has been semi-butterflied and fried until it just curls into a round form is also know as “shrimp balls” (蝦球), so it’s likely junh that. Mixing in chopped laver with shrimp prepared thus, either before or after frying, will undoubtedly result in excellent dishes.