Wenzheng bamboo shoots are a type of bamboo shoots from Huizhou, brought in by people of that region and are typically lightly salted and dried. One must soak them until soft, cut them into shreds and braise them in a meaty chicken broth. Marshall Gong boils shoots in autumn sauce, bakes until dry, then serves them thus. The people of Huizhou eat this as a delicacy and are enraptured by its flavours.1 I laugh and cannot wait for them to awaken from their dreams.
1 A dried bamboo shoot snack similar to some Chinese beef jerkys and prepared in the same manner.
Braise Tianmu,1 winter,2 and Wenzheng3 bamboo shoots in chicken broth. This is known as “geng“ of three bamboo shoots.4
1Tianmu bamboo shoots from Phyllostachys tianmuensis
2Winter bamboo shoots from Phyllostachys edulis, and as its name suggest comes from its shoots that are harvested in winter time. When harvested in the late spring and summer, the shoots from the same species is known as “hairy bamboo shoot” (毛竹筍) and are not as good due to their tougher texture.
3Wenzheng bamboo shoots from the Wenzheng mountain in Huangshan city. I have no idea of the species here, but if we look at what is said about them in the later section Vegetable Dishes 45: Wenzheng Shredded Bamboo Shoots, this is probably a dried bamboo shoot.
4These three types of bamboo shoots likely complement each other in texture and flavours, much in the way that a dish known as “three coloured eggs” (三色蛋) blend the flavours and textures of three different types of eggs (i.e. fresh eggs, salted eggs, century eggs). And for those just tuning in, geng is a Chinese soup consisting of broth thickened with starch.
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.
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
Carefully pick through the pearl algae1 to clean them through. Boil them until they are somewhat soft then braise them in chicken and ham broth. When serving the dish, it is best when only the pearls are visible and not the chicken or the ham used in its preparation. The household of Tao Fangbo excels at preparing this dish.
1This is a type of cyanobacteria that forms jelly-like round colonies in the bottom of shallow freshwater ponds. The species are usually Nostoc commen v spheroides or Nostoc pruniforme. Still, their full scientific name or their terrible common names (mare’s egg, star jelly) don’t adequately describe how amazing these things look, so I’ve invented a better name: “Pearl Algae”.
Yes, I know they’re are not technically algae, but they look somewhat like them, and they are pearl-like. The Chinese name gexianme (葛仙米), translated badly as “pattern immortal’s rice”. To me, the name pointed out its otherworldly appearance, but in actuality refers to the an ancient Chinese mystic, Ge Hong (葛洪, see Comments). IMHO these spherical algae-like objects are remarkably beautiful.
It’s relative, Nostoc flagelliforme is also commonly eaten and know as facai (髮菜), which literally translates as “hair vegetable” due to it’s stringy appearance. As with its hairy relative, pearl algae are usually sold dried in Chinese groceries.
When preparing fidddleheads1 one must not be frugal, first remove all the fern’s mature branches and leaves, keeping only the straight shoots.2 Rinse them until clean and simmer until soft,3 then braise them in chicken broth. One must use only the shortest and most tender specimens since these are the most plump.
1I was tempted to translated this as bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). However the last sentence says that the short tender shoots of the ferm should be used, which makes these fiddleheads (Canadian term for immature fernshoot tips) enough for me.
2Yuan Mei says zhigen 直根 here, which means “straight roots”. Although one might think this refers to the woody rhizomes, I believe that he is actually trying to say geng (莄or 梗) which sounds similar to gen (根) and refers instead to the straight peduncle-like leaf shoots that come out from the center of a fern. To this day, the leave shoots are the parts of the plant that are collected in many parts of Asian and the world as a vegetable, and never the roots or rhizome of the plant.
3This describes the important preboiling process to leach some of the noxious, and possibly carcinogenic substances out of the fern.
Sear the chrysanthemum greens tips in hot oil until they start shrivelling, than add them to chicken broth to boil. When ready to plate, add a hundred stalks of pine mushroom.1
1Search for the term songjun 松菌 or “Pine fungus” and two different types of mushrooms show up. First is the matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), the other is red pine mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus). I believe that it is less likely to be the former, due to its large size and firm texture that is ill suited for a quick cooking described here. Furthurmore, matsutake is commonly referred as songrong 松茸. Still, I admit I may be wrong as such I’m doing a literal translation and let those curious refer to this note.