Fish 8: Fish Slices (魚片)

Take slices of black carp or a grouper, season with autumn sauce, then add starch powder and egg white. Start a wok and stir-fry them over high heat. Plate them using a small dish and add green onions, Szechuan pepper, and soy-pickled ginger. Each dish should not contain more than six liang of fish, since heat cannot be evenly and thoroughly applied when there is too much ingredients.

魚片
取青魚、季魚片,秋油郁之,加芡粉、蛋清,起油鍋炮炒,用小盤盛起,加蔥、椒、瓜薑,極多不過六兩,太多則火氣不透

Notes:
This recipe is quite similar to the preparation of our contemporary stir-fried fish slices (炒魚片), which shows how old this method of fish preparation likely is. Although some recipes contain more ingredients than this, regardless the core technique for stir-frying the fish is the same.

While stir-frying fish slices (likely stir-frying itself) sounds easy to do, all too often the fish slices gets cooked into jerky by the novice cook or stirred until it disintegrates into something more like fish floss. Successful preparation of this dish takes some skill and a few tricks. First the fish’s flesh needs to be sliced with its grain so the pieces does not easily fall apart. Next, the fish must be first quickly pan fried in a wok to set their shape before being quickly and gently flipped until the fish is barely cooked. The cooking typically takes less than a minute or so. Any other ingredients that goes into the dish must be precooked to not mess up this timing.

When done well, the resulting dish is sublime.

Advertisements

Fish 4: Groupers

Groupers1 have few bones and are best when sliced and stir-fried. For stir-frying, the more thinly sliced the grouper’s flesh the better. Lightly season the fish with autumn sauce, then mix it with starch-powder and egg-white before putting it into the wok to stir-fry, adding the appropriate seasonings while stir-frying. The oil that should be used here is vegetable oil.

季魚
季魚少骨,炒片最佳。炒者以片薄為貴。用秋油細郁後,用縴粉、蛋清摟之,入油鍋炒,加作料炒之。油用素油。

 
Notes:
1The grouper in this section is referred to as jiyu (季魚) or as “鲫魚”. It is one of many species of groupers from the genus Epinephelus. It is also known more commonly as shibanyu (石班魚) or sometimes just banyu (班魚). The latter name should not be confused with the fish described in River Delicacies 5: Snakehead Fish (班魚).

Birds 7: Stir-Fried Chicken Slices (炒雞片)

“Take boneless chicken breasts and chop them into thin slices. Mix the slices with mung bean starch, sesame oil, and autumn sauce. Next add thickening starch and mix in egg whites. Just before stir-frying, add to it soy sauce, soy pickled ginger, and chopped green onion. One must use a burning hot flame to stir-fry the dish. Only four liang of chicken should be cooked per serving so that the heat can properly and rapidly cook the meat.”

羽族單::炒雞片
用雞脯肉去皮,斬成薄片。用豆粉、麻油、秋油拌之,芡粉調之,雞蛋清拌。臨下鍋加醬、瓜薑、蔥花末。須用極旺之火炒。一盤不過四兩,火氣才透。

chicken_and_almonds_stir_fry
Yet another chicken stir-fry dish (Credit: SpaceMonkey~commonswiki )

This a recipe one could expect to find in an any modern Chinese cookbook. The interesting thing here is that the seasoning/marinade used here includes “doufen”(豆粉), which I translated as “mung bean starch” or alternatively can also be interpreted as “mung bean noodles”.

In both cases, adding either during marinating process seems somewhat strange since the former would give a rather gelatinous textured coating and the latter would mean oddly marinating the meat with bits of noodles. Still, I went with the former since it seems more plausible in my opinion. However, given that hundreds of year went between now and then, your guess is as good as mine.

Birds 7: Stir-Fried Chicken Slices (炒雞片)

Take boneless chicken breasts and chop them into thin slices. Mix the slices with mung bean starch, sesame oil, and autumn sauce. Next add thickening starch and mix in egg whites. Just before stir-frying, add to it soy sauce, soy pickled ginger, and chopped green onion. One must use a burning hot flame to stir-fry the dish. Only four liang of chicken should be cooked per serving so that the heat can properly and rapidly cook the meat.

羽族單::炒雞片
用雞脯肉去皮,斬成薄片。用豆粉、麻油、秋油拌之,芡粉調之,雞蛋清拌。臨下鍋加醬、瓜薑、蔥花末。須用極旺之火炒。一盤不過四兩,火氣才透。

chicken_and_snow_peas_with_stir_fried_green_beans_281566697484429
There are no good images of stir-fried food on wikimedia commons, but just in case you need some visuals on what cooked chicken slices look like… (Credit: jefferyw)

One question came up during this translation: what exactly is dou fen (豆粉)? It literally means bean flour, but does that mean it’s mung bean starch? Roasted soy bean powder? Raw soy bean powder? Mung bean flour? I guess we’ll never know definitively, but it worth trying out the recipe to find out. Meanwhile I’m saying it’s mung bean starch, because it makes sense to me.

Birds 2: Chicken Soong (雞鬆)

Take the legs of a plump chicken, remove their tendons and bones, then mince the meat finely. Be sure to not damage the skin. Mix the meat together with egg whites, starch thickening, and chopped pine nuts. If there is not enough leg meat, substitute it with some cubed chicken breast meat.

Fry the meat in sesame oil until golden brown and place it in a earthern crock. To the crock, add half a jin of baihua liquor, a large cup of autumn sauce, a ladle of chicken fat, along with the likes of winter bamboo shoots, shitake, ginger, and green onions. Cover the mixture with the reserved chicken skin, add a large bowl of water, and steam it until done. Remove the chicken skin when serving.

羽族單::雞鬆
肥雞一隻,用兩腿,去筋骨剁碎,不可傷皮,用雞蛋清、芡粉、松子肉同剁成塊。如腿不敷用,添脯子肉,切成方塊,用香油灼黃,起放缽頭內,加百花酒半斤、秋油一大杯、雞油一鐵勺,加冬筍、香蕈、薑、蔥等。將所餘雞骨皮蓋面,加水一大碗,下蒸籠蒸透,臨吃去之。

Chicken on the loose. (Credit: Infrogmation)

Chicken soong literally means “loose chicken”, which alludes to texture of the minced cooked chicken. In modern Chinese cooking, this dish is usually stir-fried untill done without the extra step for steaming. This modern version will definitely have a more assertive flavour than what Yuan Mei had in his time.

Then as now, Soong (鬆) dishes of all kinds, be they chicken, pork, duck, or shrimp, would have been eaten on rice. However, most restaurants nowadays served wrapped in lettuce leaves to be eaten like a taco. To be honest I prefer this modern presentation since I like eating with my hands and I can better enjoy the textures of the chicken and pine nuts better with the crispness of the lettuce.

As for this detailed recipe, it is the same as that for the previously translated recipe for “Luosuo rou“. The only difference between the two recipes is that chicken is used instead of pork. Both recipes also state explicitly that the mixture must be steamed covered with the skin of the respective animal to completion. Again I not sure why this is done, but can only speculated that doing so improves the flavours and the textures of the resulting dish.

And now, for a different kind of Chinese chicken song: