Vegetable Dishes 17: Garlic Chives

Garlic chives are a strong flavoured hun food.1 Reserve the white portions of garlic chives and stir-fry with dried shrimp for a great dish. They are also good stir-fried with fresh shrimp, clams, or pork.2

韭
韭,葷物也。專取韭白,加蝦米炒之便佳。或用鮮蝦亦可,蜆亦可,肉亦可。

Notes:
1In the Suiyuan Shidan, the term hun (葷) is used as an umbrella term in a few places not only for Chinese Buddhist vegetarian ideas of what are or are not forbidden foods, but also to note various assertive stenches or flavours. The former category consists of all animal based food as well as all plants form the garlic family, which are believed to disrupt one’s Buddhist practice. The latter, although less common in modern usage, nevertheless feels appropriate considering how delightfully sinful these strong flavours and smell are.

2Disappointingly little is said here about this very tasty and easy-to-grow vegetable, but perhaps it’s omitted because it’s considered common knowledge?

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Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 21: Venus Clams (蛤蜊)

Venus clams1 are very good shucked and stir-fried with garlic chives. They can also be cooked as a soup. Overcooking will make them dry and tough.

蛤蜊
剝蛤蜊肉加韭菜炒之佳。或為湯亦可2。起遲便枯。

Notes:
1A large family of clam species of the Family Veneridae. The term geli (蛤蜊) usually describes manila clams or Asian hard clams
2This could either mean “cooked in broth” or “cooked as a soup”. Considering that the flavours of clams are easily ruined by the flavours of broths from other ingredients, it’s likely the latter.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 16: Stir-fried Shrimp (炒蝦)

Stir-fried shrimp is done in the same manner as stir-fried fish and can be cooked with garlic chives. It can also be cooked with mustard greens picked during the winter if one cannot eat garlic chives.1 There is also a recipe where the body of the shrimp is pounded flat2 and stir-fried on its own that was quite novel and interesting.

炒蝦
炒蝦照炒魚法,可用韭配。或加冬醃芥菜,則不可用韭矣。有捶扁其尾單炒者,亦覺新異。

Notes:
1 Chinese not eating garlic chives does so usually due to Chinese Buddhist dietary restrictions.
2 Chuibianqiwei (捶扁其尾) means “tail pounded flat”. But anatomically, it is not the tail of the shrimp that is the subject of flattening but the meaty abdomen instead. It’s unfortunate that across various cultures this part has also been named “the tail”, though understandably if one sees the cephalothorax with its head and guts as “the body”, the abdomen would logically be the tail.

PS: Real life has been crazy. Many apologies for the lack of recent posts!

Pork 26: Stir-Fried Pork Slices (炒肉片)

“For this dish, use a mixture of half lean and half fatty pork that has been sliced thinly and marinaded in soy sauce. Stir-fry the pork in oil. When the pork starts to crackle, add soy sauce, water, green onions, squash, winter bamboo shoots, and white garlic chives. Be sure to finish the dish by stir-frying over very high heat.”

持牲單::炒肉片
將肉精、肥各半,切成薄片,清醬拌之。入鍋油炒,聞響即加醬、水、蔥、瓜、冬筍、韭芽,起鍋火要猛烈。

A Thai dish called “Phat khi mao” (ผัดขี้เมา), which mean “stir-fried shit drunk“. It’s here because it contains pork slices and because Thai food is wicked. You also have to admit its name is pretty funny too. (Credit: Takeaway)

This describes a typical stir-fry recipe that easily falls into the category of “household dishes” (家常菜). These are simple dishes that anyone with a decent amount of cooking skill could prepare at home. Yuan Mei listed it probably because he liked it.

As usual, there were some ambiguous bits in this text the required some thought during translation. First, the part which I translated as “when the pork starts to crackle”, actually has the rather vague literal translation: “when you hear (it) making sounds” (聞響). But we all know that any ingredient “makes sounds” when you fry them, so one has to assume that this sound is pretty different from the usual frying pork sounds. And what sound would this be? My experience with frying pork is that sometimes it pops or crackles, thus my translation. Still, a more accurate translation may be: “when the pork starts to make some extraordinary sounds above what one expects to hear when frying.” I’ll leave it to whomever tries out this recipe to tell me what sound the pork actually makes.

Second is the ingredient “gua” (瓜), which I translated as “squash”. The word “gua” is basically used in Chinese to describe all manners of “vegetable fruits” under the Order Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, gourds, luffa, watermelons, and squashes. Papaya (木瓜), though not in this phylogenetic groups is also considered a gua due to its shape. As such, one has a world of possible gua to pick from from when cooking this dish. Personally, I think the edible varieties of the bottle gourd (瓠瓜), cucumber (黄瓜), or the miniature variety of wintermelon (毛瓜, Benincasa hispida var. chieh-qua) would all work well for this recipe. As for what “gua” Yuan Mei had in mind, heaven knows.

Pork 25: Stir-fried Pork Strips (炒肉絲)

“Cut the pork into fine strips, remove any sinew, skin, and bones, then marinate the strips in light soy-sauce and wine. Heat a small quantity of vegetable oil in a wok until the white wisps of oil smoke become bluish wisps. Immediately add the strips of pork and stir continuously without pausing. Add steamed rice noodles, a drop of vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Finish with garlic chives, garlic, the white portions of green onion, or similar ingredients. Stir-fry only half a jin of the dish at a time at high heat without using any water.”

Another method is to fry the pork in oil first then quickly braise it with soy-sauce and wine. Plate the pork when it is red in colour. The dish is particularly good when finished with garlic chives.

持牲單::炒肉絲
切細絲,去筋袢皮骨,用清醬、酒郁片時,用菜油熬起,白煙變青煙後,下肉炒勻,不停手,加蒸粉,醋一滴,糖一撮,蔥白、韭蒜之類;只炒半斤,大火,不用水。又一法︰用油泡後,用醬水加酒略煨,起鍋紅色,加韭菜尤香。

When I read the first recipe, I said to mayself: “Isn’t this Ganchao Niuhe?” (乾炒牛河) (Credit:stu_spivack )

In this section are two rather different recipes for pork strips, one stir-fried and one braised. The first recipe is more or less Ganchao Niuhe (乾炒牛河), but done with pork instead of beef. The details given here about the temperature of the oil, the continuous stirring, and the relatively small portions of ingredients illustrates the key to this type of stir-frying, known as “bao” (爆). Cooking more pork and using oil that is not burning hot would create a wet stewed dish devoid of the wok-hei needed to make this recipe a success.

The second recipe actually sounds a lot like a simple dish my mother used to make for dinners. I can attest that it’s quite good.

Pork 15: Tuosha Pork (脫沙肉)

持牲單::脫沙肉
去皮切碎,每一斤用雞子三個,青黃俱用,調和拌肉,再斬碎;入秋油半酒杯,蔥末拌勻,用網油一張裹之;外再用菜油四兩,煎兩面,起出去油;用好酒一茶杯,清醬半酒杯悶透,提起切片;肉之面上加韭菜、香蕈、筍丁。

A few centuries after Yuan Mei and half-way around the world, we see Czech meatloaf being prepared in almost the exact same manner as Tousha pork. It seems different cultures happen to come upon the same culinary techniques over and over again. (Credit: Michal Klajban)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Tuosha Pork [1]
Take a chunk of pork, remove the skin and chop the meat until it is thoroughly minced. For each jin of pork stir in the yolks and whites of three chicken eggs, then mash the mixture until its texture is fine and smooth. Mix in half a wine cup of autumn sauce and chopped green onion, then wrap this mixture in a large sheet of caul fat. Pan fry the wrapped meat in four liang of vegetable oil until both sides are done and remove it from the wok.

Unwrap the meat [2] and simmer it gently in one tea cup of good wine and half a wine cup of light soy sauce. Remove it from the wok, slice, and finish with a topping of garlic chives, shitake mushrooms, and cubes of bamboo shoots.

Random notes:

[1]: Despite its fancy name, this is basically Chinese-styled meatloaf.

[2]: I believe this step of removing the wrapper around the cooked meat is the namesake of the dish. “Tuosha” (脫沙) literally means “removing the layer of sand” and is used by jade hunters to describe removing the outer sandy/hazy layer on a chunk of raw jade. Removing the crusty fried caul fat would have this effect. Another interpretation is that “sand” (沙) in this case may be a shorthand for gauze(紗布), which would refer to the gauzy caul fat used in the preparation of the dish that has to be removed before finishing and serving, hence lifting the gauze. Yet another interpretation, would be that the “sand” (沙)acutally refers to a veil (面紗), and thus the name of this dish would be “lifting the veil”. A name wih slight flirtatious connotations?

Pork 10: White-Braised Pork (白煨肉)

持牲單::白煨肉
每肉一斤,用白水煮八分好起出,去湯;用酒半斤,鹽二錢半,煨一個時辰。用原湯一半加入滾乾,湯膩為度,再加蔥、椒、木耳、韭菜之類。火先武後文。又一法︰每肉一斤,用糖一錢,酒半斤,水一斤,清醬半茶杯;先放酒,滾肉一二十次,加茴香一錢,收水悶爛,亦佳。

This Okinawan braised pork hock dish (てびち汁) is actually kinda similar to the white-braised pork described in this section. (Credit: Jnn)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::White-braised pork
Boil a jin of pork for in water until it is almost done. Strain out the liquid, then braise the pork in half a jin of wine and two qian of salt for 2 hours. After this, pour back half of the liquid used for boiling the pork and reduce it to the desired richness. To finish, add green onions, Szechuan pepper, wood ears, garlic chives or similar ingredients. When braising meat, the heat must be initially fierce but gentle afterwards. [1]

Another method is to first take a jin of pork, one qian of sugar, half a jin of wine, one jin of water, and a half tea-cup of light soy sauce. Boil the meat first in the wine for ten to twenty gun [2] then add the rest of the ingredients along with one qian of fennel seeds. Continue simmering the meat until soft while reducing the cooking liquid to the desire richness. This preparation is also very good.

Random notes:
[1]: Unlike its better-known relative Red-cooked/braised pork, one rarely sees white-braised pork in modern Chinese cuisine. In fact, a quick google search reveals that most references to the term (白煨肉) is associated with the Suiyuan Shidan. The closest example to white-braised pork that I can think of is the classical preparation of Taiwanese pork hock noodles(猪脚麵線) that uses little to no soy-sauce. The cuilinary trend, sadly, seems to be towards the use of more and more soy-sauce to the point that now the noodles have now split into “clear-cooked” (清燉) and “red-cooked” variants (紅燒), where the meat is cooked with salt or soy-sauce, respectively. Maybe this is just the more “global” shift in Chinese cooking, where people just tend to go more towards the darker soy-sauced/richly flavour items more than the simply flavoured stuff. For instance, the term lu (æ»·) was used exclusively to describe brine, but is now so commonly used in describing soy-sauce based braising that its original meaning had largely changed. Use the terms lu shui (æ»·æ°´), lu wei (滷味), and indeed, lu, is now all about the soy-based stewing liquid, items cooked in said liquid, and the cooking technique using the liquid, respectively.

[2]: Here we go with this gun (滾) business again. In Pork 1: Pig’s Head, I’ve sorta decided it’s 3 seconds/滾 which makes 10-20 gun around 30-60 seconds. This step sounds like boiling off the alcohol.