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.

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Seafoods 3: Two Ways of Preparing Shark Fin (魚翅二法)

海鮮單::魚翅二法
魚翅難爛,須煮兩日,才能摧剛為柔。用有二法︰一用好火腿、好雞湯,加鮮筍、冰糖錢許煨爛,此一法也;一純用雞湯串細蘿蔔絲,拆碎鱗翅攙和其中,飄浮碗面,令食者不能辨其為蘿蔔絲、為魚翅,此又一法也。用火腿者,湯宜少;用蘿蔔絲者,湯宜多。總以融洽柔膩為佳。若海參觸鼻,魚翅跳盤,便成笑話。吳道士家做魚翅,不用下鱗,單用上半原根,亦有風味。蘿蔔絲須出水二次,其臭才去。嘗在郭耕禮家吃魚翅炒菜,妙絕!惜未傳其方法。

List of Seafoods::Two Ways of Preparing Shark Fin
Shark fin does not soften easily and needs to be boiled for around two days before it is supple enough to eat. There are two ways of preparing shark fin; the first involves simmering it with good ham, good chicken broth, fresh bamboo shoots, and a few grams of rock sugar. The second way uses only chicken broth and finely shredded radish with the shark fin pulled apart into shreds. When cooked, both radish and shark fin meld together in the bowl such that a diner cannot tell one apart from the other. The method using the ham has less liquid, while the method using radish has more.

Mmmmmm…such a tasty offering. But alas, no. (Credit: chee.hong)

A well prepared shark fin must be a harmoniously balanced in its smoothness and suppleness.[1] If one serves sea cucumbers that flicks one’s nose and shark fin that bounces off the plate, it would be told as joke amoung one’s guests. When Taoist Wu serves shark fin at home they do not use the bottom scale containing portions and prefers to use only the thicker top portions, a rather unique method of preparation. The shredded radish used for shark fin must be immersed and soaked in water twice in order to remove its odour. I have also tasted the shark fin and vegetables stir-fry at the home of Guo Gengli, which was superb! It is too bad they did not pass on the technique for preparing this dish.

 

Random notes:
[1]: The texture of shark fin is smooth against the tongue, firm against the teeth, and when bitten into, gives a delectable gelatinous snap that nothing can substitute. Those not initiated into the more refined aspects of Chinese cuisine cannot begin to appreciate the exquisite textures and mouth-feels that the cuisine offers, not least what a bowl of shark fin brings to the table, literally. In my opinion, of all the delicacies in this section, none can rival the texture and flavours of well prepared shark fin. Still, I find the ecological consequences and current harvesting methods of it unacceptable. Thus until we find a way of farming sharks, I will not buy or eat the stuff. As such I resign myself to eating fish maw, which while pretty good still cannot beat shark fin

 

Essential Knowledge 3: Cleaning (洗刷須知)

須知單::洗刷须知
洗刷之法,燕窩去毛,海參去泥,魚翅去沙,鹿筋去臊。肉有筋瓣,剔之則酥;鴨有腎臊,削之則淨;魚膽破,而全盤皆苦;鰻涎存,而滿碗多腥;韭刪葉而白存,菜棄邊而心出。《內則》曰︰「魚去乙,鱉去醜。」此之謂也。諺云︰「若要魚好吃,洗得白筋出。」亦此之謂也。

List of Essential knowledge::Cleaning
The requirements of cleaning and washing specific ingredients are as follows; one must remove all feathers from bird’s nest, remove all mud from within sea cucumbers, remove all sand from shark’s fin, and wash the foul smells from deer tendon. If the meat contain sinews, one needs to remove them such that the meat can remain tender after cooking. Duck kidneys have a foul odour [1], therefore be sure to remove them and rinse the cavity well. Be careful to not break the fish’s gall bladder when gutting and cleaning the fish since doing so will render the entire dish bitter. If one does not wash away the saliva of an eel during its preparation, the resulting dish will have an unpleasant fishy odour. One must remove the old leaves when cleaning garlic chive, leaving only the tender white stems. When preparing leaf vegetables, one should remove the coarser outside leaves and use only the heart. In Nei-Ze (禮記::內則) it is said: “One should remove the orbital bone around a fish’s eyes and remove the orifices [2] of the soft shell turtle.”, admonishing us to diligently clean the ingredients for a dish [3]. The common proverb: “If you want a fish to taste good, you will have to clean it extremely well.” [4], also highlights the truth behind these facts.


Random notes:

[1]: One can also read the text as “Ducks have a foul urine-like kidney odour, make sure to clean it (and it’s insides) well to remove the smell.” So, either the duck’s kidneys smells bad, or the duck has bad kidney smells. Your pick.

[2]: I have no idea what “醜” are. It says here they are “perforated openings of the turtle”. What does that even mean? Nostrils? Cloaca? Mouth? Ears? I’m going saying “orifices” here for the sake of generality.

[3]: The full text is in here. Basically, the whole sentence tells what to do with animals in cleaning and preparations. Did you know you should remove the head of a badger and the intestines of a wolf when preparing them? I didn’t.

[4]: The Chinese text says “To make fish taste good, wash it until the white tendons/nerves come out”. Basically what’s being said here is that you have to wash the fish very well, right? At first I thought this was indeed the case and the white tendon part was simply exaggeration for humour. That is, until I read this. It appears that there ARE long white strands of nerves tissues that you have to remove from each side of the spine near the gills to really rid a fish such as carp of its strong fishy smells.