Side Dishes 25: Radishes

Choose a large and thick radish and pickle it in soy sauce for a day or two before serving. They have a lovely sweet and crisp texture. Some experienced nuns know how to make them into items similar to dried-salted fish, cutting them to form a long chain of butterflies around one zhang1 in length, connected and fluttering without any breaks.2 It is a wondrous sight to behold. Cheng’en Temple has radishes for sale that have been pickled in vinegar, with the aged specimens tasting the best.

蘿蔔
蘿蔔取肥大者,醬一二日即喫,甜脆可愛。有侯尼能製為鯗,剪片如蝴蝶,長至丈許,連翩不斷,亦一奇也。承恩寺有賣者,用醋為之,以陳為妙。

Notes:
1Around a meter.
2Although the Chinese statements are somewhat disjointed, the use of the word jian 剪 (to cut with a pair of scissors) instead of the word qie 切 (to cut with a knife) evokes the image of a long chain of butterflies cut from paper, except that in this case radishes are used.

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Side Dishes 13: Celtuce

There are two ways of eating celtuce. When newly marinated with soy sauce,1 they are tender, crisp, and loved by all. For the salted and dried item, they can be eaten sliced and are delicate in taste. The less salty item is much sought-after, since the salty ones taste rather terrible.

萵苣2
食萵苣有二法︰新醬者,鬆脆可愛;或醃之為脯,切片食甚鮮。然必以淡為貴,鹹則味惡矣。

Note:
1Soy-pickling is still a common way of serving celtuce, a lettuce variety or cultivar grow for its thick elongated stem, which has a an outworldly crisp texture.
2Today, wozhu 萵苣 is the more formal name for lettuce, of which celtuce is a specific variety. When one sees the terms taicai 臺菜 and gongcai 貢菜 used together, them appear to refer to marinated or picked and dried versions of Celtuce.

Side Dishes 1: Dried Bamboo Shoots

Dried bamboo shoots are produced in many regions, but those baked and dried at home are the best. Choose fresh bamboo shoots and boil them with salt until done, then put them on a basket and bake them dry. One needs to watch them around the clock, since allowing them to bake over a weak flame at any moment, will cause the preparation to fail. If one uses light soy sauce during preparation, then the colour will be a bit dark. This can be prepared using spring and winter bamboo shoots.

筍脯
笋脯出處最多,以家園所烘為第一。取鮮笋加鹽煮熟,上籃烘之。須晝夜環看,稍火不旺則溲1矣。 用清醬者,色微黑。春笋、冬笋皆可為之。

Note:
1The use of the character sou 溲 is interesting, either meaning that the resulting shoots would smell rank and ruinous or that they would be soaked in liquid. The likely meaning here is that the drying shoots would simmer and cook as the flame weakens, thus producing bad or bad tasting dried shoots.

Vegetable Dishes 41: Taro Braised with Napa Cabbage

Braise the taro until it is very soft, then add Napa cabbage hearts to cook then season  and adjust with soy-sauce or water. This is the best recipe of all the home-styled dishes.1 Still, one need to choose Napa cabbage that have been freshly picked and are still plump and tender. Once they start turning a green they have become tough. When they are not recently picked they tend to become dry and withered.

芋煨白菜
芋煨極爛,入白菜心烹之,加醬水調和,家常菜之最佳者。惟白菜須新摘肥嫩者,色青則老,摘久則枯。

Notes:
1Even 300 years later, versions of this well loved dish is still commonly found on the dinner tables of Chinese families around the world.

Vegetable Dishes 35: Calabash and Cucumbers

First, stir-fry slices of grass carp, then add the calabash and braise everything together in soy-sauce. Prepare cucumbers in the same manner.

瓠子,黃瓜
將鯶魚切片先炒,加瓠子1,同醬汁煨。黃瓜2亦然。

Note:
1Huzi (瓠子) is the long calabash (Lagenaria siceraria var. Hispida)
2Huanggua (黃瓜), literally “yellow melon” is the common cucumber. The name comes from the colour of the mature cucumber fruit.

Vegetable Dishes 32: Taro Geng

The texture of taro is soft, smooth, and dense, and quite suitable for cooking with strong-flavoured meat or in simple vegetable dishes. It can be chopped finely and made into duck geng1, braised with pork, or braised with tofu, soy-sauce, and water. The household of Official Xu Zhaohuang chooses small taro and braises them with tender chicken for a incredibly good soup. Sadly, the recipe for this has been lost. On the whole, one uses only seasonings for preparation of this dish and does not use of any water.

芋羹
芋性柔膩,入葷入素俱可。或切碎作鴨羹,或煨肉,或與豆腐加醬水煨。徐兆璜明府家,選小芋子入嫩雞煨湯,妙極!惜其制法未傳。大抵只用作料,不用水。

Note:
1 A geng is a soup made with rich broth thickened with starch. It is perhaps one of the most ancient Chinese dishes. Incidentally, many of the Chinese soups served today are technically geng.

Vegetable Dishes 29: Two Ways of Preparing Wheat Gluten

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.

麵筋二法2
一法,麵筋入油鍋炙枯,再用雞湯、蘑菇清煨。一法,不炙,用水泡,切條入濃雞汁炒之,加冬筍、蔥花。章淮樹觀察家制之最精。上盤時宜毛撕,不宜光切。加蝦米泡汁,甜醬炒之,甚佳

Note:
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.