Fish 10: Fish Embraced with Vinegar (醋摟魚)

Chop a live black crap into large pieces, sear the pieces in oil, then add soy sauce, vinegar, and spray with wine. The more broth in the dish the better. When it is done immediately remove everything from the pan. This dish is most famously prepared by Hangzhou West Lake’s Wuliuju.1 But ever since they started using an ill-smelling soy sauce, the fish served there is now inedible. What a pity!

The fame of Songsao Fish Geng2 is not warranted at all. The discussions in “Menglianglu” should also not be believed.3 The chosen fish must not be big, since the flavours will not penetrate into a big fish. The chosen fish must also not be small, since small fish tend to have more spiny bones.

醋摟魚
用活青魚切大塊,油灼之,加醬、醋、酒噴之,湯多為妙。俟熟即速起鍋。此物杭州西湖上五柳居最有名。而今則醬臭而魚敗矣。甚矣!宋嫂魚羹,徒存虛名。︽夢粱錄︾不足信也。魚不可大,大則味不入;不可小,小則刺多。

Notes:
1Wuliuju translates to the “house of five willows”
2The famed fish geng by Madamn Song, consists of fish in small pieces and cooked in a thick and rich soup punctuated by vinegar. I guess Yuan Mei did not think much of it.
3Menglianglu (夢粱錄), or “Records on Dreams of Millet” was written in Song Dynasty by Wu Zimu (吳自牧). As for what contents in the work were considered untrustworthy by Yuan Mei, I am not sure.

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 29: Five Ways of Cooking Pheasant (野雞五法)

“Pull the breast meat off a pheasant[1] and season well with light soy sauce. Wrap the breast meat in a sheet of caul-fat and fry it in a flat-bottomed iron pot. The meat can be either wrapped as flat squares or as rolls.[2] This is one method. One can also slice the pheasant meat and stir-fry with seasonings, or do so with its diced breast meat. The whole pheasant can also be braised in the manner for the domestic chicken. Another method is to first fry the meat in oil, then pull it apart into thin shreds, toss it with wine, autumn sauce, vinegar, and celery together as a cold dish.

Finally, one can also serve the raw meat sliced to be cooked in a hot pot and eaten immediately when done.[3] The problem with this latter method is that when the meat is still tender it still lacks flavour, but by the time the flavour has infused the meat it is already too tough.”

野雞五法
野雞披胸肉,清醬郁過,以網油包,放鐵奩上燒之。作方片可,作卷子亦可,此一法也。切片加作料炒,一法也。取胸肉作丁,一法也。當家雞 整煨,一法也。先用油灼拆絲,加酒、秋油、醋,同芹菜冷拌,一法也。生片其肉,入火鍋中,登時便吃,亦一法也。其弊在肉嫩則味不入,味入則肉又老。

phasianus_colchicus_torquatus2c_taipingxi_0
The common pheasant, a close cousin of the domestic chicken and sometimes referred in Chinese as “wild chicken”. (Credit: Honan4108)

Doing the comments footnotes this time since it presents the concepts more clearly. That and I’m being lazy today:

[1]: The Chinese phrase for pheasant is “wild chicken”. This makes sense and is quite an accurate observation since a domesticated pheasant is very similar to the modern chicken in taste and texture and they are of the same family Phasianidae. In fact, genetic studies on the modern chicken pins their closest wild relative as the wild red junglefowl with some other wild pheasant relatives (green and grey junglefowl) mixed in.

[2]: Compare this preparation with Yuan Mei’s immitation pheasant recipe and the modern Taiwanese “Chicken rolls”.

[3]: We can see from this that Yuan Mei is not completely adverse to the hotpot after all (See previous section on Chafing dishes), though he is still critical of this class of cooking techniques. I wonder if this aversion is rooted in prejudice since it is one of those techniques favoured by the Mongolian and Western Asian peoples.

Birds 22: Tang’s Chicken (唐雞)

“Take a chicken weighing either two jin or three jin. If it weighs two jin, use one rice bowl of wine and three rice bowls of water. If it weighs three jin, increase the quantity of wine and water accordingly. Cut the chicken into large pieces, then heat up two liang of vegetable oil. Fry the chicken in the oil over high heat until done. Next, boil the fried chicken in the wine for ten to twenty moments, then add the water and cook for another two to three hundred moments. Finally, add one wine cup of autumn sauce. When serving add one qian of white sugar. This is a recipe from the house of Tang Jinghan.”

唐雞
雞一隻,或二斤,或三斤,如用二斤者,用酒一飯碗、水三飯碗;用三斤者,酌添。先將雞切塊,用菜油二兩,候滾熟,爆雞要透;先用酒滾一二十滾,再水煮約二三百滾;用秋油一酒杯;起鍋時加白糖一錢。唐靜涵家法也。

hk_fried_chicken_leg
Unbreaded fried chicken, Hongkong style. (Credit: Geographer)

This is more or less an unbreaded fried chicken that has been red cooked. As for why Yuan Mei decided this was worth writing down in such detail, one can only guess…

Birds 18: Cluster of Pearls (珍珠團)

“Chop cooked chicken breast into small morsels the size of soybeans and toss evenly with light soy sauce and and wine. Roll the chicken morsels in dry flour until well coated then stir-fry them in a wok using vegetable oil.”

珍珠團
熟雞脯子切黃豆大塊,清醬、酒拌勻,用乾麵滾滿,入鍋炒。炒用素油。

bowl_of_pearls_by_ai_weiwei
Ai Weiwei’s giant bowl of pearls. (Credit: Pittigrilli)

A cluster of pearls served to you in a bowl…that definitely sounds better than “pan-fried chicken niblets”.

More poetic at the very least.

Birds 16: Chicken Stir-Fried with Chestnuts (栗子炒雞)

“Chop the chicken into pieces, and fry lightly in two liang of vegetable oil. To the chicken, add one rice bowl of wine, one small cup of autumn sauce, one rice bowl of water, and braise until seventy percent done. Cook the chestnuts beforehand until tender and add them along with bamboo shoots to the chicken and continue braising until the chicken is fully done. Plate and garnish with a large pinch of sugar.”

栗子炒雞
雞斬塊,用菜油二兩炮,加酒一飯碗,秋油一小杯,水一飯碗,煨七分熟;先將栗子煮熟,同筍下之,再煨三分,起鍋下糖一撮。

chestnuts_in_wadgetts_copse_-_geograph-org-uk_-_591731
Chestnuts in shell. (Credit: Hugh Chevallier)

Chicken with chestnuts is often seen in Chinese cooking. This recipe would fit right in on most families’ dinner tables.

Again we seen sugar being used to garnish a dish. I guess it was a “thing” back then.

Pork 21: Furong Pork (芙蓉肉)

持牲單::芙蓉肉
精肉一斤,切片,清醬拖過,風乾一個時辰。用大蝦肉四十個,豬油二兩,切骰子大,將蝦肉放在豬肉上。一隻蝦,一塊肉,敲扁,將滾水煮熟撩起。熬菜油半斤,將肉片放在眼銅勺內,將滾油灌熟。再用秋油半酒杯,酒一杯,雞湯一茶杯,熬滾,澆肉片上,加蒸粉、蔥、椒,糝上起鍋。

Furong is a type of Hibiscus, but the name is also used to describe irregularly shaped foods, as in the case of this recipe. (Credit: Shizhao)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Furong Pork[1]
Slice one jin of lean pork, dip each of the slices in light soy sauce, and let them dry in open air for two hours. Shell forty large shrimp and cut two liang of whole lard into small dice. Place one whole shrimp and a piece of lard on each slice of pork and pound the shrimp and lard flat onto the pork. Place the pork in boiling water to cook through. [2]

Heat half a jin of vegetable oil, place the pieces of pork onto a large skimming spoon, and ladle hot oil over them until done. Bring to boil half a wine-cup of autumn sauce, one cup of wine, and half a tea-cup of chicken broth, and pour on top of the pork. Finish by adding steamed rice noodles [3], green onion, and Szechuan pepper to the pork before serving.

Random notes:
[1]: This is same “furong” as “fu-young” in egg fu young. In Chinese cuisine, the name of this complex-looking hibiscus flower is given to irregularly shaped foods or egg-based dishes. In Northern China, egg-based foods are almost almost always called “furong”-something.

[2]: The steps here as described in this first part by Yuan Mei are pretty vague and incomplete, and required me to look up a few contemporary recipes to piece things together. Basically, it’s a translation with a few bits added here and there to make things make sense.

[3]: Zhengfen (蒸粉) should be a type of steamed rice noodle, it seems rather strange to use it in a Chinese dish in such a manner that I’m wondering whether I got this wrong.