Vegetable Dishes 14: Stone Hair

The preparation is the same as pearl algae. During summer, it is especially good mixed with sesame oil, vinegar, and autumn sauce.

石髮1
制法與葛仙米同。夏日用麻油、醋、秋油拌之,亦佳。

Note:
1This is an algae Ulva compressa or Ulva intestinalis, found growing on the rocks and boulders on the sea side. I originally thought of this was another name for facai (髮菜, Nostoc flagelliforme) but in looking at a variety of ancient and old medical texts, we can see the ingredient is most likely that of genus Ulva.

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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.

Birds 33: Squab Eggs (鴿蛋)

“Braised squab eggs is prepared in the same manner as braised chicken gizzards. They can also be pan-fried and served with a bit of vinegar.”

鴿蛋
煨鴿蛋法與煨雞腎同。或煎食亦可,加微醋亦可。

pigeon_eggs
Pigeon eggs. Calling it “squab eggs” somehow makes it sound more edible. If you want to sound fancy, you can call them “dove eggs”. (Credit: Sanjay Acharya)

I accidentally reposted the previous section, which was first posted way back a few months ago. This is the next installment, continuing from the section on Squab.

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 25: Shredded Chicken (雞絲)

Pull the meat of chicken into shreds and toss it with autumn sauce, ground mustard, and vinegar. This is a Hangzhou dish. One can also add bamboo shoots and celery to the dish. Another method is to stir-fry the shredded chicken with shredded bamboo shoots, autumn sauce, and wine. Use cooked chicken for the former “tossed” method and raw chicken for the latter stir-fried method.

雞絲
拆雞為絲,秋油、芥末、醋拌之。此杭州菜也。加筍加芹俱可。用筍絲、秋油、酒炒之亦可。拌者用熟雞,炒者用生雞。

bc3ban_thang
Shredded chicken goes great with anything and in anything. Salads, stir-fries, Vietnamese noodle soups…it’s a long list. (Credit: Nguyễn Thanh Quang)

Here Yuan Mei presents two quite typical home-styled recipes. My preference is for the first one, which is almost like a meat salad dish with a mustard vinaigrette, it’s similar to something I actually make quite often at home.

As for stir-frying, I prefer shredded pork to chicken since it has more of a firm texture that one can bite into. For whatever reason, I feel it’s more “correct” to use something with firmer textures with techniques such as stir-frying that have more assertive flavors.

Birds 24: Chicken blood (雞血)

“Cut coagulated chicken blood into strips and cook them with chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and starch powder to make a geng. This dish is well suited for the elderly.”

雞血
取雞血為條,加雞湯、醬、醋、芡粉作羹,宜於老人。

chickenrbc1000x
Alien looking nucleated chicken blood (Credit: John Alan Elson)

Blood is generally good for the anemic since it is high in bioavailable iron. This makes it probably beneficial to many elderly  or anyone of weaker constitution, who are susceptible to the condition. The fact that chicken red blood cells are nucleated also means that you get more nucleic acids than regular blood, which probably doesn’t hurt either if you are already eating it.

Birds 23: Chicken Liver (雞肝)

Season the liver with wine and vinegar then stir-fry. Chicken liver is best served tender.

雞肝
用酒、醋噴炒,以嫩為貴。

preparing_chicken_liver_02
Raw chicken liver, ready for some frying. (Credit: Poupou l’quourouce)

Chicken liver stir-fried with wine and vinegar (and maybe a touch of sugar)?

Classic.