Brother Tang tries his best to stretch his neck and looks into the crock, but Lin Dan pushes him away. Lin Dan also jokes, "Take care, don't fall into it, or I'll marinate you."
Brother Tang is amused and looks at her with burning eyes, "The soup you cook is completely different from others."
Lin Dan says slowly, " ‘The Essence of Flavors’ in ‘A History Book’ Written by Lu Buwei has a saying, ‘when one is talking about the essence of taste, water comes the first, then five flavors and three materials, nine boiling points and nine changes ... all become the essence of taste.’ I use cool and sweet mountain spring water, secret spices, and rosin wood in the Zhongnan Mountains to cook these three pots of soup. Every time it boils, I add a single ingredient, nine times of adding, nine times of boiling, nine times of flavor enhancing, and all ingredients are finally made into a pot of soup, which is naturally different from others. The flavor is salty or sweet, and the aroma is strong or weak. My pot of gravy is cooked by the ‘extraordinary flavor enhancing method' I created, which is naturally stronger than ordinary gravy. "
Lin Dan puts the fished chicken, duck and upper part of a leg of pork into a food box, cuts the large piece of streaky pork into pieces and prepares dipping sauces for it. She continues, "The gravy is better being old, fresh food materials can be continuously put in. You can take these cooked things back and enjoy them slowly. Thank you for your kindness these days. "
"You're welcome." Brother Tang is saying politely, but his hand reaches out honestly and catches the box. At the end, he adds, "I remember you have put pig skin in it before. Why can't I see it?" Pig skin stewed in thick salty gravy is also one of Brother Tang’s favorites, so it is necessary to ask more questions.
Lin Dan points to the upper part of the pig leg and the streaky pork and she smiles softly, "See, I fried both the upper part of the pig leg and the streaky pork. The outer layer was covered with burnt skin to protect the tender meat in the inner layer. That's why they weren't melted by the gravy. However, the pig skin was fresh and had not been fried. After a few hours, it had already turned into thick jelly and melted with the gravy. Good gravy should be both aromatic and thick. Where does this thick feeling come from? It depends on abundant grease and jelly. How can I make newly-made gravy taste like old gravy without boiling pig skin to melt? If you like it, I'll fry the pig skin and throw it into the pot next time. After stewing it in the gravy, I’ll let it cool and wait for you to pick it up."
Lin Dan always talks about delicacies. Besides, a casual remark also conceals a secret skill that others will never learn in their whole life. It makes Brother Tang lost in contemplation. He swallows a mouthful of saliva and stresses, "Then you remember to marinate (stew something in thick salted gravy or sauce) a little more pig skin and I'll come back to get it. If you have any trouble here, go to the Ministry of War to find me, I am on duty there. "
Lin Dan doesn't ask Brother Tang's identity at all. She also doesn't have a feel of fear and trepidation when making friends with noble people. She just smiles and nods and sends Brother Tang away.
Seeing that she doesn't ask, Brother Tang shows some disappointment on his face. He goes all the way out and keeps looking back. His expression is complicated. When he reaches the end of the lane, he sees the gambling shop on the other side. Several people run out of it, shouting loudly, "What was that smell? Who was cooking? It was too fucking tempting! Let’s get out of here, stop gambling and go home for dinner! "
After a while, all the people in the lane open the door to look at each other, coveting the smell. This wonderful gravy is indeed remarkable.
Brother Tang begins to walk away slowly with the food box, shakes his head and chuckles as he walks. Behind him, passers-by keep whispering, "Who was making marinade (the thick salted gravy) just now, did you smell it? Sweet, so sweet! "
Just entering the gate of the Ministry of War, Brother Tang sees several people including Zhao Liu and Luo Tietou gather together to eat something with slight aroma, which is very attractive. Zhao Liu raises his chopsticks and calls out, "Hey, boss, you have finally come. We have already eaten."
"You received the food box from Yan Langqing again? How many times have I told you not to let her in no matter what she says, let alone accept her things? Have you taken my words seriously?" Brother Tang's cheerful expression is immediately replaced by irritability.
On his desk stands a delicate and matchless food box, the lid of which has been opened. Inside are four jade-white porcelain bowls of dishes, meat and vegetable, with unique shapes. Zhao Liu and others also receive a food box, which contains more dishes, but the dishes are not delicate enough, presumably to bribe them.
As the saying goes, "Gifts blind the eyes." Those including Zhao Liu often eat the delicious food sent by Yan Langqing, and so they will have to put in a good word for her, "Boss, you should marry Chef Yan. You are so fond of eating and have a sharp tongue. If you don't marry Chef Yan, who else do you want to marry? Even the highest-ranking imperial concubine (next to the empress) agrees to this marriage, right? We want to marry Chef Yan, but we can't even touch her. It will be extremely hard to find another wife like her with such a good craftsmanship. Why are you so melodramatic? Drop in and propose a marriage! "
Brother Tang stares at the exquisite food box for a long time and sneers, "Take this box too, and she will send something again later. You can eat whatever you like. I don't care."
As soon as those guys look overjoyed, they hear the leader continuing, "Just one thing, the food box I bring will be out of your hands."
The food box brought by the leader must be prepared by the chef in the mansion of the marquis. How can the chef be compared with the one in the imperial kitchen? These guys nod and promise, "Fair enough, from now on, if Chef Yan sends food boxes, we brothers are responsible for helping you eat the food!" After saying, they run quickly to take away the delicate food box on Brother Tang’s table.
"That's the deal." Brother Tang stoops down to pick up an altar of good wine from under the table, pours himself a cup after opening the mud seal, then opens the food box sent by Lin Dan, brings out a plate of steaming pot-stewed (being stewed in thick salted gravy or sauce) chicken, opens the lower layer, brings out a plate of pot-stewed duck, and brings out a plate of pot-stewed upper part of pig leg on the next layer, and a plate of sliced pot-stewed streaky pork on the last layer, which is sliced into thin slices, sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped scallion, and matched with a plate of red and bright garlic chili sauce. The unspeakable aroma is spreading, no one can resist it.
Brother Tang grabs the chicken's leg and pulls it gently. The whole chicken leg is pulled down. The crisp and rotten meat is attached to the tender and smooth skin. Rich juice is permeated with clear grease, and a mouthful of it will be salty, aromatic and delicious. The upper part of the leg of pig is also stewed enough, the skin will break with a slight bite, the soft meat will melt at once in the mouth, but the tendon still has a little toughness, which can be rolled into the mouth with a light roll of the tongue, and the mouth feels slightly elastic. The streaky pork is fat and lean evenly, full of sauce flavor, the lean part is with toughness, while the fat part is soft and glutinous, by chewing a few bites carefully, the juice of fat meat will be fully integrated with the crisp and tender lean meat, coupled with the pungent garlic and chili peppers, and the taste is wonderful!
Brother Tang gulps down a few mouthfuls, seems to be choking, hurriedly picks up the cup to drink a gulp of liquor, and then he sighs with satisfaction. Feeling strangely quiet in the room, he looks up only to find that those guys including Zhao Liu are completely transfixed, with faint green eyes staring at his food box.
"Get out of here!" He sneers.
"No, boss, where did you buy the pot-stewed food? Isn't the smell too sweet? Let us have a taste!" Zhao Liu pleads humbly.
The imperial dishes brought by Yan Langqing are all put in exquisite small dishes. The taste is sweet and light, but the quantity is limited. One plate of the dish can be almost swallowed with one bite. It is delicious, but not enough in quantity. How can those be compared with the pot-stewed food of their leader, all pure meat with extremely fishy flavor, richly oil and greasy, meat flavor is scary, with a hand pulling a chicken leg down, into the mouth munching on, and then one can pour a mouthful of wine burning throat, that flavor is beautiful enough to make god envy! This is the dish that rough men like to eat. It is great satisfaction!
“Boss, boss, let us have a bite, just a bite! We will never accept anything from Yan Langqing again, I promise!” These guys including Zhao Liu crowd around the dish, drooling over it. As they get closer, the aroma of the marinated flavor becomes more appealing, making them almost bite their tongues.
"Get out of here!" Brother Tang still says the same. After eating, he throws away bones, asks his servant to take the left upper part of pig leg and streaky pork home. Get them heated; a midnight snack can be enjoyed.
Those guys including Zhao Liu beat their chests and wail incessantly, swear to heaven that they will never contact Chef Yan again in the future. They will not accept any good things she sends; they just ask their leader to give them some pot-stewed food. The smell is so overbearing that it almost steals their souls.
Brother Tang leaves these guys there, goes straight to the barracks. Good stuff has to be kept and eaten slowly. Who is willing to share good stuff with others?
The next day, Lin Dan gets up early after a good sleep, she kneads dough first, covers it with wet cloth for a while, then cooks porridge and chops garnishes, gets ready to serve diners. Most of the servants who come back to the capital with her have already left, leaving only Xiao Zhu and two literate runners. Peony and Cuckoo are kitchen assistants.
"Do we only sell noodles and porridge?" Peony is surprised to see that her master has not prepared other ingredients.
"People need to eat mild food in the morning; a bowl of porridge and a bowl of noodles are enough. Besides, people who get up before dawn are all toiling people who have to rush to work. They have no money left in their hands. It's already sky-high for them to order a bowl of the cheapest rice porridge or Yangchun noodles. They won’t order dishes, right? We sell noodles and porridge in the morning; sell rice, noodles and vegetables at noon. We close early in the afternoon and don't do business because there are several brothels and gambling shops nearby. It is very chaotic in the afternoon and at night." Lin Dan explains patiently.
There is a dock near here, merchant ships come and go frequently. In order to transport goods conveniently, several escort agencies are also set up. With more merchants from the north and the south, brothels, gambling shops, markets and inns have increased, gradually forming a unique business circle. Those who get up early in the morning are porters, boatmen, or escorts. No one of them is rich. However, people of all kinds rise to take part in activities at noon. The poor, the rich, gangsters, legal workers, officials or rich businessmen on waterways, all kinds of people gather together, it can be called a mixture of the high and the low.
Lin Dan is very satisfied to open a restaurant in such a popular place, but she doesn't understand why the Yans think she will lose money here.
Lin Dan smiles and shakes her head. As it is almost dawn, noises of footsteps come from the street. She asks Xiao Zhu and the two runners to carry out the large crock of gravy and put it at the door. Several stoves are set up under it and simmered slowly with low heat.
"Remove the cloth strips, lift the lid, and stir it with a long spoon." Lin Dan raises her voice.
Xiao Zhu does as he is told. As soon as he lifts the lid, he slightly faints. His saliva immediately flows down and almost drips into the crock. He quickly covers his mouth, turns his head, and hands the spoon to a runner, slurping down his saliva and saying, "You stir it up, I haven't had breakfast yet!"
"I haven’t either!" The runner takes a quick swallow of saliva before stirring. This stir results in an extremely serious end. The originally overbearing aroma of the gravy is spreading all over the place. It spreads in alleys, lanes, markets docks, almost everywhere in the city in an instant, making people nearby feel restless.