When Lin Dan arrives, the little cook Qiu is standing at the back door, looking with his neck stretched. When he sees the carriage coming, he greets warmly, "Master, be careful when you get off the carriage. Don't jump. I'll give you a hand."
Unfortunately, he is slow. Lin Dan has already lifted the curtain of the carriage. She jumps down instantly and strides toward the door. "It is said that the Yans’ Restaurant has produced another special dish called Braised Fish Head."
"Yes, it's made of silver carp head with bone removed. It won good comments from diners as soon as it was launched. I wanted to ask my friends to help me pack one and bring it out, but the Yans’ Restaurant refused to sell it, saying that if one wanted to eat, he or she could only go to the restaurant without taking it out. This is aimed at us. Master, it is said that the fish head has no bones at all. After cooking, it is tender, smooth and delicious. How did they do it? What a wonderful knife skill to remove all the bones from the fish head, which is too delicate." Qiu sighs.
"It is nothing delicate." Lin Dan simply explains, "There are two ways to remove fish bones, one is to remove bones when the meat is raw and the other is to remove them when it is cooked. The fish head has less flesh and more bones. It seems that it can’t be disassembled, but it can be easily disassembled if it is boiled in water to separate the flesh and bones. "
After listening to his master, the problem that has puzzled the little cook Qiu one whole day is solved. As a cook, he has never seen anyone more knowledgeable and clever than Lin Dan. Before, the Yans’ Restaurant introduced three new dishes, Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish, Braised Black Sea Cucumbers with Scallion, and Crab Meat in A Shape of Lion Head. The Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish sold so well that it attracted all the old diners in the Qiaoyuan Restaurant which nearly shut down. But since Lin Dan introduced the Golden Lion Fish, the old diners have all come back. They wait eagerly for Lin Dan to come to the restaurant every afternoon and teach her apprentice. And they can take the chance to eat some of her dishes.
In order to help the Qiaoyuan Restaurant, Lin Dan cooks five tables a day. With these five tables alone, she has retained some of the city's toughest gourmets. Nowadays, even if they starve to death, these people do not want to go to other restaurants to eat. They just sit there and wait.
Seeing that the Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish could not carry the banner of the Yans’ Restaurant, Yan Langqing developed a new dish called Braised Black Sea Cucumbers with Scallion. The whole black cucumber was cooked with a thick sauce over a small fire. The taste was soft and glutinous, and it was a little stringy. The taste was very unique.
Lin Dan seemed to be competing with the Yans. The next day, she also cooked a dish called Sauce-brewed Black Sea Cucumbers, which was more skillful in cooking and delicate in seasoning than the Braised Black Sea Cucumbers with Scallion. "Brewing" is a special method of cooking food materials, filling or clipping, or plugging, or pouring into another food material to make dishes; this method was called "niang" in Chinese (also brewing). Common brewed dishes include tofu, eggplant, and balsam pear and so on, but it was the first time for the little cook Qiu to see brewing black sea cucumbers.
The so-called sauce in "sauce brewing" refers not to sauce but shrimp paste. Take some shrimp eggs, stir-fry them, mix with seasonings such as soy sauce, cooking wine and fine salt, put them into the jar for storage, and wait for fermentation. After the fermentation is complete, knead it into strips and put it into the belly of the black sea cucumbers. First put it into the milky soup and then put it into the red soup to collect the juice and simmer it slowly with a small fire. The salty and fresh shrimp paste is completely mixed into the black sea cucumbers. It becomes a dish. After serving it for the guests, the waiter has to take a knife and cut the black sea cucumbers into small and very short pieces so that the guests could share the food.
The stewed black sea cucumbers were wrapped with tender and sauce-flavored shrimp eggs, which were fresh and sweet in the throat, salty and delicious, and had an endless aftertaste. The stuffing of the sauce could also be adjusted according to the customer's requirements, and it was possible to replace it with more chewy roe of sea cucumbers or directly fresh roe. This dish could produce three or more flavors with a slight change in cooking method and filling. How could guests not be satisfied? Therefore, the Braised Black Sea Cucumbers with Scallion didn't spill much spray, and was completely upstaged by the Sauce-brewed Black Sea Cucumbers from Qiaoyuan Restaurant the next day.
Chef Yan, after all, was a chef who refused to accept defeat easily. In half a month, she introduced a new dish called Crab Meat in A Shape of Lion Head, which was made of chopped pork and crab meat. It tasted fresh, tender and juicy, and was very wonderful. Seeing the Yans’ Restaurant's business rise again with this dish, Lin Dan introduced a new dish called Wealth Meatballs. The name sounded very mysterious, but in fact it was also made of chopped pork. The taste was fresher, tenderer and juicier than that of Crab Meat in A Shape of Lion Head.
She soaked the chopped pork in the water of scallion and ginger. The water of scallion and ginger must be squeezed from the old ginger with yellow meat and the scallion with beard; otherwise the taste would not be heavy enough to hide the fishy smell of pork. In order to make the balls tenderer, she mixed the minced fish paste into them, which could also increase the viscosity and make them not easy to deform. Finally, she smashed the pig bones, took out the bone marrow inside and poured it into the minced meat, making it completely fused, and then kneaded it into shape. After three procedures, the meatballs were delicious and juicy. They could be fried, braised in red or boiled in clear soup. The taste was so soft, waxy, tender and smooth. A bite of the meatballs was just like a bite of solidified nectar. The mouth is full of thick gravy.
As a result, diners whom the Yans’ Restaurant attracted back difficultly, poured into the Qiaoyuan Restaurant again. Their business was worsened dramatically.
After two consecutive challenges, diners also saw some clues. Seeing Chef Yan's introduction of a new dish called Braised Fish Head, they tasted, and then they all came to the Qiaoyuan Restaurant. The purpose was self-evident. While waiting for new dish, it was hard to avoid boredom. The old shopkeeper invited several buskers to tell stories in the hall, offering melon seeds and fresh fruits to treat the guests well.
Lin Dan only cooks five tables a day in the Qiaoyuan Restaurant. If one doesn't come early to take up his place, one doesn't know when he will be able to eat her dishes. For gourmets with a sharp mouth, this is worse than torture. Seeing that it is almost 1pm, Lord Cheng took the lead in urging, "Shopkeeper, the chef hasn't come yet? Look at the Yans’ Restaurant, the Braised Fish Head has been on the market for a whole day. Is it time for Shopkeeper Lin to show hers? "
"Yes, yes, I have waited from last night until this afternoon. My stomach was flat." Lord Gong pats his belly, making everyone laugh.
Although the new dish of the Yans’ Restaurant is delicious, it has become the weathervane of the Qiaoyuan Restaurant. It points out the weathervane over there, and diners all go to the Qiaoyuan Restaurant. This is a conditioned reflex formed by competitions for two months in succession.
Although Chef Yan is an imperial chef and is also popular with the emperor, she is only a chef after all, and her status is lower than that of these lords, marquis and high-ranking officials. People come to her restaurant for dinner, which is called “do her a favor”, but there is no reason for them to rush to curry favor with her. It's the same sentence-Cooking can't be fake, delicious or not, the taste of dishes will be honest, diners' stomachs are not easy to deceive.
As soon as Lin Dan enters the kitchen, the old shopkeeper rushes in and says respectfully, "Chef Lin, the guests are all in a hurry. Will you make a new dish today?"
"Yes, of course." Lin Dan rolls up her sleeves slowly. "It is agreed at the beginning that I'll teach you a dish here when the Yans’ Restaurant serves a new dish. Unless the Yans’ Restaurant is closed, my words will be ever counted."
You want to bring down the Yans’ Restaurant! The little cook Qiu bows his head and observes a moment of silence for the Yans. In a short time, he looks up at his master, his eyes glistening.
The old shopkeeper is completely relieved and hurriedly runs out to tell the waiting diners the good news.
Lin Dan washes her hands clean, picks out a 4-catty perch and puts it on the chopping board after patting it dizzy. She slowly says, "As I said just now, there are two ways to remove fish bones, one is when the meat is raw and the other is to remove them when it is cooked. The dish I teach you today is called Immortal Boneless Fish, which also has no bones. It combines the two ways to remove bones. Look carefully." The knife begins from the fish's spine to cut off the spine and the ribs completely, but the flesh of the fish's belly is still connected together. After separation, it turns into a beautiful butterfly wing shape. After holding down the tail of the fish, she cuts off the whole fish's spine along the direction of the head of the fish, and then splits the ribs with slight slicing.
Perch has few bones, only one spine and two rows of ribs, Lin Dan cuts four times, these bones are gone, and the part below fish head and above fish tail, is all complete meat.
"This is one way to remove bones when the meat is raw. The secret is that the cut must be clean and light." Lin Dan puts the two pieces of fish together and ties them up with scallion leaves, so it looks like a whole fish again, which can avoid breaking the fish in the process of boiling the soup.
"This dish draws lessons from the skills of Huaiyang Cuisine and can be stewed in all kinds of flavors." Lin Dan puts the boneless fish into the pot to boil, and continues, "When it is in the milky soup, it can be stewed with a flavor of three fresh delicacies, the red soup braised flavor, and the spicy soup hot and spicy or spicy and sour flavor, all at the request of the guests. A hundred kinds of flavor can be stewed according to the demands of a hundred kinds of people, and every flavor will be rich, which is the biggest characteristic of this dish. "
The little cook Qiu listens and notes. Looking at Lin Dan’s exquisite and incomparable skills, hearing her vivid explanations, he is so intoxicated that he can’t help sighing, "Master, how do you know so much? My father and grandfather are old cooks in the palace, but they seem to know less than you do. "
Lin Dan chuckles, "According to the standard, the dishes can be divided into palace food, official food and folk food. But you know what? In this world, there is no palace food or official food, both of which are developed from folk food. The real delicious food comes from the folk. You eat more, watch more, cook more, and naturally you will know more. In order to practice my cooking skills, I would go to every place to cook and prepare banquets for people who have weddings and funerals. There are many kinds of folk banquets, including Eight Large Bowls, Nine Large Bowls, Thirteen Unique Dishes, and even a table of fifty-two dishes, which is no worse than the palace banquet. Look, fifty-two dishes, being not same, how much effort does it take? And because weddings and funerals require solemnity and prudence, it is even more important not to spoil the appetite of the guests. How much knowledge is there? After studying all these details and knowledge thoroughly, one will naturally learn cooking skills. "
The little cook Qiu remains silent for a long time. Only when the Immortal Boneless Fish comes out of the pot does he sincerely say, "Master, Yan Langqing is not even close to be as good as you!"
Lin Dan shakes her head and chuckles, but doesn’t answer. She asks the waiter to serve the dish. Then she picks out a perch and knocks it out.