The price of the newly-bought shop is very cheap, only less than 20 taels of silver. Compared with the previous grocery store, the gap between them is like the gap between heaven and earth. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages of being expensive or cheap. The reason why this shop is so cheap lies in its position.
If one isn’t very familiar with the local map, it will be impossible to bypass 7, 8 or 9 alleys to get here. Chi (Lin Dan’s mother), who nearly passes out in the alley, is now too worried to eat, for fear that her daughter will lose all her money.
Lin Dan comforts her mother while tidying up the desks and chairs, "Mum, don't worry, I won’t open the shop here without any reasons. What kind of shops do you see all around? "
"What are there? Gambling shops, chicken battling fairs, docks, and brothels are all places of the humble rank, and so are the people who come and go. I really don't understand why you want to open your shop here. Since the Yans don’t let us stay, let's leave the capital, somehow we can have a life of peace. I don't want you to fight for any fortune; I also don’t want you to compete with others. I just want you to be safe." Chi says, pulling her daughter's wrist.
Lin Dan pats her mother soothingly and explains, "The residents of the south district are all immigrants. Their identities are indeed complicated, but they are better than those of the north district. Don't think that people in the south district are cheap, in fact there are talented individuals in hiding concealed talent here, and there are all kinds of people here. It's not a simple place. It is much better to do business here than in the north district. If you look at the gambling shops, chicken battling fairs, docks, and brothels, they are crowded, this is the natural popularity. A restaurant's business is good or not, cooking takes the first place, followed by popularity. With good cooking skills and high popularity, the business naturally starts. I have cooking skills. If I take advantage of the popularity of my neighbors, I'm not afraid that I can't earn any money. You will know when I open the shop."
"The surrounding popularity is not bad indeed, but you also need to check if your shop can take advantage of your neighbors. The alley with seventeen or eighteen turns is hard for people to find you here. A restaurant needs to be opened on the street. I have never seen a restaurant opened in a dead end." Chi is still worried.
"Good cooking is not afraid of deep alleys. This is not a big problem." Lin Dan chuckles motioning with her hand, she is able to shrug off the difficulty.
The servants she brings with her are very quick, and in half a day they clean up the shop and hang a small flag at the door, which means that this restaurant is ready to do business.
The handsome man has some work to do in the morning and doesn't come until noon. First, he bribes the local gangsters, and then he calls in the nearby captors (workers seizing criminals in a feudal office in the days of old) to let them take more care of Lin Dan. Only then does he come to the shop. Of course, these things are done behind Lin Dan's back, lest she have any burden in her mind.
"Why are you here again? Don’t you have anything to do? "Lin Dan looks surprised to see the man.
"You never seem to have asked my name?" The man doesn’t answer and asks Lin Dan.
Lin Dan stares blankly for a moment, then chuckles, "Well, my elder brother, what is your name and how old are you?"
"I am twenty-six this year. My surname is Tang and I am the ninth son in my family. You can call me Brother Tang, or you can call me Ninth Brother directly." The man salutes Chi as one of the younger generation and then picks up an axe to chop wood.
"Your surname is Tang? This is a good surname." Lin Dan smiles more briskly. She is a cook and has a natural affection for things like soup (the pronunciation of soup in Chinese is same with Tang) and water.
On second thought, the man knows what she is laughing at. He can’t help casting a deep and soft glance at her. Even exchange of names can be associated with dishes; Lin Dan really "talks her business all the time".
A carpenter has been hired to make the restaurant's signboard and the signboard can only be delivered in the afternoon. Lin Dan doesn’t intend to do business today, only asks her servants to bring in three large pots for making soup, a pot of clear soup, a pot of milk soup and a pot of bittern soup. Because the price of the shop is very cheap, she still has a lot of silver to spend, so she just cooks as she wants without thinking about the cost, whole chickens and ducks are put into the pots, in addition, she also puts in upper part of a leg of pork and pig bones and so on. All of the ingredients are boiled in water together.
"I learned the skill of making soup from an old master in the north. Although he is not a chef, he is absolutely proficient in cooking. After three years of learning from him, I have only learned a little. The clear soup should be made with a small fire, while the milk soup should be cooked with a big fire. You should pay attention when adding firewood." Lin Dan is very modest in her speech, but her technique of making soup is very sophisticated. She uses a serious of skills (like quick-boil, stewing and so on) to make the soup in a flowing manner.
Brother Tang (who is the handsome man before) stares at several large pots with a slightly worried tone, "Can you earn back the cost with so sufficient ingredients?"
Lin Dan chuckles, "Although I use sufficient ingredients in these pots of soup, they seem rather expensive, but you know, these pots of soup are enough for me to cook hundreds of dishes, hundreds of bowls of noodles, and they are not wasted at all. My shop is too deep in the alley, I have to cook some delicious soup to attract customers. The so-called 'bouquet is not afraid of the depth of the alley', in my case it is 'thick soup is not afraid of the depth of the alley'. When the soup is cooked, someone will smell it and find my shop."
When both the clear soup and the milk soup are boiled, Lin Dan puts the spice bag into the bittern soup, boils it with a big fire. After a quarter of an hour, she puts upper part of a leg of pork, pig bones, streaky pork, pig skin and other ingredients into it, covers the pot with a pot cover after boiling, and covers it around with wet wipes to prevent steam from running out.
"This pot of bittern soup will be available tomorrow morning with a small fire. Let's rest and just leave one person to watch the fire." Everything is ready; Lin Dan claps her hands and dismisses everyone. The caravan still has a business of dry goods to do. Several servants pack up their things and leave the capital.
Lin Dan is preparing lunch for her mother and Brother Tang when a man runs in suddenly through the door; the man is the waiter of the Qiaoyuan Restaurant. He looks angry and he says, "I have found you, you are a liar! Look, what were you selling to my restaurant? How could you substitute shoddy goods for superior goods? "
"You need to calm down, little brother. I'll come back to the Qiaoyuan Restaurant with you, if there's anything else, we can talk later." Lin Dan pours a cup of hot tea to the waiter, not being annoyed.
The waiter wants originally to catch Lin Dan, he hurriedly pulls her, but Brother Tang glances at him coldly, so he becomes timid and has to kindly ask Lin Dan to go back with him. The fair and handsome little cook has been waiting in the restaurant for a long time. He is clearly the victim, but he is thin-skinned and his tone of criticizing is very soft. "The goods you sold me may have some problems, and they don’t taste like the top ingredients however I cook them. Have a taste; this dish is made from the fish maw you sold me. That dish is bought from the Yans’ Restaurant. Both of them have the same seafood ingredients. Why is my dish's taste worse than theirs? "
Lin Dan tastes both dishes and can't help laughing. She is worried that she doesn't know how to fight back against the Yans, but the little cook provides a way to do so. Let it be, she can't challenge the Yans directly, but now there is one who can challenge them on behalf of her.
Considering this, she motions with her hand, "Go to the kitchen and let me see how you cook. I have accumulated these dry goods bit by bit from thousands of goods, each of which can be rated as top grade, and there is absolutely no problem. Since there is no problem with the ingredients, there must be something wrong with your cooking methods. Let's look for the reason from the source. "
The little cook agrees without thinking, and immediately heads for the kitchen. His every move is extremely obedient. The old shopkeeper glares at Lin Dan, he seems to want to scold her for not knowing etiquette, but because of the hostility of Brother Tang, he dares not speak. They arrive at the kitchen and the little cook starts cooking.
Lin Dan stares at the little cook for a while and shakes her head. "Your basic skills are solid, but you lack some experience. When cooking with dry goods, 70% of the time is spent soaking and 30% is spent seasoning. If you don't master the skill of soaking, naturally you can't make good dishes."
"For example, the sea cucumber, you can't just soak them. If you just cut it into sections and stir-fry it, you can manage with an effort. But if you use the whole sea cucumber into the dish, the meat will be both soft and hard, so the taste is very uneven, and it’s hard to be tasty. I'll teach you a secret method. It’s better to bake the sea cucumber on a hot iron plate before soaking it in water, then burn the skin outside with small fire until the skin becomes black, finally scrape off the black skin with a knife and boil it again. Why do we need to do this? Because the newly bought dried sea cucumber still contains some moisture, its taste will be even only if the moisture is completely removed. Boil it for three times and let it cool for three times. Only in this way can the cucumber be really thoroughly soaked. With one pinch of fingers, a mark can be made. It feels very tender and smooth."
She explains, and she deals with the sea cucumber, her skillful hands move up and down, the crowd is stunned. The little cook realizes in hindsight that Shopkeeper Lin is not only a seller of dry goods, but also a very experienced cook. She is skilled at making sea cucumber. Without three to five years of study, who can master the excellent skill? However, she not only masters it, but also teaches others generously. Her moral character and disposition are also excellent.
In order to learn more, the little cook hurriedly takes over the work of soaking the sea cucumber.
Lin Dan wipes her hands with a handkerchief and continues to treat the fish maw. While cooking oil, she explains, "You haven't soaked your fish maw right either. You have to use oil to make it smooth, soft and glutinous. Soak it twice with 50% hot oil, put it on the stove after cooling, fry it with mild fire, then take it out and soak it in clear water, let it fully absorb the water, and then put it into the water containing dust, pat it with your hands to wash away the grease, and finally wash away the astringency of the water containing dust with clear water, so that it can be used to cook a dish. The oily fish maw tastes very soft, glutinous and smooth. It will be delicious no matter how it is cooked. Not to mention the fish maw of top grade, even the worst-quality fish maw which is dry outside and wet inside can be made into delicacies."
Speaking of cooking, Lin Dan can naturally talk without stopping while she cooks her dishes. She soon cooks a pot of oil and throws the fish maw into it. Whether the cook has real skills or not will be clear when he or she starts to cook. The little cook looks at Lin Dan and his eyes become brighter and brighter. It looks as if he finds buried treasure.
After waiting a moment for the oil to cool down, Lin Dan says again, "Look, this basin of Jew’s ear picked from cliffs is not rightly soaked. It is not enough to soak the Jew’s ear in boiling water. You have to add a little crude salt in the water to soak and soften it and rub off the fluff on the back..."
"Yes, yes, you are right! Shopkeeper Lin, I was wrong. I misunderstood you earlier. You should be the bigger person, please forgive me this time. I am not good at cooking, please teach me! Recently, the Yans’ Restaurant introduced a new dish called Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish, which is unique in both appearance and taste. It has already attracted all the remaining diners in my restaurant. If I don't improve my skills, I'll really ruin the fame of being ‘a family of imperial cuisine’!" The little cook folds his hands and bows to Lin Dan frequently. To say a word of conscience, Lin Dan’s soaking skill is no worse than her father’s and her grandfather’s, so she is more than enough to be a master.