Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China
Another addition to the catalogue of Interior Deco That You Can Eat: noodle curtain.
Some local residents tenderise meat with a wooden stick.
Stir-fry tofu with peas.
Then add water.
And the important part: starch.
勾芡A cooking method. Using starch to thicken the food.
敲肉羹 “beaten” pork broth
羹 (“geng”) is a word that means “thick soup” or “broth”, though it’s not really soup. It’s something that’s thicker than soup, but lighter than congee.
You can see the texture of the dish: not dry like stir-fried dishes, but there’s also no liquid sloshing around in the bowl.
The amount of starch needed differs from dish to dish.
鲍汁鹅掌 braised goose feet in abalone sauce
Slices of bamboo shoots, chicken, and fish, rolled in starch.
Add in sweet fermented rice.
糟熘三白 “three whites” sautéed in rice wine
(“three whites” refer to the white slices of bamboo shoots, chicken, and fish)
The starchy sauce wraps around each piece of meat like an individual soup capsule.
Nongqiu, Dehong, Yunnan Province, China
The Achang people are preparing a meal.
过手米线 Achang rice noodles
The noodles are eaten with your hands.
In the courtyard, a wedding banquet is under way.
It’s not easy to marry an Achang girl.
The groom has to go through several challenges.
Getting his face painted.
Carrying two 3-metre long bamboos.
The bamboos are “chopsticks”.
The groom has to use this pair of giant chopsticks to pick up food.
Not so easy.
Chopsticks are like the extension of one’s fingers.
Many types of food in China are cut into slices, making it easier for chopsticks to pick up.
How to prepare different types of ingredients, so that they don’t just taste nice, but look nice, and at the same time, are easy to pick up, is the subject of study by many chefs.
The art of the knife is something that us laymen find hard to understand—it’s food; as long as it’s cut into pieces small enough to cook, it’s fine.
But any top notch, self-respecting chef in China has mastered at least some aspects of the art.
In a culinary institute in Yangzhou, a chef is demonstrating knife skills for his students.
For example, duck gizzards.
Remove the membrane.
This small piece of duck gizzard is cut 22 times, without completely severing it.
The knife never touches the bottom of the gizzard.
Add pork tripe to the wok.
Duck gizzards and pork tripe are deep fried in oil with a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius.
For 15 seconds.
Watch the fire dance.
爆双脆 deep-fried crispy duck gizzards and pork tripe
Like a true kung fu master, if you’ve reached a certain level, you won’t need a weapon to win a fight.
In cooking, sometimes a knife is not needed at all.
Whatever this is, it takes up the entire wok.
I see ginger slices, spring onions, and . . . fish?
It’s a giant fish head, simmered in hot water with a temperature of 70 to 80 degrees Celsius.
Fish bones are stripped by hand.
The chef has to know the anatomy of the fish by heart, otherwise he’ll miss bones, and whoever eats the dish will probably end up needing the Heimlich.
Maybe the chef’s a retired anatomist . . .
拆烩鱼头 stewed boneless silver carp
Changshu, Jiangsu Province, China
The appeal of certain dishes goes beyond the ingredients used. Plating is important, too.
A piece of egg roll wrapper.
Spread shrimp meat on the wrapper evenly.
虾蓉蛋皮卷 shrimp egg roll
蔬菜汁蛋皮卷 vegetable egg roll
紫菜卷 seaweed roll
(They look pretty as paintings, which is why I wouldn’t order them in a restaurant. But I’ll get one of those dishes, maybe the one with the rooster, frame it, and hang it up in the living room. I bet it’ll go nicely with my tofu curtain and noodle curtain.)
Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, China
Remove the skin.
Thread and needles.
Seems like being a chef requires not only the skill of an anatomist, but also that of a seamstress.
Eight different types of ingredients are stir-fried with glutinous rice.
The rice is then stuffed into the duckling’s skin.
Sew it back up.
Tie a knot in the middle.
Out of the plate.
Into the frying pan.
The duckling undergoes a high temperature oil bath.
Take it out for short break.
Out of the frying pan.
Into the simmering pot.
Time to pull out the thread.
八宝葫芦鸭 “eight treasures” calabash-shaped duckling
Get the thread ready.
But instead of sewing, it’s used to truss up the chicken.
The entire chicken is stuffed into pig bladder.
Place it into the soup stock.
The pig bladder gives buoyancy to the chicken, suspending it in the soup.
4 hours later.
Pour hot soup over the bladder.
Looks like an overinflated balloon.
Poke it with a fork.
Then carve it on the spot.
Add foie gras,
French black truffle
布雷斯膀胱鸡 Poularde de Bresse en vessie
Hong Kong, China
Everywhere, new dishes are being invented.
葱姜汁蟹 crab meat in spring onion and ginger sauce
番茄汁焗鲳鱼 silver pomfret in tomato sauce
猪婆参 this type of dried sea cucumber is called “sow” sea cucumber, because the shape of it supposedly looks like a female pig.
Soaked in water.
Add other ingredients.
Put it in a pressure cooker.
Soak the cooked sea cucumber in ice cubes.
脆皮婆参 crispy sea cucumber
Cooking is an art full of surprises . . .