Chapter 17: Aromatic Mixed Braise
Translated by Karcessel of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The XiQin restaurant was quiet for a few days. Lin ShuYi thought that since Old Man Yang’s words were so firm, his son shouldn’t dare come again. After all, this is Old Man Yang’s own restaurant, naturally Old man Yang would have the final say on whether to sell or not to sell.
Shen Fu, on the other hand, thought that things were not so simple. Old Man Yang’s grandson especially, though he may have been young, he still had quite a large attitude. However, seeing that not even two days had passed before Lin ShuYi and Old Man Yang put this matter in the back of their heads, Shen Fu felt it was unnecessary to say anything else. He didn’t want to bring their mood down.
A new western-style bakery had just recently opened up on Chaoyang Street, and the desserts they made were especially good. Lin ShuYi only had to go in once to fall in love with their signature chocolate mousse cup.
Shen Fu seemed to have discovered that Lin ShuYi was particularly fond of sweet food. As long as something was sweet, Lin ShuYi was bound to like it, but it seemed like he hadn’t eaten much sweet food before. When Shen Fu bought chocolate for him, Lin ShuYi fell in love after only one bite. Since then, as long as something contained the word ‘chocolate’ and Lin ShuYi saw it, he absolutely must eat it.
And it wasn’t just limited to eating food, if Lin ShuYi even saw a picture on his cellphone, he would stare at it for a long time. Since then, as long as Shen Fu passed by that bakery, he would always go and buy a chocolate mousse cup for Lin ShuYi. He could never help but smile himself when he saw the look of delight in Lin ShuYi’s eyes.
Shen Fu had long since known that Lin ShuYi was very easy to please.
When buying mousse for Lin ShuYi, Shen Fu would also buy some sesame egg rolls for Old Man Yang. Old Man Yang was the complete opposite of Lin ShuYi, he disliked eating sweet things, and towards the western-style desserts in the bakery, there was nothing he liked. It was only the sesame egg rolls in the bakery that he liked, crunchy and not very sweet, with the fragrant taste of eggs.
“One chocolate mousse cup and one sesame egg roll, to go.” Shen Fu stood in front of the counter with one hand in his pocket. His light grey short-sleeved cotton shirt didn’t look to be of particularly high quality, and his pants weren’t any high end goods either, yet just casually standing there, he looked just like a model who walked out of T station on TV. With his eyelashes slightly angled down, he looked breathtakingly handsome.
The girl at the counter, sporting a flushed red face, held up Shen Fu’s order. She thought to herself, this handsome man has been coming here pretty frequently recently, and he always orders these two things. Is this for his girlfriend? If he’s this hot, then his girlfriend must be an incredible beauty as well.
“Here’s your order, please take care…” Her words hadn’t even finished yet when the sharp ring of a cell phone suddenly rang out. She watched as the man in front of her glanced at his phone, and upon seeing the text on the screen, it seemed as if he couldn’t help but smile. This solidified the thought in her heart that this must be a call from the handsome man’s girlfriend.
“…Mn… Anything else you want? Alright, I like eating that too.” Not only was his tone soft, but that slight smile never left his face either.
Upon hanging up the phone, Shen Fu discovered that the girl in front of him was staring at him with a red face, her eyes alight with the flames of bubbling gossip. Shen Fu took his order, and with that smile still at the corner of his lips, turned around and left.
On the way back, Shen Fu picked up some raw chicken feet from the butcher’s. Lin ShuYi said he wanted to braise them.
Though recently Lin ShuYi hadn’t cooked very often, when he did, the aroma travelled far and wide. Old Man Yang even said, if things went on like this, the XiQin restaurant would end up sold with the food. When Lin ShuYi volunteered to cook a dish, don’t even mention Shen Fu, not even Old Man Yang could help but crave his cooking.
Before Shen Fu even stepped foot inside the XiQin restaurant, sure enough, he could already smell the fragrant aroma of Lin ShuYi’s cooking.
Lin ShuYi was currently making the marinade sauce for his braise. A few spoonfuls of dark soy sauce, a few spoonfuls of rice wine, these quantities were all of particular importance. There was a saying that said every family’s marinade had their own flavor, and it was certainly wasn’t lying.
What kinds of seasonings were used; how much of each seasoning was added; what brand of dark soy sauce was poured; these were all key factors affecting the taste. Lin ShuYi didn’t have much of an understanding about all the brands available in the supermarket, he just picked the ones he liked from the brands that Old Man Yang often bought. The rest of the taste just depended on the specific ratios of the seasonings used.
Only after the seasonings were wrapped in a ball of gauze and left to soak in the pot did Lin ShuYi walk out of the kitchen. He was still dressed in that hilarious cartoon apron, but looking at his appearance, Shen Fu thought that he was born to do this kind of craft.
First Shen Fu placed the bag of chicken feet in his hand on the table, than with his other hand, he casually held up the mousse cup in front of Lin ShuYi’s eyes. “Your favorite chocolate mousse cup.”
Lin ShuYi’s eyes lit up, and he rushed over to Shen Fu and said, “Thank you.”
Still as polite as ever.
Then Shen Fu placed the sesame egg rolls in front of Old Man Yang. “Grandpa’s sesame egg rolls.”
Old Man Yang squinted his eyes. “Ah, Xiao Fu is still the best, knowing what I like. But there’s no need to buy this all the time, and besides, it tastes better if it’s eaten only occasionally.”
Although Old Man Yang said this, Shen Fu could still see through him. Old Man Yang has eaten this countless times, and has never gotten sick of it.
With good food on hand, Old Man Yang started chattering. “Today, Old Man Chen from next door brought over some beef that he got from his hometown. This beef is unlike that sold in the market, it’s much more delicious. And the price isn’t even the regular kind of expensive, and I felt that it was a pity to just eat it regularly, so I let Xiao Yi marinade and braise some. I wanted him to make a few dishes that would go well with some beer, drink a few with Old Man Chen, but Xiao Yi said why not braise everything all at once, that it wasn’t anything difficult to do.”
No wonder he asked Shen Fu to buy the chicken feet. Looking at what Lin ShuYi had prepared, with the the beef and the fresh brown eggs and the smoked bean curd, it looked like he was planning on making an Aromatic Mixed Braise.
To be honest, making a mixed braise wasn’t as easy a task as it seemed. If someone ate it the same day they cooked it, there definitely wouldn’t be enough flavor. If they wanted it to be truly delicious, they they would have to start cooking it today but not eat it until tomorrow.
At the beginning of the process Old Man Yang said there was no hurry, but as soon as the aroma started permeating through the XiQin restaurant, he started getting restless and constantly wanted to go in the kitchen and check on the progress.
The marinade sauce had already turned a deep reddish brown color, and the eggshells had already cracked into a flowery pattern, with some lines dark, some lines light. It looked incredibly appetizing. The beef tumbling in the stockpot was blended with the color of the braise, and the bean curds and chicken feet were scattered all around the stew. The fragrance made everyone want to drool.
“Hey, Old Man Yang, what kind of delicious food are you cooking? The smell’s traveled so far, I could smell it as soon as I stepped outside my door!” That sharp and reverberating voice could only have come from one person, Xian Wan’s grandmother.
Originally, Xiao Wan already had her bag slung over her shoulder and was ready to head out, but seeing her grandma step inside the XiQin restaurant, she followed her in as well. Xiao Wan had been pretty busy lately, and hadn’t had much time to come see the two hot guys working at the XiQin restaurant.
While thinking about this, Xiao Wan smelled the air. The aroma was really exceptionally enticing.
Seeing these two people come in, Old Man Yang smiled. “Oh, there isn’t anything special here, just Xiao Yi is braising some beef and bean curds.”
Xiao Wan’s grandmother looked at Lin ShuYi, her eyes full of appreciation. “Ah, Xiao Yi, this child, is really something.” Then she looked at her granddaughter, and thought that if she wasn’t mistaken, these two children should be around the same age. Yet her own granddaughter, not to even speaking of cooking, if Xiao Wan could make herself some simple noodles and not starve than it would be a miracle.
As soon as Xiao Yan saw her grandma looking her way she instantly know what she wanted to say. Quickly shrinking back behind old Man Yang, she said, “Grandma, don’t say it. I know what you want to say.”
Old Man Yang and Xiao Wan’s grandmother glanced at each other, amused, and Xiao Wan’s grandmother scolded as she smiled, “What? Now I can’t even say anything to you?”
Lin XiaoWan bit her tongue and didn’t say anything else, but instead stole a glance at Lin ShuYi from behind old Man Yang’s back. Even wearing a funny looking apron, he was still incredibly handsome. However, Lin Xiao Wan was super strong-willed, and the temptation of the hot guy was not enough to beat out the aromatic smell still drifting in the air. Lin XiaoWan looked around and look another sniff. “That smells so good. Is it done yet?”
Lin ShuYi shook his head. “The beef is definitely not done, but the eggs were already cooked, so if Xiao Wan is hungry, I could scoop up a few of those for you to eat.”
In the end, Lin XiaoWan still looked to her grandma for permission, and Old Man Yang laughed. “What are you looking to your grandma for? If you want to eat some then go get some, it’s not like eggs are anything precious.”
Lin XiaoWan beamed happily and left to go get a plate.
Sure enough, it was as Lin Shuyi said. Because the eggs hadn’t been braised for long enough, even though the outside was already a deep reddish brown, the inside was still it’s original color. But whether due to some psychological effect or something else, Lin XiaoWan still thought Lin ShuYi’s eggs tasted better than eggs bought anywhere else.
Only after slowly chewing and savoring two eggs did Lin XiaoWan straighten back up. “If Xiao Yi gege* opened up another restaurant that didn’t sell anything else, only various braised foods, my classmates and I would still definitely come eat every day.” Lin XiaoWan giggled as she ate.
*T/N: 哥哥 means “brother” in Chinese but can be used to refer to any older male of similar age with admiration and respect. In this context it has a similar meaning to “senpai” but cutesy.
Because of her laughter, Lin ShuYi and Shen Fu didn’t take these words seriously.
However, Lin XiaoWan’s words did make her grandmother laugh. “What? You don’t even want to eat your own family’s food anymore? Does it taste that good? If it’s good, then tomorrow grandma will come and buy some more. With this kind of whether, sliced beef with some minced garlic and hot peppers will taste good.”
Lin XiaoWan smiled happily, agreeing to her words.
Old Man Yang smiled too. “We’re both neighbors here, what do you mean ‘buy’? If you want to eat some, then tomorrow come and eat. Get Old Man Chen to come too, both of you come and see how good Xiao Yi’s hand is, how does that sound?”
Both women agreed happily, and left after they finished talking. Lin ShuYi waved goodbye at Lin XiaoWan, but all of Lin ShuYi’s attention was directed towards the chocolate mousse cup on the table. He didn’t even spare Lin XiaoWan a single glance.
Only after Lin XiaoWan walked away in disappointment did Shen Fu laugh out loud.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing, let’s go in the kitchen to check out how your braise is going. I want to eat Xiao Yi’s cooking too.”
Lin ShuYi glanced at him. If Shen Fu also ate some, than this pot of braise would be gone before it even finished cooking.
The results were as Lin ShuYi predicted. The braise soaked in the pot overnight, and noon the next day, Lin ShuYi started to prepare. He sliced some beef and plated it, cracked and peeled the eggs, scooped out some bean curd and chicken feet, and invited Shen Fu and Old Man Yang to come grab a drink and a taste. When the food was brought out into the restaurant, catching the attention of people with good eyes, everyone thought it was delicious and took out their money to buy more. In the end, Old Man Yang shared a bit with everyone to eat, and before long there was nothing left in the pot.
Old Man Chen picked up a thin slice of beef with his chopsticks and dipped it in some minced garlic and hot peppers, bring up a previous topic. “This braise Xiao Yi makes is so good, you should really add this to the menu. I bet you tons of people would buy it.”
Old Man Yang shook his head. “Forget it, just cooking these noodles all day is enough work, how could Xiao Yi handle even more to do?”
Old Man Chen also shook his head. “That’s really a waste of Xiao Yi’s talent.”
“It’s up to him. If he wants to do it, then I’ll support him.”
Shen Fu also heard the words and turned to look at Lin ShuYi, but Lin ShuYi shook his head. He didn’t really want to start a restaurant, and especially didn’t want to make XiQin restaurant a place dominated by him.
T/N: Aromatic Mixed Braise (香浓杂卤) lit. “Fragrant miscellaneous braised goods” isn’t actually a specific dish, but rather just about any food item (usually various meats, proteins, and soy products) cooked in a specific way (translated best as I could as “braised”), which is to be soaked in a marinade made of primarily soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine, among other spices, and then simmered for hours in that marinade, then left to soak overnight in order for all the food items to fully absorb the flavor of the marinade.