Chapter 6: Mushroom Chicken ShuMai
Translated by Crystal of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Seeing that it was about to enter the summer seasons, schools were starting to go on holidays. ChaoYang Street was a side-street, but business at XiQin Restaurant was better than previous years and that’s all because of Lin ShuYi.
“Where are we going? Is there even anything good on ChaoYang Street?”
“I’m bringing you to a good place, the noodles there are really good! But most importantly, there’s a really handsome guy!”
XiQin Restaurant had existed for a while now, but other than some middle-aged people, it was rarely visited by youngsters. The reason was simply because it was mundane looking. The sign was normal, the place was clean but seemed to hold nothing interesting. There really wasn’t anything that would make youngsters want to go in and try it out. However, it was slightly different now. Of course, the restaurant was still the same, but now there was a surge of young girls, even to the point where they needed a line.
“Xiao Yi, the Tomato Sauce Noodles are ready.”The bright red tomato sauce brought about a tangy but sweet smell. Added with a few fresh greens and a golden fried egg, it was a simple dish, but because of the pork bone soup, the flavor instantly changed. It was light and fresh, perfect for the summer time.
“Your Tomato Sauce Noodles are ready.” The young man was tall and skinny, one seventy something centimeters in height. Even with a random t-shirt and jeans, he looked fashionable. Not to mention that his face was handsome. When his lips curled up, he could make one’s heart start pounding in their chest. His slender fingers, that held the porcelain bowl, looked like a piece of art. The young ladies hearts were completely captured.
“See, I wasn’t lying to you. I told you there was a really handsome man, but you didn’t believe me. Not only that, the noodles here are really good too. Give it a try.”
“Why didn’t I see him last time I was here?”
“I heard from mom that he is new. But he seems to have lived here before. It’s weird. Why didn’t I see him even once? Considering how handsome he is, there’s no way I would forget him.”
“Who cares! I know I’m going to be spending all of my lunches here, even if the food tastes horrible!”
“Were you even listening to me? The noodles here are extraordinary! You really think everyone came here to look at a handsome dude?”
The young girl picked up a thin white noodle that still had soup on it with her chopsticks and blew on it to cool it down. She took a bite and instantly her eyes brightened, “It’s really good! Probably because there weren’t any handsome dudes before, but after all these years, I have never eaten here! If I knew it was this good, I would’ve come even if there were no handsome guys!”
The twos girls ate and talked quietly. Well, they thought they were quiet, but everyone could hear them. That didn’t matter though, because everyone came here to look at the hot guy but discovered that the noodles were really good! Thus, the young ladies who came for the handsome guy were all absorbed by the noodles. Other than taking photos and posting it on social media, they also tagged a few shots of Lin ShuYi. In a few days, the repost amount went over ten thousand. With that, the XiQin Restaurant and Lin ShuYi became famous overnight.
Lin ShuYi was obviously happy about the good business, but even more than that, he was worried about old man Yang’s body. Since there were more customers, the stuff he prepared beforehand wasn’t enough anymore. From the pork bone soup to the sauce, he needed to wake up even earlier to prepare more. After a few days, it was starting to take a toll on his body.
“Ouch, Xiao Yi don’t press so hard. Sigh, these old bones of mine are really getting old. Just a little more work and they can’t take it anymore, but the XiQin Restaurant has never been so popular before. I’d say it’s all thanks to Xiao Yi.” Even though old man Yang felt sore all over, having so many people loving his noodles, made him extremely happy. So this amount of stress was nothing.
Lin ShuYi loosened his grip and carefully massaged old man Yang’s shoulders. “It’s because Grandpa’s noodles are delicious, but making so many a day, your body can’t take it.”
“Don’t worry, with so many people liking grandpa’s noodles, grandpa’s happy.”
Lin ShuYi frowned, even then he didn’t want old man Yang to hurt his body. “Grandpa, how about I help you out, you can teach me.”
Old man Yang paused for a moment, he knew Lin ShuYi was worried about him and felt gratified, but he patted his hand and said, “Don’t worry, grandpa can still work. You’re still young, this work isn’t heavy but it isn’t easy either.”
Lin ShuYi usually listened to old man Yang but this time he became stubborn. “Grandpa, I can do it.”
In the beginning, old man Yang simply pitied Lin ShuYi living without parents like him. Only when they were together longer did he discover that this child was just eighteen and a well-behaved. He was a fast worker and didn’t complain. He liked him especially because he treated him like his real grandpa. He liked the kid originally and now he just liked him more. Although he had a son and grandson, the grandson wasn’t close with him. If it wasn’t for Lin ShuYi, he would have probably spent the rest of his life alone. From the bottom of his heart he liked this child. As he thought about it, his eyes started to become red, and finally he nodded. “Okay, if you want to learn, grandpa will teach you.”
Rather than a restaurant, XiQin would be more appropriately named as a noodle house, because that was all they served. The essence of noodles was sauce and soup.
For noodle soups, the soup needed to be fresh and the noodles glossy. For dry noodles, the sauce needed to be the center of the dish. Other than the common place Tomato Sauce Noodles (closer to ketchup) and the Minced Pork Noodles, there were the braised Beef Noodles, Tomato Noodles, Shredded chicken noodle soup, Sour Cabbage Shredded Beef Noodle, and Minced Beef Noodles. These were all easy to make with the focusing being on the sauce and the soup.
The beef sauce and paste needed to be prepared beforehand and the shredded chicken was made in the morning then stored till it was time to serve. There wasn’t anything special about the soup making process, other than old man Yang’s own spice mix. That was his secret ingredient, other than him, no one else knew why his soup was creamy white and fresh tasting.
Teaching all of this to Lin ShuYi meant that the old man Yang was really thinking of handing the restaurant over to him. It was not like old man Yang’s son had an interest in this, much less his grandson.
The next day, Lin ShuYi woke up early, even earlier than usual. Old man Yang said that they needed to prepare before opening, thus he would need to wake up around this hour everyday.
“You only need to add three of these seeds, it’s got a strong aroma, if you add more, the flavor will change, remember only three… This is for lifting the overall aroma, just a small piece is good… This is the secret to having a creamy soup, to use a whole fish, the bones aren’t enough to create this flavor. Once you fry it, you add in the hot water. Once it’s boiling, you add in larger pork bones. Remember to pull the fish out, otherwise it’ll disintegrate in the soup… And this, you can’t forget this, it’s to remove the smell. The bones are critical as well, come with me to the market tomorrow, there’s a really good butcher that sells the freshest bones. I buy from him year round. He knows me, if you say it’s for XiQin Restaurant, he’ll know how much to give you.
“Remember, you can raise the price but you can’t change the ingredients. Whether or not a noodle tastes good is wholly dependent on the soup. The prices are rising and my noodles have gotten pricer, but people still return because my ingredients never change…” Old man Yang talked as he taught Lin ShuYi. Lin ShuYi nodded, remembering every step. Then, much to his surprise, old man Yang discovered that Lin ShuYi learned everything only by seeing it done once.
How much of these complicated spices to put in; how to put them in; when to put them in; he remembered them perfectly. Actually, when he first started as a server, old man Yang was shocked. Although he didn’t have that much variety on his menu, when it got busy, there were at least tens of take-out. So who wanted what, who wanted is spicy and who didn’t, he remembered it all without a single mistake.
This child was unusually smart, if it wasn’t for his family…he would have much greater accomplishments.
When the sauces were done, old man Yang tasted all of them. It was just enough seasoning and so the sauces had an intense aroma and the flavor was just like his. Everything solidified his assumption that not only was Lin ShuYi smart, he was also a talented cook.
The noodles weren’t easy to make either, some were skinny, while some were thick. Usually the thicker noodles were sliced noodles while the thinner noodles were hand pulled. Due to that, how to roll the dough, how much water and salt to add, what temperature the water should be at; these were all critical in making a chewy but not fragile noodle.
Once all the preparations were done, the sun started to rise.
“Xiao Yi, what do you want to eat? Even if we make noodles, we can’t eat them every day. Since we have already worked through the morning, we won’t be cooking. In front of ChaoYang Street there is a good breakfast place with a lot of variety. I’ll give you the money, you go see what you want to eat and bring some ShuMai back for grandpa.” Old man Yang pulled out some cash from his pocket but Lin ShuYi didn’t take it.
“I have money.” He barely spent any money since he arrived, everything he ate was from the restaurant and everything he used was from a nearby supermarket. He had never gone further than that, so he didn’t have any place to spend his money either. However, he knew that everything needed money here, so he always carried cash with him, although not much. Normally he wouldn’t even leave ChaoYang Street, so it was his first time hearing about a breakfast place.
When Lin ShuYi saw the store with the long line, his lips raised to a smile. This meant delicious food.
Before he arrived, he was noticed by some of the young girls in the line and one of them even greeted him with a smile, “You’re here for breakfast too huh?”
Lin ShuYi: “….”
Lin ShuYi had a weird memory. He could easily remember stuff but not people. If it wasn’t someone he was familiar with, even if they walked passed him multiple times, he wouldn’t remember their face. Thus, even though this girl looked particularly familiar, he couldn’t recall anything.
The young girl spoke with shock, “You don’t remember me? My house’s next to XiQin Restaurant and my grandma goes to eat there everyday!”
Lin ShuYi thought about it for a while and finally remembered. This girl was the granddaughter of the woman who talked a lot. Currently she was in eleventh grade, younger than him by a year. Her grandma often went to the restaurant and talked about her granddaughter.
Lin ShuYi smiled, “I remember now.”
Once Lin ShuYi smiled, the girl turned a bit red and turned around, whispering something to the other girl with her. Lin ShuYi wasn’t interested, his focus was on those steaming bamboo baskets. Like XiQin Restaurant, it wasn’t a big breakfast place, actually it was even smaller than the restaurant but it had everything and had a great assortment of food.
“Owner, I want two Mushroom Chicken ShuMai, a box of Crystal Shrimp Dumplings, and a Purple Sweet Potato Crystal Rice Dumpling to go!”
Lin ShuYi’s smile deepened. It looked like there was really a lot of good things. He lined up for a good half hour before it was his turn.
The female owner looked at him with a smile, “Young lad, what do you want?”
Lin ShuYi saw the menu and said with a smile, “Give me one of each.”
The owner was dumbfounded, although they didn’t have that much stuff, there was a huge variety, at least ten to twenty pieces. With one of each, could this young lad finish it all?
“To go! Also give me three ShuMai!” Lin ShuYi took a bunch of small bags back to XiQin Restaurant.
When old man Yang saw it, he was shocked, “Why did you buy so much?!”
It was because he hadn’t tried all of them, so he wanted a taste of each. As it turned out, a young man who was growing could eat a lot. Although the portions were small, Lin ShuYi bought enough for at least two or three people, but he managed to eat it all by himself. By the end, the rubbed his round belly and let out a satisfied sigh.
The food in this world was really good, he liked both the sweet and salty.