Uncle Fu’s interest was piqued, and he asked eagerly, “Can I watch from the side?”
Many skilled craftsmen wouldn’t easily showcase their creative process to others, whether it’s culinary or other crafts, as they have numerous unique techniques and secret recipes. Uncle Fu’s question showed his respect for Yu Qingze.
Yu Qingze nodded, saying, “No problem.”
Uncle Fu happily followed Yu Qingze into the kitchen.
Chang Le asked Chang Hao to accompany Mi Ge’er, and then he also entered the kitchen.
How could his authentic disciple not be by his side?
Mi Ge’er and the others brought quite a variety of ingredients, including fish, chicken, pork, and tofu. Yu Qingze felt their thoughtfulness in bringing even the ingredients.
Upon seeing the tofu and fish, Yu Qingze immediately decided to make a fish head tofu soup. The remaining fish could be used for sour cabbage fish, as he had made pickled cabbage a few days ago.
He also decided to make spicy diced chicken. Grandpa Chang had picked snails from the creek and kept them for several days. They were ready to be eaten, so Yu Qingze could make spicy snails. With the addition of some greens, it would be enough to treat the guests.
Yu Qingze skillfully started to prepare the fish, scaling and gutting it. He removed the fish head, lightly marinated it, and sliced the fish body into fillets.
Chang Le assisted, following Yu Qingze’s instructions to cut the chicken thighs and breasts into small pieces. They were then lightly marinated. Afterwards, they washed the sour cabbage and snails, preparing various condiments.
In order for Chang Le to observe the cooking process, Yu Qingze waited until all the ingredients were ready before starting. Chang Le tended to the fire, and Yu Qingze began cooking, explaining the process as he worked.
Uncle Fu stayed by Yu Qingze’s side the whole time, silently observing his every move. He focused intently on each step and procedure, diligently taking mental notes since he didn’t know what the final dish would look like or taste like.
When the first dish of spicy diced chicken was ready, Uncle Fu couldn’t help but salivate as he looked at the golden and crispy chicken pieces fried with red chili peppers.
Yu Qingze handed a pair of chopsticks to Uncle Fu and smiled, saying, “Try it.”
Uncle Fu had been eager to taste it, so he happily took the chopsticks and picked up a piece of chicken, putting it into his mouth.
At first, he felt a tingling spiciness, but as he bit into the chicken, the savory and fragrant flavor filled his mouth. The combination of saltiness, freshness, and spiciness made Uncle Fu feel both satisfied and hungry at the same time.
The satisfaction came from the immense joy of “eating real meat,” while the hunger was a result of finding it delicious and wanting to eat more, a sense of urgency to have more.
Narrowing his eyes, Uncle Fu savored the piece of chicken in his mouth. He felt not only satisfaction but also a deep sigh of regret. After being a chef for decades, he never knew that chicken could be prepared in such a way. It was a missed opportunity.
Fortunately, he had the chance to taste it now and learn how to make it.
“How is it, Uncle Fu?” Yu Qingze asked. Judging by Uncle Fu’s expression, the answer was apparent, but out of politeness, he still wanted to ask.
Uncle Fu let out a long sigh and said, “Boss Yu’s culinary skills are beyond my reach.”
Yu Qingze smiled and said, “Uncle Fu, you’re being modest. The realm of culinary art is vast and profound. We can try various combinations and cooking methods, and we will surely have unexpected gains.”
Uncle Fu nodded in agreement and said, “Boss Yu’s words are true.”
Next, Yu Qingze fried the fish head, then put it in a clay pot and added boiled water and ginger slices. He moved it to a small stove and simmered it until the soup boiled and turned milky white. Then he added the tofu and gently stirred it, added some salt for seasoning, and boiled it on high heat for a few more minutes.
While the fish head soup was simmering, Yu Qingze also stir-fried the snails.
Finally, he prepared the sour cabbage fish, and they could start eating.
The spicy and crispy diced chicken, the spicy stir-fried snails, the tender and appetizing sour cabbage fish, the delicious fish head tofu soup, and the crisp green vegetables.
Uncle Fu watched the entire process of preparing these dishes and could smell the fragrant aroma, which greatly stimulated his appetite.
These dishes were also the first time for Chang Le and Mi Ge’er to taste, just like Uncle Fu. They praised these dishes endlessly. Each of them ate with flushed faces, their lips turned red from the spiciness, and their foreheads sweating, but they couldn’t stop.
Especially Mi Ge’er and Uncle Fu, who were tasting Yu Qingze’s dishes for the first time, couldn’t hide their expressions of surprise and astonishment. They exclaimed how delicious it was and felt completely satisfied with life.
Yu Qingze looked at them and smiled contentedly. Although he couldn’t eat heavy food due to his injury, he was satisfied with eating vegetables and tofu. He felt happy and fulfilled.
As a chef, the greatest satisfaction and sense of achievement come from receiving praise from diners for the dishes one has made, and the most obvious and direct manifestation of this praise is when the dishes are completely eaten.
After the meal, Mi Ge’er and Uncle Fu were still savoring the flavors, while Grandpa Chang chatted casually with them. Chang Hao helped Chang Le tidy up the dishes and utensils.
It was noon, and the sun was scorching. Mi Ge’er and Uncle Fu didn’t plan to leave so soon. Yu Qingze went to the kitchen to prepare Immortal Tofu.
He asked Chang Hao to boil a pot of water and also burn the collected cypress bark into ashes. Then he put the ashes into a wooden basin, mixed them with water, stirred until the sediment settled, and poured out the upper layer of water for later use.
After that, he took the Immortal leaves he had picked in the morning, washed them clean and drained the water, and started making Immortal Tofu.
Immortal Tofu was something that Yu Qingze had learned from his master when he was an apprentice. It was a specialty dish introduced in their hotel. Actually, it was a very rustic and rural way of eating, but because modern people began to advocate for green and healthy food, it became especially popular in big cities.
Yu Qingze chopped the green leaves into pieces and put them into the wooden basin. He added an appropriate amount of boiling water and mashed the leaves into a paste with a spatula. He filtered out the juice of the leaves using a cotton cloth, then mashed the paste with water again, filtered it, and poured the upper layer of water from the cypress bark ashes through the cotton cloth into the leaf juice. Then he placed the juice in a cool place and let it settle.
Mi Ge’er and Uncle Fu were sleeping on the table for a nap. When they woke up, Uncle Fu approached Yu Qingze to discuss the preparation method of the dishes they had for lunch.
Yu Qingze didn’t hold back and shared all the important points to note about those dishes with Uncle Fu.
The two of them talked for an hour. It was getting late, and it was time for Uncle Fu and Mi Ge’er to go back.
Before leaving, Yu Qingze also taught Uncle Fu the recipes for two nourishing soups suitable for summer. Finally, as they were leaving, he packed a large bowl of jelly for them to take away. In addition, he cut a large piece of solidified Immortal Tofu, placed it in a big bowl, and floated it in cool water for Mi Ge’er and the others to take home.
“Slice this Immortal Tofu into thin pieces, add minced ginger, garlic, and chopped chili, give it a stir, and it’s ready to eat.” He also told them the way to eat it in passing.
Uncle Fu was very curious about this green tofu and regretted not seeing it when Yu Qingze made it earlier.
Mi Ge’er asked Yu Qingze again, “Boss Yu, when will you go back to set up your snack stall?”
Yu Qingze hesitated and said, “I can’t help it. My injury hasn’t fully healed yet. I’ll have to wait for a couple more days.”
Chang Hao interjected, “Brother Yu, if we go again, I hope we don’t encounter any more bad luck.”
Yu Qingze ruffled Chang Hao’s head forcefully, secretly admiring the young boy in his heart, but on the surface, he pretended to be “helpless” and said, “If we encounter it again, there’s nothing we can do, we can only consider ourselves unlucky.”
Mi Ge’er and Uncle Fu exchanged a glance, and Mi Ge’er comforted, “There’s always a way.”
After a pause, Mi Ge’er asked again, “Boss Yu, would you be interested in cooking at the Cai Mansion?”
Yu Qingze widened his eyes slightly, showing a surprised expression, and asked, “Me?”
Mi Ge’er nodded and said, “Our master’s family admires your culinary skills. If you are willing, our master would warmly welcome you to cook at the Cai Mansion.” This was another purpose for Mi Ge’er and the others coming today.
Yu Qingze considered for a moment and then answered solemnly, “Thank you very much for the appreciation, but I still want to do some small business on my own and be with my family.”
When he mentioned his family, Yu Qingze glanced at Chang Le and Chang Hao, his gaze gentle.
Mi Ge’er tried to persuade him once more, saying, “Please think about it again?”
Yu Qingze shook his head and said, “Thank you, but no, I appreciate the offer, Master Cai.”
Upon hearing this, Mi Ge’er knew that further persuasion would be futile, so he didn’t say anything more and bid farewell with Uncle Fu, heading back home.
Cai Mansion, dinner time.
Cai Lao Ye (the patriarch of the Cai family) looked at the large bowl of fish meat and the plate of green food on the table and asked, “What is this dish? And over there, the green one, did Uncle Fu learn how to make it?”
Mi Ge’er served seafood porridge to the Second Young Master while answering, “Replying to Master Cai, this fish dish is called Sour Cabbage Fish. It’s very appetizing. The green one is called Immortal Tofu, very refreshing. Uncle Fu learned it from Boss Yu today. Please try it. I guarantee it’s as delicious as the jelly you had before!”
“Oh? He learned it from Boss Yu? Then I must try it.” Cai Lao Ye picked up his chopsticks and took a piece of fish meat, nodding as he ate and saying, “Not bad, not bad. Wife, Wei Er, you should try it too.”
Saying that, he picked up pieces of fish meat for his wife and grandson to taste. Watching them eat, he asked, “How is it?”
After Cai Lao Fu (the matriarch of the Cai family) tasted it, he nodded and said, “Not bad, very tender.”
Cai Yun Wei, the second young master of the Cai family, also nodded to indicate that the taste was acceptable. Afterwards, he tried the Immortal Tofu and found it fragrant and refreshing, with a great taste. He ended up having a few more bites during dinner.
Cai Lao Ye and his wife had smiles on their faces as they watched.
After the meal, Cai Lao Ye asked Mi Ge’er if Yu Qingze was willing to work as a chef in their home.
Mi Ge’er shook his head and said, “He didn’t agree. He said he still prefers to do his own small business. But now, his small business is struggling.”
Cai Lao Ye frowned upon hearing this and asked, “Why is his business struggling? Didn’t you say it was doing well?”
So, Mi Ge’er explained everything that had happened recently to Yu Qingze and their snack stall.
Upon hearing this, Cai Lao Ye furrowed his brows and asked, “Their snack stall is not operating anymore?”
Mi Ge’er replied, “It’s still operating. They’re relying on the snack stall to make a living. If they don’t open, how will they survive? They said they’ll resume business in a couple of days, but if they encounter more troubles, who knows if they’ll be able to continue.”
Cai Lao Ye’s face darkened at these words. He looked at his precious grandson, whose complexion was getting rosier by the day, thought for a moment, and said, “When they reopen their stall, let me know. I’ll also go to their snack stall and buy some food.”
Translator has something to say: So many new dishes this chapter. Boss Yu, you’re killing me. Where can I get these????????