Chapter 38.1 Vermillion Meat (a)
Translated by Cora
Edited by Gumihou
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Celestial Fragrance Dwelling was one of the most famous restaurants within the Imperial Capital City. Their name was synonymous with the Vermillion Meat, the signature dish which placed their restaurant on the food map of all foodies. Almost everyone who came to the Celestial Fragrance Dwelling would order a portion of their signature dish.
The next morning, Shiyu arrived at the Celestial Fragrance Dwelling. There were not many guests in the early hours, so it was fairly quiet. The dining hall was very spacious and though there were a fair bit of people in the dining room, it did not feel too crowded. The tables had just been wiped down and the floors were spotlessly clean. The lighting was just right, neither too dark nor too bright. The floor was tiled with blue bricks and every brick has a lotus flower carved on it to prevent customers from slipping.
The whole environment has a refreshing, slightly imposing atmosphere to it. Shiyu liked it very much as it reminded her of the high-end restaurant of her past life.
The moment she stepped through the entrance, a waiter came rushing up to greet her. Despite the enthusiastic welcome, Shiyu was very cool as she placed her order. Just one dish, please, before sitting down at a corner table.
She watched as the waiter disappeared down a corridor that had to lead to the kitchen and settled back to wait.
Within the main kitchen, everyone was busy bustling about with their own jobs. Despite the busy atmosphere, there were actually very few people manning the stoves. Majority of the kitchen hand were currently doing prep work for the lunch rush.
When the waiter arrived with the order, a young cook was there to intercept it. He glanced through the order and raised his eyebrows, “Just this one dish?”
Normally, when people came to dine at their restaurant, they would at least have the courtesy to order three or four dishes as well as some drinks. It was rare to see someone order just one Vermillion Meat. Who would be so shabby as to order just a single dish without even an accompanying drink at such a large restaurant?
The waiter chuckled and said, “A little girl ordered it. She must be a foreigner who heard about our signature dish and wanted to try it. Too bad her pockets are too shallow. Well, I shall leave the dish to you. I need to get back to my post.”
The cook, surnamed Li, nodded. He had some apprentice cooks prepare the ingredients as he prepared to handle the actual cooking.
The entire conversation between the Young Chef Li and the waiter was heard by everyone in the kitchen and they could not help but muttered, “These foreigners have never truly seen the world and could only blindly follow the crowd. Well, if they want to eat, let them eat. But could their tongues tell the good from the bad?”
This remark clearly showed their disdain towards ordinary diners.
Young Chef Li heard this, but he said nothing. To be honest, it was inevitable that some people would think that way. A large and famous restaurant like theirs did very good business so it was unlikely that every customer would be able to taste dishes made by the Head Chef. Celestial Fragrance Dwelling was well known for its Vermillion Meat, and nearly every customer who came to this restaurant would order it. However, most of the Vermillion Meat that came out of the kitchen was made by apprentice cooks. This was an open secret within the industry, the only ones who did not know were the diners themselves.
There has to be a gap between what a master make, and a disciple could imitate. However, diners who did not know better would follow the herd mentality and praised the dish to high heavens. The price alone was enough for them to believe they were eating high-quality food. It helps that the dishes made by the apprentice were really quite delicious, and until now there had been no trouble.
Today, they all assumed that Shiyu was one such ordinary diner.
When the waiter arrived with a bowl of fragrant Vermillion Meat to Shiyu’s table, it was nearly an hour later.
Shiyu studied the dish with a critical eye. From appearance alone, it looked exactly like the one she had at the Palace Banquet just yesterday, the only difference being that it had been pre-cut  into beautiful slices and artfully arranged on the plate to show off its jewel-like tones. Expectations surging in her heart, she picked up a piece with her chopsticks. The morsel of meat shimmered in the light and the slightest movement caused it to tremble. When she carefully placed in her mouth, it melted almost immediately against her tongue. It was very delicious, but… 
Too strong! The umami of sauce disturbed the balance of the actual meat’s own aroma and hid little problems brought on by insufficient technique and inadequate fire control.
Shiyu stared at the piece of Vermillion Meat before her and suddenly understood what must have happened.
As someone who was neither an aristocrat nor a celebrity, getting the Head Chef to pay any attention to her for no good reason would require some kind of weird protagonist miracle.
Setting down her chopsticks, Shiyu took out a banknote and left it on the table. Leaving the money, as well as that plate of Vermillion Meat with one bite missing, she exited the Celestial Fragrance Dwelling.
When the waiter saw her leave without a word, he thought she must have left without paying. However, when he hurried over to her table, he breathed a sigh of relief. There was a banknote worth a hundred tael there! After snatching the banknote up, he automatically began to clear the table. That was when he noticed the nearly full plate with only one bite missing.
Just what kind of dish is Celestial Fragrance Dwelling’s Vermillion Meat? It’s the signature dish that brought fame to this restaurant, ah. The reason why people come to this restaurant. In fact, the moment it appeared, it would disappear in a flash. So, why did this person…
However, when he thought of the girl’s plain face and ordinary clothes, the waiter did not bother to puzzle over the matter anymore. Instead, he packed up the leftovers, determined to have it for lunch. He had no intention of telling the cooks back in the kitchen about this unusual amount of leftovers either.
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However, who would have thought that the very next day, he would see this plain face girl again.
Just as before, she sat at the same location and ordered the same single dish. When it finally arrived, she took one little bite, placed the money on the table and left.
Baffled, the waiter thought: Was the food not to her taste? He had sampled today and yesterday’s portion, it was clearly very delicious, ah!
Nevermind, let’s not do anything yet. If she comes back again tomorrow and repeated the same performance, he will inform the cooks in the back.
As a matter of fact, on the third day, Shiyu arrived promptly. For some reason, the sight of her made the waiter feel uneasy. After seeing her go through the motion of ordering, waiting and taking one single bite, he finally could not resist asking, “Little miss, this is a very delicious dish, ah. Why do you only take one bite?”
Shiyu looked up at the waiter’s suspicious face and thought back to her behaviour these past few days. Had she been wasting her time and money on the blind? Amused, she broke out into laughter.
Perhaps she might have overdone it a little.
“I only took one bite because it’s no good, that’s all.”
The waiter’s eyes widened, and a sneer appeared on his face, “The Vermillion Meat of our Celestial Fragrance Dwelling restaurant is no good? Little girl, who sent you over to make trouble?”
“I have the good fortune of tasting the Vermillion Meat made by your Head Chef before. It’s completely different from this one. If you had informed the chef of what I had done these past few days, they would immediately understand what went wrong.” Shiyu was not at all bothered by the waiter’s haughty face.
The waiter noticed that quite a few customers were already casting curious glances over this direction and knew that it would not be good to push the matter further. Instead, he hurried towards the kitchen to pass on the message.
“That little miss who only ordered one dish every time said that Chef Li’s Vermillion Meat is no good. Each time she came, she only took one bite. Chef Li, do you want me to throw her out?” the waiter did not mention anything about Shiyu having had the Head Chef’s cooking.
A nearby apprentice cook was immediately upset, he shouted, “Did you not see how busy we are? Must you come and disturb us over such a minor thing? Throw her out. If she thinks our food is bad, she can go and find something better!”
The waiter was just waiting for someone to say the word. When Chef Li did not say anything, he relaxed and triumphantly set off to carry out his task.
Shiyu had been waiting for a chef to come over so that she could speak with him about meeting with the Head Chef. However, when only the waiter came out, now puffing with righteous anger, she frowned. She had a bad feeling about this.
Hmm, it certainly looked like the saying ‘People Relied on Clothing, Buddha Relied on Gold ’ do have some truth in it. The waiter clearly looked down on her and had been treating her like trouble right from the beginning.
Shiyu scratched her head, what a pain. Here she was trying to come and study this restaurant’s cooking only to be chased out the door. How awful. But, never mind, it’s not like she had learned nothing these past three days.
After trying both versions of the Vermillion Meat. She could tell that though the flavours ended up being different, it has a lot of similarities. Both were made using the double boil method. The seasonings used were the same. However, this version has more of this secret sauce applied to it than the original version. The additional sauce gave it more of a savoury mouthfeel, making it closer to junk food than real fine dining cuisine.  Though fine cuisine often looked fancy, the key difference is in the food preparation. Application of thick sauces and seasoning is more restraint in fine cuisine so that guests could taste the individual components of a complex dish and enjoy the experience as a whole…
[Gumihou: Ahhh, the pains of being a mob character. Poor Shiyu, though personally, I’d rather be a mob character…]
 It was unclear whether the meat was cut or not, but since there was no indication of anyone cutting anything, I’m going to pre-cut it and let Shiyu pick up the meat with her chopsticks
 I added the ‘but…’. In the original text it was: ‘Delicious!’ followed by ‘Too strong!’
What is this discrepancy, please can you give me some proper transition?!
 People Relied on Clothing, Buddha Relied on Gold – People are judge by their appearances.
 I added the details re fine dining vs junk food. I’ve had both and have to say… I prefer junk food.
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