Chapter 96 Crab Meat Lion Head (d)
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Gumihou
A very Happy Lunar New Year!
May the Year of the Ox brings you much happiness and wealth!
Feng Luo’s personal courtyard was very large.
However, what impressed Shiyu and her friends was not the size of the residence, but the fact that it was-
 “A treehouse!” Shiyu exclaimed.
Everyone admired the house that looked like it came out of a fantasy story. The ‘treehouse’ was built around a very large and ancient tree. Rooms are built as individual little wooden huts on each of the massive branches that could be accessed through a series of connected wooden walkways and suspension bridges. The tree was so wide that it looked a little squat from afar, but it was in fact very tall. Its dense canopy covered the entire courtyard.
Xiao Qi and the other little kids squealed and immediately clambered up the stairs like a bunch of monkeys and began exploring the rooms. Each room had its own bed, blankets, bookshelves, screens as well as other living necessities and looked very comfortable.
“You can pick any room you like here,” said Feng Luo.
Shiyu took Xiao Qi with her and let the little girl pick out their room. She would just share a room with Xiao Qi, as usual, there’s no need to stay in a different house when they have so little time together. However, the one disadvantage of a treehouse was the lack of proper cooking facilities. One good news though, while at Spiritual Beast Mountain Range, she finally managed to steam a Peacock Fish that was neither too raw nor too soft that received a passing mark from the Fat Cat. Lucky!
Fat Cat still preferred Sashimi, but at least he was able to accept her Peacock Fish.
There were only four more dishes in the special 9 recipes set. The 6th recipe in the set was called Crab Meat Lion Head. To be fair, this dish was not difficult compared to others, but Shiyu never had the opportunity to make it.
Now that she has settled at Feng Luo’s house, she might as well try making it.
 A Lion Head is a classic Huaiyang dish that was basically a large meatball that could be served either in plain broth or braised. Because it is a meatball dish, the amount of fat used is higher than usual. Therefore, it’s best to use at least 30% fat to 70% lean ratio. Some recipes went up to 50% fat and 50% lean, but that was the absolute maximum amount of fat use.
The most interesting thing about the Lion Head was that to make it well, one should utilize the  ‘Cut and Chop’ method instead of just throwing meat through a grinder. First, finely slice the pork from one end. The slices should be about 2mm thin and Shiyu’s knife work was good enough now that she could just slice the raw pork without first freezing it a little to harden it. Of course, she could also Condensation Frost to cut the meat, but that would be cheating. Once the meat has been sliced, it was time to cut the slices into 1cm thick ribbons. The ribbons of meat should then be cut into squares before gathered together into a flat lump and chop.
 Why chop these perfect little squares? It’s to help render out the oil in the fat so that the meat would stick together enough to form balls. How long to chop? Until the meat starts sticking together and would not flake off when you try to form a ball shape.
This Cut and Chop method test both cutting skills and cooking judgement.
For the seasoning, Shiyu went with salt, a little wine, crushed dried shrimp which she has toasted in a wok and the crab powder she had so painstakingly made before. She still has some of the crab meat from the last time, stir-fried in wine and kept frozen for future use. When defrosted, she poured a bit of the defrosted crab water into the cut and chopped meat and quickly swirled her fingers through the meat in clockwise circles to incorporate the liquid into the mixture. When the mixture began to stick to her hands it was ready for the next stage.
 It was time to scoop the meat out of the bowl and slapped it around. Shiyu used two hands to scoop the meat up and slapping it back into the bowl making a loud clapping sound. She did this a few times before swirling a little more liquid into the mixture. Doing this would improve the texture of the meatball.
 After she deemed the meat properly smacked, Shiyu placed a medium-size claypot on the stove. She half filled it with water and a few slices of leek stems. Since she was making the boiled type, it was not necessary to overly season the broth, the idea was to enjoy the meatball, not make a thick broth. As the water began to bubble over a low fire, Shiyu began to form the meatball. First, she gathered a handful of meat and formed it into a ball with her hand. She made a little hole on top and inserted a chopstick full of the crab meat into the middle before pinching the hole close. With deft movements, she smoothed the meat into a ball again and rolled it gently into the bubbling water.
 The meatball immediately brought the temperature of the water down, so there was no need to worry about overcooking the meatball as she proceeded to make more. One medium-sized pot could fill about five of these extra-large meatballs. Shiyu frowned and got her largest, flattest pot out and proceeded to fill it with water and more meatballs. She had to stew these meatballs for a couple of hours at least for the best taste. Of course, it’s possible to serve these after 20 minutes of cooking, but stewing it for a couple of hours will bring out the best flavours.
 As the large, snowball like creations bobbed and dance in the pot, Shiyu gently ran her chopsticks between them, separating the balls whenever it looked like they were sticking together. While the pots of Lion Heads were bubbling away, Shiyu heated a pot of water with a little salt, sugar and a dash of oil and blanched some green vegetables. These will be the garnish for the meatballs later.
Once the Crab Meat Lion Head was done stewing, Shiyu could not help tasting one first.  The meatball was too large for her to safely pick up with chopsticks so she scooped one up with a soup spoon into a bowl. With a smaller spoon, she broke off a piece of the meatball. She scooped a little broth with the spoon and sipped the meatball soup before taking a careful bite of the hot meatball.
After experiencing terrible failure with Peacock Fish, Shiyu nearly cried tears of happiness from the deliciousness of this Crab Meat Lion Head.
 Shiyu had been doing her cooking at the bottom of the treehouse and the smell had been teasing the people up in the tree. When they saw her tasting one of the meatballs, they immediately swarmed down like a troop of polite monkeys to stare eagerly at her.
In a person’s life, the desire for food and love cannot be denied!
As long as there is delicious food to be had, everything else could be solved, ah!
Shiyu gave everyone one meatball each before shooing them away.  The meatballs could use another half an hour stewing before it’s truly perfect. She would use the time to make other dishes for a proper meal. A couple of quick vegetable stir-fry and one large batch of rice later, it was time to eat.
Fat Cat came over to sniff at the bowl containing the Lion Head that Shiyu had placed respectfully in front of him. It was the batch that had been properly stewed for two hours. He deigned to take a bite before chewing thoughtfully. “It’s a passed,” said Fat Cat indifferently before ambling away. Shiyu cheered privately in her heart. Hurrah! Thank you for giving a straight pass! You have saved this lowly one’s face as a professional chef!
 After dinner, Shiyu eagerly reviewed the remaining three dishes on the list.
There was the Three Threads Buckle, Chrysanthemum Eggplant and Sichuan Poached Fish in Mala Oil. The first two dishes required fairly high-level knife skills, similar to the one used for Cloud Thread Soup and Squirrel Fish, but with different ingredients and higher-level presentation skills. As for the last dish… Shiyu had some suspicion that it was included because of Fat Cat.
That cat really liked fish. For any type of dishes, he would only sniff or take one bite of it before declaring Shiyu’s passing mark. But when it came to fish dishes, he could eat 10 or more of them in one sitting.
For the rest of the time, while her little brothers and sister ran about outside and play, nominally supervised by Wen Xian, Shiyu immersed herself in conquering these three dishes. However, before she lost herself in cooking, Shiyu had asked Feng Luo to keep an eye out for a Thunder Seed at the markets and auction houses. For Lao Er, the best souvenir she could bring him was probably a Thunder Seed.
One day, after exhausting her Spiritual Powers for the day, Shiyu sat down to rest. While she was slowly recovering her energy, a voice beside her said, “Little girl, are you done with your work?”
Grand Elder Feng sat down next to her on the garden bench, not at all concerned about status or appearance. “Something smells fragrant here,” he smiled, clearly hinting.
 Shiyu skipped over to the stove and brought out the plate of poached fish from the steaming rack. With rapid movements, she poured a couple of spoonful of mala oil onto the fish as well as a handful of bright green onions.
The brilliant red of the mala oil made the snow-white fish slices look whiter in contrast. The crisp green of the sliced onions completed the dish like the final touches of a great painting. Shiyu brought this dish carefully over to the table and grinned from ear to ear, “Grandfather Feng, would you like to try this?”
Her Three Threads Buckle and Chrysanthemum Eggplant had already received a nod of approval from Fat Cat. However, the blasted cat still refuses to approve her Sichuan Poached Fish. To be honest, she was currently struggling to find ways to improve this dish.
Grand Elder Feng glanced at the crisp, clean dish with its pure white and brilliantly contrasting red and green colours. It looked so appetizing that he could not resist reaching for the chopsticks set out by Shiyu. The dish looked innocent enough, but the sharp, spicy smell of chillies stung his nose and made his mouth water. A desire to eat that had laid dormant inside of him soon began to stir.
However, instead of immediately reaching for a tender morsel right away, Grand Elder Feng still has enough decorum to take out a jade box and tossed it over to Shiyu with a “Here, this old man’s thank you gift for you,” before seizing a poached fish with his chopsticks.
“Hiss~” as soon as the piece of fish entered his mouth, the Grand Elder found himself huffing and puffing from the spiciness of the mala oil. Nearly everything served at Feng City was mildly seasoned. As nobles, their food tended to be even milder. Therefore, the spiciness of this dish hit him hard. Despite this, he could not resist a second helping, a third, fourth, followed by a fifth mouthful…
The dish was spicy, no doubt about it, but the fish was so tender and soft that it seemed to  melt into his mouth. The refreshing crunch of the green onions irresistible and made him chase after the experience over and over again. Grand Elder Feng ended up red-faced and sweaty from the spicy dish, but did he care? People who cared about appearances can’t properly enjoy good food, ah!
 While Grand Elder Feng was enjoying his meal, Shiyu, having nothing better to do, opened the jade box. Inside were three pieces of fresh green leaves. Long and thin, they exuded the unmistakable scent of tea. The moment she smelled their fragrance, a sense of peace and tranquillity suffused her person.
“This is Enlightenment Tea,” Old Man Feng said with placid dignity, even after clearing an entire plate of Sichuan Poach Fish by himself. He patted his mouth with a handkerchief, leaving red stains on the cloth and said, “Don’t just Cultivate all day, it’s good to take a little rest now and then. A nice cup of Enlightenment Tea is an excellent way to relax the mind. You have contributed greatly to the Feng Clan. So much so that we are embarrassed to offer up other things from our treasury. The only thing we have that is comparable to the Immortal Jade Petal Lotus are these three pieces of Enlightenment Tea leaves. Enlightenment Tea has a way of clearing the mind. If you ever encounter a bottleneck in the future, the Tea may help you break down barriers and achieve enlightenment.”
Shiyu stared at the three ordinary-looking leaves in her hand. So this is Enlightenment Tea?
She was about to inquire more, but the Grand Elder Feng had already left. Quite suddenly, Fat Cat’s voice hissed into her ear, “Quick, bring the Enlightenment Tea into the space!”
[Gumihou: Interesting… but, yeah, about that meatball…]
 Added Details for Dramatic Purpose
 Added Explanation for the dish.
 Rant 1: Ratios
Original – “…the ingredients used here is the 30% lean and 70% fatty pork”
I think she got her ratios reversed. If you look at the videos below for reference, the pro uncles used 40% fatty pork and it’s already very, very white. I think, if you use Shiyu’s ratio… your meatball would either be disgusting or just melt away during cooking.
 Rant 2: Cubes vs Squares or Cut vs Chop
Original – “the pork must be cut into cubes as about the size of the tip of her finger, and they must be all be perfectly uniformed”
… a pox on you I say! What cursed method is this?!
The method for the Cut & Chop technique is derived from watching the videos from the ‘How Real Pros’ processed the meat. Please click on the link to observe the proper techniques. ‘How I Chop Pork’ video cut the meat into cubes, but then later chopped them into pieces (which is how home cooks like me do it). Shiyu’s original recipe featured meatballs made with cubed meat as thick as your finger. Yeah, good luck with that.
How I chop pork
How Real Pros with generations of experience Cut and Chop Pork
Clear Broth – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-unNNxyOd0
Western Style Braised Lion Head – Chef John, you’re one of my favourite youtube chef!
Pork is pre-grounded by the butcher
 Rant 3: Binding Agent
Original – “after the meat is diced, it is placed in a large bowl with salt, wine, dried shrimp, minced ginger, and crab powder.’
… I have two words for you. BINDING AGENT. Especially if you’re planning to boil your meatballs!!
Egg white, crumbs, crushed biscuits, starch, broth or even water will do in a pinch.
Otherwise, your meatball will just collapse in your soup, turning it into cubed meat soup
 Rant 4: The SLAP
Original – “Knead lightly or the meatballs will be too firm and the texture will be tough”
Actually, be fierce and slap the meat around like it just cursed yo mama.
Slapping or kneading would break the meat’s protein, improving its texture. Slapping or kneading is the reason for the ‘bounce’ you feel when biting into a meatball. We do the same when making Salisbury Steak.
So, slap that mother*cker.
 Adjusted Explanation Due to Drastically Changed Recipe
 Rant 5: Ma’am, this is rather impossible
Original – “Shiyu picked one up with her chopsticks. The soft meatball still held its shape. The fat had melted in the cooking, coating the lean meat causing it to become more tender and flavourful. The umami from the crab powder and shrimp have been fully immersed and with every bite, soup seemed to flow out of the meatball into her mouth.”
Delicious, innit? Too bad this scenario is impossible.
What it should have said, as per the recipe used – “Shiyu uncovered the pot and found that most of her meatballs have broken apart. There was also an inch thick oil on top of the soup. Directly below the oil slick floated little white cubes of fat. She tried to pick up one of the more intact looking balls with her chopsticks. It had deformed due to the fat having softened and broken away, leaving the cubes of lean meat barely clinging to each other. When she put it into her mouth, she accidentally bit into a dried shrimp, which has softened into a tasteless, unpleasant squidge after two hours of boiling. When she tasted the soup, it was still delicious, but for a meatball project it was a complete failure.”
By the way, if you can pick up a whole Lion Head meatball with chopsticks, it’s already a failure, according to State Banquet Master Chef.
 Additional Details for Logistic Purpose: It was inconvenient to cook in the treehouse… so, where were you cooking?
 Additional Details for Logistic Purpose: Too many things happening at once: Group of foodies come > Shiyu cooked more (oi, 2 hour stewing time) > last batch of Lion Head approved by Cat > other dishes > immerse in cooking > kids at play > auction > Elder Feng > Serve Fish
A lot of details lost.
 Three Threads Buckle: A recipe made with finely sliced ham, chicken and bamboo shoot arranged nicely in a bowl with a mushroom at the bottom. Once steamed with some good soup stock, the bowl is upended on a plate. When the bowl is taken away, the mushroom ‘buckle’ will be on top and the three threads of ham, chicken and bamboo shoot flowing from under it.
 Chrysanthemum Eggplant: Eggplant cut and fried into the shape of a chrysanthemum
 Adjusted Details for Correctness: If your poached fish is chewy, you’ve failed
So, why 5 Rants, Gumihou?
While there were plenty of mistakes in the Sashimi and BBQ recipes, it’s still forgivable-ish because Author In The Prime of Life-san may not have experience with these food. However, the Lion Head is a Huaiyang dish, something that she did not mention in the chapter either, but more importantly, it is a Chinese dish.
Please don’t embarrass your own culture.
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Gumihou loves reading your comments, so gimme, gimme ~
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