Chapter 13.2 – The Making of the Golden Aromatic Ring
Hearing corn bread , sweet fruit roll and Golden Aromatic Ring, these three pastries’ names, Nian Bing couldn’t help but have his heart stirred. Among these three types of pastries, he had heard about two of them. The sweet fruit roll and the Golden Aromatic Ring were both famous snacks, but only those who had a good grasp of heat control could properly make them, so very few people were able to bake them. However, what was that corn bread? Since Ming Yuan was famed as the Clever King of the kitchen, compared to other chefs, he was probably an expert and used ingenious cooking methods. If there was an opportunity, he would certainly ask Ming Yuan for guidance regarding this corn bread’s recipe.
Xue Jing seriously thought about it and said, “Uncle Ming, I want to eat the Golden Aromatic Ring. You also know that I love to eat this the most. If not, then how about you teach me how you make it?”
Ming Yuan deliberately cried out in alarm and said, “You, cooking? Forget about it! If your dad allows you to burn down Pure Wind House’s kitchen, then I don’t mind teaching you. However, Uncle still wants to live for a few more years. Don’t you want me to cook you good food many more times in the future? I say, you girl, although the Golden Aromatic Ring is crispy and fragrant… It’s still really oily. For your skin, it’s not very good.”
Xue Jing happily laughed and said, “I don’t eat it every day, anyway. It doesn’t matter since it’s been quite a while since I last ate it.”
Ming Yuan stood up and said, “That’s good! Come, follow me. Uncle will now make it just for you. The ingredients are already prepared.”
Xue Jing humbly smiled, then whispered a few sentences near his ear. When Ming Yuan heard what she had to say, his brows wrinkled slightly as his sight set on Nian Bing, who wasn’t too far away. After pondering on it for a moment, he said,“You… This girl, you’re just giving me trouble. Fine, I agree, but I’m only going to make it once. What he is able to learn from this is his own problem.”
Xue Jing happily said, “I know Uncle is the best!”
Ming Yuan unhappily said, “It would be better for you not to let people like that handsome young man confuse you. Ah, this girl! There’s truly nothing that can be done.” As he finished speaking, he went ahead and walked towards the kitchen.
Nian Bing noticed that before leaving, Ming Yuan had given him a glance that looked very much like warning. ‘Don’t tell me it has something to do with what Xue Jing whispered a moment ago to Ming Yuan?’ As he was thinking about it, he heard Xue Jing call him. “Nian Bing, come over here and give Uncle Li a helping hand.” When her words came out, immediately, all the chefs’ eyes settled on Nian Bing, their faces showing all kinds of different expressions. One could easily guess that many of them had twisted thoughts. With Xue Jing shouting tactlessly, it was clear that the head chef would let Nian Bing learn the method of making the Golden Aromatic Ring, and all of them wanted to know why. Since the Clever King of the kitchen was renowned as someone who kept his recipes to himself, he never let other people watch him while he was cooking.
Nian Bing stood and pointed at his nose. “Miss, you’re calling me? My task is only to chop firewood.”
Xue Jing glared at him and angrily said, “If I tell you to come, you just need to obey. Quit spouting nonsense! Hurry up, come over!”
Nian Bing grudgingly walked past the kitchen staff until he arrived besides Xue Jing. He asked in a soft voice, “What are you planning?”
Xue Jing smiled slightly and said, “Well, consider this an apology for the slap on your face. Let me tell you this. I can’t even tell you how many people want to learn Uncle Ming’s consummate art. This opportunity is extremely rare! You could even be allowed to transfer from the firewood house to the kitchen!”
Nian Bing looked at Xue Jing with a strange gaze. This young lady with a forceful temperament appeared to have a cute side as well.
Xue Jing’s charming face faintly blushed and she dodged Nian Bing’s gaze. “Ah! Go now! You can stop overthinking. Yesterday night you kept me company for a long time and kept being beaten by me. I’m only compensating you for it, that’s all! Besides, later on, I might ask you for a favor.”
Whilst talking, they had already entered the kitchen. Pure Wind House was worthy to be called a renowned restaurant. Their kitchen was excessively huge and measured more than a thousand square meters. Although the surface was very big and was made of all kinds of materials, it wasn’t messy in the least. The layout was clearly well thought out, as all kinds of kitchen equipment were neatly laid out throughout the room. Xue Jing pulled Nian Bing after her and both walked deeper into the kitchen. While walking, she said, “Usually, Uncle Ming doesn’t need to personally go into the kitchen. Only important customers can have a taste of the dishes he makes himself. Of course, I’m an exception.”
Ming Yuan’s cooking space was separated by a cloth curtain. It was obvious he didn’t want other people to watch him while he was cooking. In Nian Bing’s heart, he secretly disapproved. ‘These famous chefs, each and every one of them is stingy. How can cooking skills be developed and promoted if it’s like this?’
Xue Jing and Nian Bing lifted the curtain, entering Ming Yuan’s cooking space, which measured approximately 20 square meters. Ming Yuan looked at them and coldly told Nian Bing, “I’m only going to make it once. Come quickly! You have to watch carefully. How much you can learn from watching only depends on your good luck.” As he stopped talking, his hands immediately moved into action.
They could only see Ming Yuan’s left hand grabbing a clean, empty pot. Then, with his right hand, he scooped up around four cups of flour, pouring them one by one into the pot. At the same time, he used the ladle in his left hand to scoop up water and poured the half of the water into the pot and mixed it with the flour, before slowly pouring the rest in the mix. His hands were each doing different things at the same time, but there wasn’t the slightest hesitation or disorder in his movements. Nian Bing knew that this cooking skill was in the scope of the famous Two Hands Mutual Gain technique. The mind’s attention would divide in two, and would focus on two different actions. At that moment, Ming Yuan’s right hand took out a little bit of white powder from one of the three bottles in a box filled with white-colored spices, and then mixed it with the flour. He flatly said, “Dissolve the salt in warm water, along with baking soda and a little bit of alum. This is the foundation of the recipe.” As his voice faded away, his hands had already completed the actions he had just described. With a swift movement of his hands, the spice bottles had already returned into the little box. Then, he thrust his hands into the pot of flour and started kneading at high speed. The flour and seasonings mixed together, becoming a dough in the span of several blinks of an eye.
In Nian Bing’s heart, it was very clear. Mixing ingredients together was only secondary. What was most important was the proportion of the ingredients in the mix, as well as the kneading technique. The kneading technique had to be very carefully done. It was necessary to apply force from the wrist, and at the same time paying attention to the way the fingers’ kneading, which had a particular sequence to it. If any of the steps weren’t done correctly, the finished product would be somewhat different. Although this was just the beginning of the recipe, Nian Bing had already been able to understand a lot of things regarding this Golden Aromatic Ring. In Nian Bing’s heart, he agreed, ‘As expected of an expert. Coming to the Pure Wind House wasn’t in vain.’
Ming Yuan’s hands moved with more and more speed. In his hand, the dough took various forms as it suddenly became a long roll, before he flattened it. In the entire procedure, there hadn’t been a single moment of pause. If it had been an average chef, the time it would have take to mix and knead the ingredients into dough would probably have been more than an hour. Ming Yuan, on the other hand, had continuously kneaded the dough, allowing it to ferment as much as possible, saving time on top of it all. To be able to accomplish such a thing, the chef needed to be highly skilled and very familiar with the incorporated seasoning mixtures. With only this much, Ming Yuan had already proven that his title of Clever King of the kitchen wasn’t his for nothing.
Finally, after a 15 minutes of kneading, the dough on top of the kneading board was shaped into an oval. Ming Yuan seemed very calm, as if the vigorous kneading movements 10 minutes ago hadn’t been enough to make him work up a sweat. He took a glance at Nian Bing and said, “Look carefully, the next part is the crucial point.” While he was talking, he used a flint stone to ignite the stove, and put a clean iron pot on the stove fire. Then, he filled half the pot with oil.
He took out a rolling pin that was one meter and five centimeters in length and made a few simple movements. The dough on the kneading board instantly became flat. Afterwards, he made some exceptionally quick movements. It was very obvious that Ming Yuan didn’t wish for Nian Bing to learn anything from observing him. He took out a small custom made kitchen knife. As the knife glinted, the flat dough had already been cut into even long strips of 2.5 centimeters. Next, each of his hands pressed on one extremity of the strips, stretching it another 2.5 centimeters. After that, he used his knife to make incisions of 1.25 centimeters in the strips, and then folded the two sides. Nian Bing saw very clearly that the two sides hadn’t been cut through, they only had small cuts. At this moment, the oil’s temperature had reached medium heat.
Ming Yuan waved his right hand and the well made half-finished Golden Aromatic Ring was smoothly placed into the pot. A pair of chopsticks that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere was held in his left hand. The chopsticks held the strips by the middle. Immediately, with amazing and brilliant technique, he made the strips become a circle that looked similar to the shape of a bracelet. The chopsticks kept turning and flipping the strips, making more rings. In the meantime, his other hand didn’t stay idle, as it started sending the rings into the pot of oil. Xue Jing hurriedly took a plate. One after the other, the gold colored Golden Aromatic Rings were taken out. Immediately, the fragrance filled the whole place, making people want to eat them right away. After the tenth identical Golden Aromatic Ring came out, Ming Yuan stopped cooking. While he covered the stove and extinguished the fire, he said to Xue Jing, “Jing Jing, try it. You see, your uncle Ming’s handicraft is not as good as it was before.”
Xue Jing happily laughed and said, “Uncle Ming’s handicraft is the most wonderful! How can you say it was less than before? Eh! Nian Bing, you…”