Chapter 132 - Salted Duck

“Go, go! You don’t need to come back later. It’s fine to let your mother take back the tableware later. We, as fully-grown men, can finish it soon,” Liu Pei said. He poured half a bowl of duck blood stewed with tofu and soaked the flatbread in the stew. Then, he proceeded to gulp down the soup with relish.

Yu Hai also agreed with his eldest brother-in-law’s words. He said to Xiaocao, “Hurry and take your eldest maternal aunt back home to eat, or else the food is going to get cold.”

After she finished eating, Xiaocao put all her energy into making salted duck. The salted duck that she made was an improved version of the Nanjing salted duck’s recipe. After all, she didn’t have all the seasoning and spices she needed for the original recipe. However, she realized that she can improve the braised food’s taste by using the mystic-stone water to braise the food, making it much tastier than before.

Looking at the time, the marinating and braising process should be completed. Xiaocao looked outside like a thief and she saw her eldest maternal aunt and Xiaolian, who had returned home from selling braised food. They were busy tending the vegetable field, so Xiaocao was at ease as she summoned the little divine stone.

[Why did you call this Divine Stone to come out?] A ray of golden lightning rapidly entered the kitchen, and then a haughty voice emerged within Xiaocao’s mind.

Xiaocao bent over and carried the little fellow on the palm of her hand. She gently stroke its fur as she smiled flatteringly at it. The little divine stone felt very comfortable as it squinted its eyes and purred, [Tell me, what do you need this lord to help you with?]

Ever since the little divine stone heard the emperor emeritus, whose alias was Fifth Lord, call himself ‘this lord’, it had also started to call itself that from time to time, feeling that it seemed rather chic.

“One of the two ducks need to be slightly air-dried. My omnipotent Lord Glutinous Dumpling, can you help me?” Yu Xiaocao used her fingers to scratch the little kitten’s chin as she fawned over him.

[Humph! You’re bothering this Divine Stone over such a trifle matter?] Although the little divine stone felt very comfortable as Xiaocao scratched him, there was a sense of impatience within its tone.

[Seeing that you have served this lord very well, I’ll reluctantly help you again just this once!] The little golden kitten waved one of its paws, and one of the pickled ducks quickly shriveled and dried at a speed that was visible to the naked eye.

When Xiaocao saw that it looked about ready, she quickly told the little divine stone to stop. If the duck was dried out too much, it would also impact the salted duck’s taste.

At this time, the men had returned from the fields. She could hear Liu Pei blustering loudly, “Younger Sister, your family’s sweet potatoes haven’t sprouted yet, right? That’s okay since your family doesn't have a lot of land. We can just bring some over from our fields. It won’t interfere with the sweet potatoes’ growth.”

Yu Hai gulped down a few mouthfuls of cooled boiled water. Then, he smiled and said, “We’re not going to plant sweet potatoes this year. Xiaocao said she wants to try and plant some watermelons. She just asked the owner of Zhenxiu Restaurant help her find some seeds.”

“Watermelon? Will that thing be filling enough?” The two brothers, Liu Pei and Liu Han, had never heard of watermelons before, so they couldn’t help but ask in unison. It was inevitable that farming families would be most concerned about filling their stomachs.

However, Yu Jiang often traveled outside of the village and was more well-informed. So, he had heard of watermelons before, but still asked with slight concern, “I know that watermelon is a kind of fruit. But Second Brother, none of us had ever planted any watermelons before. What if the climate here isn’t suitable for planting it? If you have no harvest, what will you do?”

“That won’t happen! I have confidence in my family’s Cao’er!” This was mainly because the Yu Family had earned some money from their business recently, so they didn’t need to rely on that three plots of farmland to make a living. Thus, Yu Hai had unconsciously gained confidence.

Yu Jiang also felt that his little niece seemed very capable, so he didn’t persuade him anymore. He smiled and said, “Then that’s good! I can’t wait to taste it!”

“Third Uncle, there’s a lot of new things for you to try in the future! Have you heard of salted ducks? You can try a few pieces later!” With the little golden kitten in her embrace, Xiaocao poked her head out of the kitchen, made a funny face at him, and exclaimed cheerfully.

“Salted duck? I’ve never tasted it before, is it tasty?” Saliva began to flood in Yu Jiang’s mouth when he remembered the duck blood stewed with tofu and tomato egg soup he ate at noon.

Yu Xiaocao raised her imaginary tail in a rather arrogant manner and said, “The products made by Xiaocao are certainly always premium products. I'm developing this dish for Zhenxiu Restaurant. How can it be lacking?”

“What? Did Zhenxiu Restaurant come to ask you for more recipes again? They earned a lot of money from selling the roasted chicken, yet your family didn’t even receive anything. This time, you can’t let them take advantage of you again. When you sell them the salted duck recipe, ask them to give you a portion of the sales!” Yu Jiang was quite business-minded!

Yu Xiaocao also felt that earning royalties was much more profitable than making them pay a buyout price. She lowered her head and ponder over the feasibility of this matter. However, Yu Hai didn’t think that it was a good idea. After all, Third Young Master Zhou had taken good care of them, so how could they raise the price?

At this time, Yu Xiaocao slowly nodded her head. “Third Uncle is right! In one day, Zhenxiu Restaurant can sell at least 30 to 50 salted ducks without a problem. If we earn a mace for each salted duck, then we can earn three to five taels in a day. We will be able to earn over 100 taels in a month and in a year… Wow! I feel like we’ve been selling my recipes for too cheap!”  

Yu Hai hesitated for a moment before he said, “Isn’t a mace too much?”

However, Yu Jiang didn’t think so. He widened his eyes and said, “Second Brother, do you know how much a roasted chicken costs in Zhenxiu Restaurant? Even the smallest chicken there cost five taels of silver! Five taels of silver!! At most, a chicken would cost them a few dozens of copper coins. This means that they earn a hundred folds of profits! I think that even a mace is still too little!!”

As Yu Jiang thought about the sales and profits that Zhenxiu Restaurant earned each day, he felt injustice for his second brother. If he had been earning royalties from the sales, then his second brother would’ve become the richest man in Dongshan Village!! It was such a big loss!!!

“Okay, go wash your hands. After finishing the evening meal, we still need to return home!” The evening meal in this era was usually eaten around 4 pm. Madam Han calculated that they would be able to return to the village by the time it got dark. Tomorrow, they still needed to cultivate their own land!

For dinner, in addition to the large plate of salted duck, there was ‘stir-fried green tomatoes’, ‘stir-fried chili pepper with duck eggs’, ‘string beans salad’, and ‘sautéed  lettuce with oyster sauce’. For soup, she made the light-flavored, light ‘egg drop soup with malabar spinach’. The staple food was dried brown rice with sorghum. There was a large quantity of each dish. After all, the appetite of several adult men wouldn’t be small! 

“Younger Sister, your family’s Xiaocao is very capable. Even a skilled person who has been working in the kitchen for over twenty years can’t be compared to her! People would drool just by smelling these dishes!” Madam Han sighed as she looked at Xiaocao. If she had a daughter like Xiaocao, even if she didn’t have a son, she would still be very happy.

After Madam Han entered the Liu Family, she had given birth to three daughters. Although her father-in-law and mother-in-law didn’t say anything, it was Madam Han’s sore spot. As she grew older, she gave up the hope of giving birth to a son. But when she saw other people with both a daughter and a son, her heart would feel like it had been stabbed by a needle, feeling a bone-piercing pain.

Liu Pei understood his wife the most. When he saw her lonely eyes, he knew what she was thinking. He immediately changed the subject and said, “Let’s eat, let’s eat! Even if you’re not hungry, just looking at Xiaocao’s cooking will make you want to eat at least two bowls of it!”

Liu Han, who was honest and dull, opened his mouth and said, “Younger Sister, your family doesn’t have very good living conditions either. We are all one family, there’s no need to make so many dishes. A few pieces of coarse flatbread and a plate of salted vegetables is enough for us. Don’t make your life more difficult just to make a meal for us…”

Madam Liu felt touched as she looked at her older brothers with a gentle smile and softly said, “Older  Brother, you can rest assured! We won’t be in a difficult position just by feeding you guys one or two times. The duck and the duck eggs were given to us by someone else. The green vegetables and whatnot are all harvested from the fields, so it doesn’t cost much money. You can eat the meal with ease and confidence!”   

After they heard what she said, the menfolk no longer held back. Each person held a large and thick porcelain bowl that was filled to the brim with two types of grain and began to gobble the food down without any restraint.

The salted duck’s white skin was both tender and plump, but not greasy at all. It was fragrant and tasted delicious. Everyone seated on the table praised Xiaocao’s salted duck for being ‘fragrant’, ‘very tender’, and ‘extremely delicious’. Once again, Yu Jiang seriously reminded Xiaocao that this duck will definitely garner large sales, so she must ask Zhenxiu Restaurant to give her a portion of the sales.

Yu Xiaocao nodded her head repeatedly as she promised him. She was pondering over whether she should personally go to town tomorrow to let Third Young Master Zhou have a taste of the salted duck and ask him about the watermelon seeds.

The whole family was perfectly satisfied with the food. Not long after they finished eating, their maternal relatives said their goodbyes and returned home. They needed to climb over a few mountains to return home. Even those who were accustomed to walking the mountain road needed two and a half hours to return home. By the time they got home, the sky would’ve been very dark already.

Xiaocao cut the remaining dried salted duck in half, and asked Xiaolian give one of the halves to Madam Mao. She also instructed Xiaolian to tell Madam Mao that the dried salted duck would taste very good if she sliced it into thin pieces and then steamed it. The dried salted duck and the salted duck that they had just eaten tasted the same, but the process to make it was different.

Xiaocao hung the leftover dried salted duck under the eaves. The temperature at night was still very cool right now, so the dried salted duck’s flavor won’t change even if she left it there for a night.

Early the next morning, Yu Xiaocao woke up and told her parents that she was going to town. In the passing, she would also pick up Little Shitou, who should be having another break from school again.

Due to Xiaocao’s apparent capability and maturity, Yu Hai and his wife had gradually stopped treating her as a child. If any matter arose in the family, they would always discuss it with their younger daughter. If they had differing opinions on a matter, they would also subconsciously ponder over their younger daughter’s suggestion.

Today, Yu Hai decided that he would go sell braised food at the docks alone and let Xiaolian accompany Xiaocao to town. Since the two sisters had each other as a companion, they weren’t lonely on the road to town.

Yu Xiaocao returned to her room and retrieved some money. After that, she took the remaining half of the dried salted duck and led the donkey cart out of the house with Xiaolian. Just as they left their house, they saw Madam Mao hurriedly rushing over. When she saw the two sisters and the donkey cart behind them, as well as the half of a portion of dried salted duck in Xiaocao’s hand, Madam Mao immediately smiled from ear to ear. Even though she already knew the answer to the question, she still deliberately asked, “Xiaocao, Xiaolian, where are you sisters going?”

“Auntie Qian, we have some matters to attend to in town,” Xiaolian politely replied.

Madam Mao tried to restrain herself, but she still couldn’t refrain herself from asking, “Xiaocao, regarding the matter that Auntie asked you about…”

“Auntie, how did the duck that I sent you yesterday taste?” Xiaocao didn’t answer her, instead, she asked her a question in response.

Madam Mao smiled embarrassingly and said, “It’s neither the New Year nor a holiday, so who would be willing to eat such a good thing? I’m going to take it out to eat when there’s a guest at home. Didn’t Xiaolian say that it can be kept for a while?”

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Myst's Thoughts

Link for food pics and Salted Duck

Translator: Vi