Chapter 135 - Tactful

Although numerous students had attended Yuan Sinian’s lectures since he established Rongxuan Academy, strictly speaking, he only had three formal disciples. Now, one was an elder official in court, and another was the chancellor of the Imperial Academy. One of them wasn’t interested in politics but he had become a great scholar who wasn’t inferior to him. Those who were accepted by him to be his formal disciples would surely achieve a successful future!

Yu Xiaocao didn’t know that she had inadvertently paved the direct road to success for her younger brother. She just treated everyone around her, who she thought was worthwhile, with her most sincere attitude.

“As for the recipe of the salted duck… let’s just do what Third Young Master suggested. I’ll accept dividends for a period of ten years. After that, no matter how much Zhenxiu Restaurant earns, it will all belong to you guys!” Yu Xiaocao concluded.

The head manager, who originally thought that the young boss had suggested a deal that put Zhenxiu Restaurant at a disadvantage, felt that the proposal was acceptable after he heard Xiaocao’s words. In the future, Zhenxiu Restaurant would have more and more branch restaurants, and thus the sales of the roasted chicken and salted duck would be a large and unpredictable number. If they gave the Yu Family 10% dividends from each branch, wouldn’t the Yu Family become leeches stuck on Zhenxiu Restaurant? Moreover, ones that they couldn’t get rid of? At this time, the head manager admired his young boss’s keen perception of people more and more now. Miss Yu really was Third Young Master’s noble benefactor!

Yuan Sinian coughed and reminded, “Little Lass Yu, didn’t you bring two ducks here just now? Will it be ready by noon? With so many people sharing the few pieces of duck earlier, it wasn’t even enough to fill the gaps between my teeth!”

The others all looked at him with contempt: ‘You ate more than half of the plate of duck, yet it still wasn’t enough to fill the gaps between your teeth? How big are the gaps between your teeth?’

Yu Xiaocao smiled and said, “The process of making salted duck is very complicated and time-consuming. It takes six to eight hours just to cure and braise the duck. If we start making it now, I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until the evening to eat it!”

“Slow work yields fine products. Uh-huh, this old man can understand! Then… let’s just have a simple lunch, and wait until the evening to have a feast! Little Lass Yu, I wonder if this old man has the luck to try the roasted chicken personally made by you?”

Everyone covered their faces in shame: ‘Headmaster Yuan! Great Scholar Yuan! Prime Minister Yuan’s father!! Does your son know that you’re so shameless?’ Yuan Yunxi’s pale face was burning hot as he looked at Yu Xiaocao with an apologetic gaze.

Yu Xiaocao felt that this side of Headmaster Yuan was quite cordial. She nodded with a smile, “Okay! I don’t have anything to do today, so I’ll help Head Chef Wang do some work in the kitchen while the salted duck is being cured! Third Young Master Zhou remember to give me a salary ah! My hourly wage is very high!!”  

Seeing her mischievous smile, Zhou Zixu went along with her and said, “No problem! With Great Master Yu’s culinary skills, no matter how high your hourly wage is, it will be worth it!”

The process of making the salted duck naturally didn’t need to be explained in detail. Head Chef Wang and his two most proud disciples, Yang Feng and Liu Bi, turned into the best students. With their eyes wide open and ears pricked up, they desperately wished that they could memorize every little detail of Xiaocao’s actions and everything she said. Head Chef Wang was afraid that he couldn’t remember everything, so he got a charcoal pen and paper, and carefully recorded each step.

During the salting and braising process, Yu Xiaocao helped make the roasted chicken while also not forgetting to give pointers to Yang Feng and Liu Bi, who were still apprentices. Her explanation was concise and vivid, which made it much easier to understand. At this time, many of the confusion that the two men had were quickly cleared up.

Yang Feng and Liu Bi originally had a very hard time understanding how a little girl under ten years old was able to make their teacher regard her with such high esteem. But, at this time, they were already admiring her from the bottom of their hearts. In terms of their actions and attitude, they were already treating her like she was their teacher.

Under the guidance of Yu Xiaocao, the roasted chicken made by Yang Feng and Liu Bi, both in appearance and taste, had reached the standard of masters. In the future, they could make savory and delicious roasted chicken without anyone’s guidance, which was one of the things that they had gained today.

The process of making the salted duck was the best way to reflect the original flavor of the duck. The cooking method was simple and natural. They just needed to drain the grease and get rid of the fishy smell, while keeping the delicious meaty taste and tender texture. To put it bluntly, only the process of stir-frying salt and preparing the braising sauce was slightly more difficult. The most valuable thing was still the secret recipe for stir-fried salt and the braising sauce. As long as one could master them, it wouldn’t be hard to make the salted duck.

At dusk, after the repeated braising process was completed, Yu Xiaocao boiled the water in the pot, and put ginger, scallion, star anise, pepper, cardamom, and duck into the pot at the same time. When the water came to a boil, one needed to quickly control the heat and stir the pot. Despite her small stature, her little hands were like Thousand Hands Guanyin [1]. She still seemed relaxed and comfortable as she flipped seven or eight ducks at the same time.

In fact, it wasn’t really a big deal for Xiaocao. In her past life, she had prepared over twenty ducks at the same time by herself without any problems, let alone a mere seven or eight ducks.

After the seven or eight salted ducks that Yu Xiaocao was working on was ready and were in the natural cooling process, she examined the results of Head Chef Wang and his students’ cooking. She noticed that the most talented was Liu Bi. It was his first time making salted duck, but he was skilled and at ease when preparing two ducks at the same time.

In terms of appearance and taste, the salted ducks that he made didn’t seem like they were made by a novice, who was making it for the first time. She reckoned that after practicing a few more times and becoming more familiar with the process, he could graduate from apprenticeship!

Second was Head Chef Wang, who had been a veteran cook for decades after all. He still had some advantages during the process of making the salted duck.

As for Yang Feng, he was relatively weaker in comparison. But, he was more talented than Liu Bi in the preparation of roasted chicken. They could each be responsible for one dish and complement each other. She had to admit that Head Chef Wang was quite sharp-eyed when accepting students.

“How is it? Is the salted duck ready yet?” Yuan Sinian and his grandson, who had followed the scent over, and Young Master Wu, who also stayed at Zhenxiu Restaurant, looked covetously at the dozens of salted ducks lined up in a row. They couldn’t help but secretly swallow their saliva.

Yuan Sinian looked over all of the ducks and smiled while stroking his beard, “Let this old man guess which ones were made by Little Lass Yu—this one, this one, and… these. Did this old man guess correctly?”

Head Chef Wang clasped his hands in admiration and said, “You have sharp eyes! Please tell us, how did you know?”

“The ones that Little Lass Yu made has whiter skin, red meat, and looks more glossy. These two looked the closest to the ones the Little Lass Yu made but they’re not as glossy. The color isn’t as uniform on these two, which should be the result of not moving in a coordinated manner when stirring. As for the remaining two, heh! This old man will not comment on them!” He was definitely worthy of being a well-known gourmet. He hadn’t even tasted them yet, but he was already able to point out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses based on the appearance on the ducks.

Head Chef Wang and his students felt a sense of enlightenment and sudden realization dawned upon them. They immediately memorized their own shortcomings and did their best to correct them in private. As for Yang Feng, he felt somewhat dejected and despondent.

One shouldn’t lose confidence in the things they do, or else they wouldn’t be able to achieve anything. Yu Xiaocao hastily took out the roasted chicken that Yang Feng made and asked Yuan Sinian to critique it.

After tasting it, Yuan Sinian spoke highly of it and praised, “As expected of the creator of the roasted chicken. Your skills are excellent.”

It turned out that he thought it was made by Yu Xiaocao! This was enough to show that Yang Feng’s skill in making roasted chicken had far surpassed his teacher’s.

Yu Xiaocao looked at Yang Feng, who had regained his confidence, and giggled, “Headmaster, Yuan, you’re wrong this time! I wasn’t the one who made this roasted chicken. It was made by Older Brother Yang Feng! It seems like Older Brother Yang Feng has already excelled his own master! Head Chef Wang, you will have an excellent assistant in the future!”

Yuan Sinian nodded incessantly, “Each one has something that he excels in. Head Chef Wang, you have great disciples ah—can we eat now? We ate a simple lunch at noon, so this old man has long been hungry!”

He was indeed a glutton, who had to mention the word ‘eat’ in every three sentences!  

Third Young Master Zhou ordered the kitchen to use all their best skills and prepare a table of good food. Of course, they wouldn’t leave out the roasted chicken and salted duck that Yu Xiaocao personally made.

At this time, Yu Xiaolian also came back after picking her younger brother up at the academy. Little Shitou, who had grown taller during this time, was wearing the sea-blue colored uniform of the academy’s primary class. When he greeted Headmaster Yuan and his senior brother, he really looked like a handsome little scholar. Yu Xiaocao looked at the adorable Little Shitou and couldn’t help but ruffle his hair with her evil claws.

Little Shitou dodged while complaining that his second sister had messed up his hair!

“Young Master Wu, County Magistrate Wu is calling for you to go home!” A waiter of Zhenxiu Restaurant, who was so busy that his forehead was full of sweat, came up to report.

Young Master Wu, Wu Zifan, covered his face. Didn’t he sent someone to report to his father already? He already told him that he was staying at Zhenxiu Restaurant to try their new dish, so why did he come look for him? Wait! Could it be that his father heard about Zhenxiu Restaurant’s new dish so… He never expected that his normally strict father was also a glutton.

But, when he looked at how Headmaster Yuan was staring covetously at the salted duck, he came to a realization—everyone who posed as a dignified gentleman on the outside were all actually gluttons inside!

When County Magistrate Wu came in, he still assumed the manner of a stern father. After staring fiercely at his son, his eyes were attracted by the fragrant roasted chicken and alluring salted duck on the table. He, who usually acted in a rigorous manner, actually didn’t greet Headmaster Yuan first this time. However, Headmaster Yuan was completely focused on the delicacies on the table, so he didn’t even notice that there was an extra person in the private room. Ay! Seriously!

Needless to say, the sumptuous meal on the table, especially the novel and delicious salted duck, received unanimous applause. The two foodies, County Magistrate Wu and Headmaster Yuan, shared the same interest in food and vied to increase interest for their favorite dishes by composing a poem for the dish.

After dinner, Headmaster Yuan set his mind on the remaining salted ducks. He didn’t know how to write the word ‘courtesy’ at all and bluntly said, “Little Lass Yu, I’m taking two of the salted ducks that you made later. Young lad of the Zhou Family, get someone to pack them for me!”

When County Magistrate Wu heard this, he offhandedly asked about how many ducks Little Miss Yu made. After he got his answer, he looked at Third Young Master Zhou with a meaningful gaze, ‘Xiaoxu ah! You are close friends with my son, so isn’t there something you should do?’

With no other choice, Third Young Master Zhou could only let his heart bleed and give four of the remaining seven ducks to the two of them.

Yu Xiaocao looked all this with amusement and said nonchalantly, “Salted duck tastes the best around the Mid-Autumn Festival every year because the ducks were made during the season when osmanthus flowers were blooming. Thus, it is also called: osmanthus duck.” 


[1] Thousand Hands Guanyin (千手观音) - Guanyin is the bodhisattva of compassion, who is also known as the Goddess of Mercy; the thousand hands represent Guanyin's many abilities to help people

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Myst's Thoughts

lol shameless old foodies😆😆😆

Translator: Myst