Chapter 146 - Imperial Envoy

The imperial envoy wasn’t very interested in this and replied faintly, “What kind of delicious food can one buy for one copper coin? This rumor sounds a bit exaggerated.”

The overseer had eaten the Yu Family’s braised food before. Although he thought it was quite delicious, he didn’t have the guts to foolishly rebuke the imperial envoy. He smiled flatteringly, “The lord is right! In addition, that food is made of pig head meat, pig offal, pig blood and other ingredients that other people wouldn’t touch. With your lordly status, you absolutely would disdain eating this!”

“You can’t say something like that!” The imperial envoy rubbed at the short beard under his chin, and his eyes became misty. He apparently was reminiscing about his past. 

Silence prevailed for a long time before he finally continued, “In those days, I was with my master defending the borders from our enemies. We had been besieged by them for more than ten days. We not only ate tree bark and grass but also dirt! I remember once, when the situation got really bad and people were at their limits, I infiltrated the enemy’s camp with my younger martial brother and stole the pig head that they had used as a sacrifice to the gods. We roasted it at campfire on the mountains. For the soldiers who hadn’t eaten anything good for the past several days, eating a small piece of pig head meat was even more delicious than eating any exotic delicacy nowadays...”

The supervisor hurriedly interjected, “General, you are wise and brilliant. Since you were able to survive such a terrible time, you absolutely will have a lot of fortune and blessings coming your way now!”

The imperial envoy burst out into straightforward laughter, “Whether or not I have future blessings coming my way, I don’t really care! I’m extremely happy today, do you know why? I finally found my master and younger martial brother, who I had lost touch with for over thirty years!”

“Congratulations, my lord, congratulations, my lord! This is absolutely a fortunate event!!” The overseer seized the opportunity to flatter the man. 

The lord imperial envoy faced the docks that was flanked on each side with simple and crude looking buildings. He commented, “Did you already finish discussing the compensation that will be given to those whose shacks will be demolished? The emperor himself has said that the construction of the port is an important matter that will benefit both the country and his people. We absolutely cannot do anything that will make the commoners complain and resent this!”

“The emperor is a wise ruler who loves the commoners as his own children. This lowly one admires him adoringly…” The supervisor hastily expressed his feelings of loyalty.

The imperial envoy ignored his attempts at flattery and continued, “Save your breath on these empty phrases! Less talk and more action! The harbor pathway needs to be widened by at least double its current width and the shacks on both sides need to be torn down! I already have the money for compensating the people with me, so you need to discuss this carefully with the commoners…”

“Yes, yes! This lowly one will absolutely do this in such a way that you will be satisfied!” The supervisor nodded his head furiously, as if he was trying to pound garlic paste with his chin.

The imperial envoy waved his hand and strolled forward as he said, “It’s not enough to make me satisfied, you need to make sure the commoners are pleased too! Naturally, those who wish to gouge us should not be given full rein! Li Li, you should provide your assistance to…”

“This lowly one’s surname is Liang!” The overseer bowed and nodded his head with a bright smile on his face.

“Okay! You should assist Supervisor Liang with this matter!” The lord imperial envoy inspected the situation around the docks as he slowly walked towards the coast.

The number of people queuing up at the braised food sellers slowly decreased. Seemingly unawaringly, the imperial envoy and his subordinate arrived at Old Liu’s noodle stand.

Old Liu and his wife trembled in fear when they saw the man wearing an official’s robe. They were so frightened that they couldn’t talk.

“Old couple, don’t be scared! I noticed that your business is quite good so I wanted to buy a bowl of noodles to try…” In front of the obviously scared old couple, the lord imperial envoy did his best to relax his rough and frightening looking face into a genial smile. Unfortunately, the opposite effect occurred. His attempt at squeezing out a smile made him look even more fierce and threatening.

“Eh? Aren’t you...aren’t you Brother Han’s martial uncle?!” When Xiaocao saw that there were only four to five people left in line, she felt like she could finally take a breather. A familiar voice had hit her ears, so she twisted around to look. Ah! This large and brawny man who was wearing an official’s robes with a qilin embroidered on it was Fang Zizhen, who they had met by chance at the prefectural city. Why was he at the docks? And also wearing an official’s robes at that?

The lord imperial envoy, Fang Zizhen, looked calmly over. Eh? Wasn’t this the younger daughter of the sworn brother of his martial brother? The little girl who was named Xiaocao? He looked a bit closer at her, aiyo! Maybe his eyes were blurry, but there were surprisingly two Yu Xiaocao’s in front of him…

“My lord, you’re not seeing things! They are actually twins!” Unbeknownst to him, Fang Zizhen had actually said his thoughts out loud. 

Fang Zizhen looked at the copper pot in front of the two sisters. The contents of the pot bubbled furiously and a strong, fragrant smell continuously flowed into the air. He chuckled, “Ah Xiaocao! Apparently the famous one copper coin per portion of braised food at the docks is the product of your family’s skills ah!”

There wasn’t a lot of braised food left in the pot. Xiaocao smiled sincerely at him, “Yup! General Fang, do you want to try some?”

Originally, Fang Zizhen was not hungry, but after smelling the tantalizing aroma of the food, he couldn’t help but smack his lips a bit, “Okay ah! Then I’ll try some…”

Fang Zizhen’s other subordinate, Wu Yun, quietly reminded him, “Lord, this food is made of pig intestines and offal. We don’t know if they’ve been cleaned properly, so you can’t possibly eat this!”

Before Wu Yun could finish his thought, his lord glared at him. Fang Zizhen coldly snorted and said, “Looks like you’ve been living the easy life for too long and forgot what it’s like to be poor! I heard that the north-west border is quite lively, how about this general recommend you go there to toughen up a bit?”

Wu Yun had been promoted by Fang Zizhen from the ranks and had experienced only a few battles before the country had become peaceful. Thus, he was not as familiar with the hardships and sacrifices of war as his lord. When he saw that his master’s expression had turned cold, he didn’t have the guts to continue. He was afraid that if he said any more, he would be fated to go to the border the next day!

“Old man! Give me a bowl of braised noodle soup! Xiaocao, please cut Uncle Fang a plate of pig head meat!” Fang Zizhen lifted his official’s robes up and sat on a stool that was missing a leg.

Old Liu’s mouth trembled. He wanted to say something but was too afraid to do so. He looked at Yu Xiaocao as a plea for help.

Xiaocao happily replied, “General Fang! The conditions at the docks are a bit crude, so Grandpa Liu doesn’t prepare braised noodle soup here. How about you have him roll out some noodles for green vegetables and egg noodle soup?”

“Green vegetables and egg noodle soup? No good, no good! Yesterday I ate some tomato and egg noodle soup at my master’s house, and it was quite delicious!” Fang Zizhen smacked his lips as he reminisced. He had lived for more than forty years and this was the first time he had heard of using ‘wolf peaches’ as a dish. It was really quite delicious! 

He was mostly just mentioning it and didn’t have much hope. Fortunately, Yu Xiaocao, whose family grew tomatoes, had conveniently picked a few ripe tomatoes as she was leaving to sell the food. She was originally planning on eating them when she felt thirsty. With tomatoes and eggs on hand, there was no need to worry whether they could make tomato and egg noodle soup, right?

Old Yu had finally managed to squeeze out a “sorry” when Yu Xiaocao caught his eye with a bright smile on her face. She spoke to Fang Zizhen, “General Fang, if you feel it’s okay, I can help you make this tomato and egg noodle soup for you! I’ll first piece together a plate of braised food for you to eat. Within fifteen minutes, the noodles should also be ready.”

A look of surprise appeared on Fang Zizhen’s face as he said, “Are there really tomatoes around? Ah! I remember, the tomatoes we had yesterday at my master’s house were sent from your family! Haha, then I really got lucky with food today! I heard that, when eaten raw, tomatoes have a sweet and sour taste that’s quite good. Give me one so I can try right now!”  

Xiaocao looked at the already washed tomatoes in her basket and chose the largest and reddest looking one. She placed into General Fang’s hands and used the other two to chop into small cubes. 

Old Liu finally realized that the high-ranking official in front of him wasn’t that intimidating. Under Xiaocao’s directions, he quickly rolled out a bunch of noodles. 

Xiaocao first put some lard into the pot with some chopped onions to let the flavors blossom. After that, she placed the chopped tomatoes into the hot oil and quickly stir fried them until a thick soup appeared. Then, she poured the chicken eggs that she had already beaten into the pot. Once the eggs started to solidify, she lightly mixed the contents. Next, she added an appropriate amount of water and let it come to a boil before she placed the noodles inside. Once it boiled again, she added some salt and green vegetables, mixed it all up, and it was ready to be served!

The tomato and egg noodle soup was brightly colored and had a rich scent. It attracted the looks of many people around them. Which worker on the docks had ever seen a tomato before? One after another, they all asked Old Yu the name of the dish as well as the price.

Old Yu looked at Yu Xiaocao and hesitated before he replied, “The tomatoes came from Xiaocao. I’ve lived for a long time but I’ve never seen this type of food before. It’s probably...not cheap, right?” 

Yu Xiaocao nodded and agreed, “Tomatoes are indeed not cheap. For good ones, they’re around dozens of copper coins for a catty! This bowl of tomato and egg noodle soup probably cost around thirty to forty copper coins for the ingredients and work alone. If any uncles around here want to try, you can reserve some in advance with Grandpa Liu.”

Over there, Fang Zizhen had already impatiently started to eat. The scorching hot temperature caused him to sharply breathe in cold air but he still couldn’t bear to split out the boiling hot noodles from his mouth.

After a mouthful of noodles went down, he closed his eyes contently and repeatedly complimented her, “Xiaocao ah, you really are talented! This bowl of tomato and egg noodle soup is even more delicious than the one I had yesterday at my master’s house! Your Uncle Fang is a rough person, so I don’t know how to use pretty words to describe this——however, it really is very delicious.”

As he talked, he used his chopsticks to pick up another portion of noodles and carefully blew air on them before he ate them in large mouthfuls. Other people around them couldn’t help but swallow some saliva down as the way he ate demonstrated just how delicious these noodles were. 

Wu Yun took the opportunity to take the remaining few strands of noodles in the pot and place it in a bowl with half of the soup broth in it. He drank the contents in large gulps. The lord got to eat the noodles but at least he was able to drink some soup. Once the noodle soup hit his tongue, the slightly sour and savory flavor of broth spread throughout his mouth. It tasted so good that he almost wanted to cry.

After he ate more than half of the bowl of noodles, Fang Zizhen finally had a desire to try the braised food platter that Xiaocao had sliced for him. Whether it was the soft and full of flavor pig head meat, or crispy pig ears, or the intestines that made people’s mouths fill with delectable oil, they were all considered to be top-notch delicacies. Even the kelp and dried tofu had their own distinctive and delicious flavor.

Fang Zizhen had been an official for many years and had traveled extensively. Thus, he had tried many so-called delicacies before. However, none of those delicacies apparently had the flavor of these deceptively simple braised ingredients that suited him more.

Although he previously wasn’t very hungry, Fang Zizhen managed to polish off a huge bowl of noodle soup along with the entire platter of braised food. He rubbed at his stuffed belly and didn’t stint on his praise, “Ah! Your skills are quite good!! I would have never expected that you, Xiaocao, at such a young age, would be able to cook so well. This braised food is even more delicious than the ones served at Zhenxiu Restaurant in town. The flavor can compete with their roasted chicken and salted duck!"

Xiaolian giggled, “Lord, you must not know that the braised food at Zhenxiu Restaurant...was made from a recipe that our family sold to them!”

She also wanted to mention that the roasted chicken and osmanthus duck were also recipes that Xiaocao developed but she had been stopped by her younger sister yanking on the hem of her jacket. After she got the hint, she only mentioned the braised food.

“No wonder! Apparently your family’s braised food is the most authentic one ah!” Fang Zizhen was in an extremely good mood! 

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Myst's Thoughts

Noodles

Sanguine’s Thoughts: Another one for Xiaocao’s fan club! Can you transmigrate to my world and cook for me too?

Translator: Sanguine