Chapter 76 - What a Surprise!

Madam Liu looked over and discovered that her daughter’s speed in plucking the chickens was not any slower than hers. In fact, to her surprise, the chickens her daughter plucked were even cleaner than hers. 

What a joke, of course Xiaocao was good at this, just look at what she did in her previous life. Her braised foods shop had a chicken dish, braised roast chicken. Every day she needed to slaughter and prepare around thirty to forty chickens. If she wasn’t good at this, that would truly be an oddity!

Xiaocao looked around the room and smiled, “I don’t need wages. Auntie Zhou, just give me the internal organs from these forty chickens instead!” 

“What do you want the internal organs for? You’re not going to really take them back home to eat them, are you?! …Cao’er, mother knows our circumstances at home are not very good and that we usually can’t taste any meat during most of the year. However, we still can’t eat something as dirty as this! How about this, next time I go sell my embroidery, I’ll buy a catty of meat and give you a great feast…” The smile on Madam Liu’s face gradually dimmed and a look of guilt and shame rose in her eyes.

“Mother, don’t worry about it, I really do have a use for these internal organs!” Xiaocao was inwardly surprised and flabbergasted. Didn’t they all say that people in ancient times ate internal organs? Was it just a false rumor?

Madam Fang smiled and tried to resolve the dispute, “When children get older, they start having their own ideas. Younger Sister Muyun, just let her try! Xiaocao, the chicken blood and internal organs are all yours! I’ll also give you money for your help!” 

Xiaocao shook her head and replied, “Auntie Zhou, I really can’t take your money for the work. Last time when we had moved in and had a banquet, you and Older Sister Linglong were busy for the whole day helping us. You guys didn’t even get to eat lunch. I’m only helping out a little. If I wanted money for it, isn’t that too much of me? A relative afar is less use than a close neighbor. Neighbors helping each other out is the right thing to do!” 

Madam Liu agreed, “Cao’er is right! Missus, if you keep bringing up giving us money, I will go back home right now…” 

Seeing that both the mother and daughter persisted in refusing her offer, Madam Fang no longer brought up the subject of paying them. It took the two adults and three children a whole hour to finish slaughtering and cleaning up the chickens. Yu Xiaocao’s speed and abilities were even better than her mother’s and was neck to neck to the old hand, Madam Fang. Madam Fang repeatedly praised her skills... 

Afterwards, Madam Fang went into the room to take out the cakes and pastries she had bought in town earlier that morning. She shoved them into Xiaocao’s hands and insisted that she bring them back home. The Zhou Family sold chickens and eggs, and when it was the off-season for farming, her husband would peddle goods. They were the only family in the village who could afford to buy some sweets for their children to eat from time to time. 

Madam Liu held the wooden basin filled to the brim with chicken offal as she watched her daughter who held the pail with chicken blood in one hand and pastries in the other. She frowned and said, “Do you really know how to prepare chicken blood? Don’t talk a big game and not be able to follow up, otherwise Auntie Zhou and her daughters will laugh at you.”  

“Mother, stop worrying, when did I ever promise more than I can deliver?” Xiaocao struggled with holding the chicken blood in one hand so she placed the string that tied the pastries together in her mouth. Her freed hand joined the other one in lifting the basin as she stepped forward quickly.  

When they got home, Xiaolian had already finished making the meal and was waiting for them before she started serving. Xiaocao proudly shook the pail in her hand and smiled, “Don’t start serving yet, I’m going to make something delicious to add to the meal.” 

“What sort of good thing?” Little Shitou stood up from his seated position and dashed toward her. After he saw the contents of the basin, he frowned in disappointment and said, “This is chicken blood! Second Sister, you can’t possibly be saying that this will be the tasty dish, right?” 

“What sort of expression is that? You don’t believe your older sister? Once I finish making it, you don’t get to have any!” Xiaocao glared at him, feigning displeasure. 

Little Shitou remembered his older sister’s out of the ordinary culinary skills and backtracked immediately to apologize, “Second Sister, I was wrong. Everything you make is top-notch. I’m just a wimpy little kid, don’t lower yourself to my level, Second Sister…”

“Go, go! Buy a copper coin’s worth of tofu from Er Gouzi’s place!” Xiaocao cheerfully dispatched him out and entered the kitchen with the basin of chicken blood.  

Xiaolian followed her inside and said, “I’ll help! What do you need me to do?” 

“Boil some water in the pot, I need to blanch the chicken blood in that!” 

The blood in the basin had already started congealing into blood clots. Xiaocao used a knife to cut a few lines to divide them into a few ‘tofu pieces’. She took out a block of blood and carefully cut it up into smaller pieces. She placed it into the boiling water to blanch and waited until it changed color before she ladled it back up. 

She was making ‘spicy and sour chicken blood’. The family didn’t have any pickled chili peppers, so she used the pickled vegetables her maternal grandmother had sent over as a substitute for the sour. After cutting the vegetables into tiny cubes, she started chopping up the dried chili peppers. She also sliced the ginger into thin strips and smashed some garlic heads to be used as well. 

Xiaocao ladled a small spoonful of oil from the oil pitcher and put it into the pan. The cubed pickled vegetables, dried chili peppers, the julienned ginger, and smashed garlic were lightly fried in the oil to bring out the flavors. Afterwards, the chicken blood was lightly stir-fried in the aromatics. It was important not to overcook the chicken blood to not ruin the final texture. It had the tender mouthfeel of tofu but had a much better flavor than tofu. 

After thinking a bit, she made the decisive decision to add some vinegar to remove the fishy smell and also added some salt and soy sauce. After sauteing everything until it was mixed well, it was ready to plate.  

“Smells so good!” Little Shitou ran all the way home after buying the tofu. He panted heavily but continued to inhale the smell and had a gluttonous expression on his face. 

Xiaocao also made a ‘tofu and chicken blood soup’. The snow white tofu floated at the top of the broth and the dark red color of the chicken blood was faintly visible. With the addition of chopped scallions, the green color of the herb contrasted beautifully with the other colors. It was a fragrant and visually attractive soup. 

“Time to eat! Time to eat!!” Little Shitou impatiently rushed towards the dining table but was pulled back by Xiaocao.

“Don’t be in such a rush! Come with me to bring some food over to Auntie Zhou!” She had deliberately made an extra portion of each dish so there was enough for the Zhou Family too.  

Little Shitou pouted and held the ‘spicy and sour chicken blood’ in his hands as he walked and inhaled the smell of the food. Xiaoao laughed and said, “You greedy cat. Be careful, other people might see you like this. How shameful!”

Little Shitou closed his mouth, smiled, and with great difficulty managed to hold back his desire and said, “Second Sister, who would have thought that chicken blood could be used to make something that smells so good. When our family used to slaughter chickens to eat, we would always throw away the blood, what a waste! Oh right, you had mother bring back the inner organs of a chicken, can’t they be used to make food too?”  

“Of course! Are you brave enough to try?” Xiaocao slanted her eyes at him as she faintly smiled. 

Little Shitou emphatically nodded his head and said, “Of course! Of course I’m brave enough! As long as Second Sister makes it as tasty as the chicken blood, I’ll eat it! What’s there to be scared of?”  

“In your dreams! That will all be used to sell for money, how can I bear to let you eat it?” Yu Xiaocao wrinkled her nose at him and made a funny face at him. She then knocked on the front door of the Zhou Residence.   “Coming, coming! Oh! Xiaocao, have you eaten yet?” Madam Fang had come to the door to see who was there. When she saw Xiaocao and her younger brother, both with delicious smelling plates of food in their hands, a look of surprise crossed her face.

“Auntie Zhou, I finished cooking the chicken blood. Little Shitou’s holding spicy and sour chicken blood and I have the tofu and chicken blood soup. Have you and your family eaten yet? If not, then you don’t need to make anything.” Xiaocao gleefully walked into the courtyard and gave the food to Zhou Linglong who had just walked out of the kitchen.  

The Zhou Family had been busy earlier slaughtering chickens, so they hadn’t had the time to make food. She had come at the right time.   

“Smells good! Did you really use chicken blood to make this food?” Zhou Shanhu was about the same age as Xiaocao and slipped over to smell the food in awe as she showed an infatuated expression. 

Yu Xiaocao smiled and nodded her head, “Yes! Auntie, in the future when your family slaughters chickens, make sure to keep the blood and offal. I will teach you how to make them into delicious dishes. We have to go now, you can give the plates back to us tomorrow, Auntie.” 

The Yu Family ate a sumptuous meal that satisfied everyone’s taste buds. The spicy and sour chicken blood not only had a rich and dense flavor of chicken meat, but also had the tender texture of tofu. Each bite was addicting and made them want to eat more. Even Little Shitou, who usually couldn’t eat spicy foods, couldn’t stop eating it as his tears and mucus traveled down his face.  

The tofu and chicken blood soup had a vibrant color and savory taste. It tasted exquisite and fresh, and the broth was full of rich flavor. The whole family praised it continuously. Even Madam Liu, who usually tried to leave good food for her children, couldn’t help but drink an extra bowl. 

The large cauldron full of tofu and chicken blood soup, other than the large bowl that had been given to Madam Fang, had almost been nearly wiped out by Xiaocao and her family. 

Little Shitou had eaten so much that his stomach had bloated into the size of a small watermelon. He lay on the bed, contently groaning. Madam Liu was afraid that the little fellow had almost eaten until he was sick, so she sat on the beside and helped him massage his tummy. At the side, Yu Hai burped and smiled somewhat uncomfortably, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been so full. Second daughter’s culinary skills are truly remarkable. She can use something that other people throw away and make it into a delicacy.” 

Madam Liu’s face gentled significantly at the thought of her younger daughter. She said, “Ever since Cao’er hit her head and lost her memories, it feels like she’s completely changed personalities. Not only has her body become healthy, but she’s also no longer as cowardly and timid as before. In addition, she has a lot of new ideas and recipes. For example, yesterday we had advised her that there weren’t any wild herbs to be found in this season but she stubbornly disagreed. It turns out she was right and she was able to dig up a lot of shepherd’s purse.”

“Changing is good. In the past, you and the children have suffered greatly at home. Xiaocao’s previous timid personality probably had an outside cause. It was I who was useless as I couldn’t protect you or the kids…” Yu Hai’s eyes dimmed at the thought of his stepmother's callous, biased heart and his older sister-in-law’s greedy and lazy personality.  

Madam Liu interjected hastily, “Don’t say stuff like that. I and the children are still waiting to have a good life with you in the future. Oh right, Xiaocao also brought back that chicken offal. Do you really think she’ll use them to make food? They’re so dirty and stinky. I definitely am too afraid to try them!” 

Little Shitou flipped his body around, sat up, and giggled, “Second Sister had said earlier that she was planning on using that stuff to make food to be sold for money.”

“Sell that for money? Has Cao’er gone crazy at the thought of making money? If other people eat it and end up having problems, then we would get in trouble with the law. As her father, you need to guide and watch over her. She absolutely cannot become someone who makes money off of the misfortune of others.” Madam Liu frowned as she lectured worriedly.

Yu Hai, on the other hand, was not in the least bit worried. He had been observing his second daughter these past few days and he knew in his heart that she didn’t have any malicious intentions. He replied in a calm and unhurried voice, “The type of person that Cao’er is, shouldn’t you as her mother know as well? You definitely cannot let her overhear such talk, it’ll hurt her feelings! Don’t worry, I believe that child’s heart is in a good place, so don’t worry over nothing.” 

Little Shitou nodded his head furiously and supported his second sister, “Mother, chicken offal may not necessarily be inedible. Just think, didn’t we also throw away chicken blood in the past? But didn’t Second Sister also use that to make something so delicious? I’m on Father’s side. I believe in Second Sister’s abilities.” 

“Okay, okay! You’re both the good guys, and I’m the bad guy!” Madam Liu’s lips twitched slightly and she glared at the father and son pair before she left the room. 

In the rear courtyard, the twin sisters were currently next to the well cleaning up the chicken offal! Xiaolian lifted a bucket of water out of the well and pursed her lips when she saw her younger sister separating the chicken liver, gizzard, and intestines from each other. In the end, she couldn’t help but ask, “Are you sure that these can be used to make something to eat? Were the condiments and seasonings you bought earlier supposed to be used this stuff?” 

Xiaocao rolled her eyes and said, “Relax, have some faith in me! I am absolutely not wrong!

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Myst's Thoughts

Food pic

Translator: Sanguine