Chapter 82 - New Taste

Although he was gluttonous, he also knew that Shitou’s family didn’t have an easy life. Meat was expensive and if they felt it was too precious to eat, what would it mean if he butted into this? 

However, Little Shitou grabbed his hand and pulled him into the kitchen enthusiastically. The little boy pointed a finger at the piping hot braised pig head meat that had just gotten out of the pot and smiled, “Arriving early can’t beat coming at the right time! Come, try a little of my second sister’s talents…” 

In actuality, Little Shitou was being devious. He wanted Qian Wu to be the first guinea pig. After all, whenever he thought about the way the pig head looked before it was braised, he felt a little scared to try.

The braised pig head meat was rosy red and had an enchanting smell. The meat looked tender and tasty, fatty without being greasy, and had all the qualities needed to evoke a sense of hunger and yearning from any customer.  

Xiaocao seemed to have seen through Little Shitou’s plan and smiled knowingly at him. She cut off a small piece of pig head meat from the corner and stuffed it into Qian Wu’s mouth before he could say anything. 

As soon as it hit his mouth, an explosion of savory flavor and richness occurred. It was so delicious that Qian Wu almost cried tears of joy. It was too delicious!! He had never, in his entire life, eaten meat that was as delicious as this!! Xiaocao’s cooking talent had to be better than his mother’s abilities by at least a hundred times. It would have been perfect if she was his younger sister. Then he could frequently taste the fruits of her talent. 

Little Shitou stared intently at the multitude of expressions that crossed Qian Wu’s face and eagerly asked, “How is it? Does it taste good? Does it have any odd flavors?” 

Qian Wu forcefully grabbed onto Little Shitou’s hand, holding back tears of happiness in his eyes, and replied with complete earnesty, “Shitou, the two of us should switch lives! You can be my mother’s son. Didn’t you always want to have a little sister, right? I have a little sister just waiting for you at home! I, on the other hand, will go to your family and be Xiaocao’s younger brother…” 

A couple of imaginary black lines appeared above Xiaocao’s head. ‘Hey, hey! First of all, Qian Yafang is older than Little Shitou, and thus, she couldn’t be his ‘younger sister’. Furthermore, Xiaowu, you brat, you’re also older than me, the honorable Xiaocao, by a year, ok? How is it possible that you have the nerve to say such shameless things?’ 

Madam Fang had been helping them prepare the pig intestines and as she was bringing the basin into the kitchen, she heard Qian Wu’s childish suggestion and couldn’t help but ‘pfffft’ and laugh, “Wuzi, if your mother heard that you wanted to sell your younger sister and leave home for the sake of eating food, she’d probably beat you until your leg broke!!” 

“Xiaocao’s cooking is seriously too good. In this lifetime...no, in my previous lifetime and the lifetime before that, I swear I have never eaten meat that has tasted as good as it did today. Shitou, what did you say it was? Is it called braised pig head meat? Does it use the meat from a pig’s head? That can’t be right, right?? A pig’s head is such a disgusting looking thing, how could it possibly be made into something so tasty?” Qian Wu shook his head until it resembled a rattle. He clearly didn’t want to believe that the meat he ate came from a pig’s head. 

When Little Shitou saw Qian Wu’s reaction to the meat, he hastily cut off a piece and stuffed it into his mouth. He had believed that the braised blood tofu and braised chicken offal he had eaten yesterday were the tastiest dishes on earth. Who would have thought that the pig head, which everyone avoided like the plague, could be braised into a dish that was even more delicious than braised chicken offal?

After being braised, the meat from a pig’s head had the perfect ratio between fatty meat and lean meat. When eaten, the taste of pig’s fat and seasonings melded together into an explosion of flavor. The savory taste seemed to permeate into all corners of the mouth and made people feel so happy that they could have almost died.

Seeing their expressions, Xiaocao picked a piece that didn’t look very pretty and cut it into enough pieces to fill a plate. She let everyone taste a small bit and also used a pair of chopsticks to try her own handiwork. She placed a small piece into her mouth and carefully chewed it. Mhm, the taste was good and seemed to be authentic. In her previous life, she had almost gotten sick of eating braised food since that was all she made in her store, but she had never gotten tired of eating braised pig head meat. Because of that, she had gained a decent amount of weight from it.  

In the beginning, Madam Fang was too scared to give it a try. However, after seeing how everyone was enjoying the food with immense pleasure, she picked up the smallest piece of meat with a pair of chopsticks and placed it in her mouth. Immediately, her eyes begin to shine with amazement. The taste of this meat, ah, was more flavorful and delicious than her best dish, stewed pork shoulder. Wherever Xiaocao learned this dish from, it was truly awesome!

“Xiaocao, Xiaocao! How did you make this braised pig head meat? I want my mother to learn from you, is that ok?” Qian Wu ate the meat deliciously as the flavor and oils from the meat filled his mouth. He ate the pig head meat in large bites and didn’t forget to sing his praises and talk.   

Little Shitou’s eyes immediately became wide, and he said, “Second Sister’s culinary skills have all come from the gods in her dreams. She can’t tell other people! If the god blames her for spreading his secrets and decides to take her abilities away, then you will never be able to eat something as delicious as this again, even if you wanted to!”

Madam Fang thought that was just something that the children made up. She reckoned that Xiaocao had learned a secret recipe from someone and was told not to make it public. Thus, she decided not to ask to be taught as well. 

However, Qian Wu had completely believed what Little Shitou told him. Just think about it, in the past, Xiaocao had a very weak body and it was considered a good day when she could get out of bed. How was it possible that she could be able to learn cooking from someone? Also, no outsiders had gone through the village recently. If a god hadn’t taught her, then where would she get these skills?  After thinking about it, Qian Wu nodded his head furiously and said, “I won’t let my mother come here to learn then...Xiaocao, in the future, whenever you make some new type of food, please don’t forget to save a portion for me ah...I won’t be a freeloader either, I can help you gather wild plants, steal eggs from wild birds, and when it gets warm again, I can also dig up some clams…”

“It’s a deal! When there’s something good to eat, I’ll have Little Shitou grab you then!” Xiaocao didn’t add any more pieces of the pig head meat to the depleted plate. After all, the braised meat was supposed to be sold tomorrow at the docks.  

After making sure that the braised pig head meat had been done correctly, Xiaocao started to braise the intestines and tripe. Braised intestines had a delicious taste, tender and soft texture, savory and rich flavor, and had a really good mouthfeel. Braised pig tripe had a sweeter taste, a silky texture without being mushy, and was chewy. Both of these were very delicious and tasty types of braised dishes.  

After all of the braised dishes were finished, the whole family all thought that each type had its own characteristics but they were all considered to be very delicious. When Madam Fang was about to leave, Xiaocao made sure to put some braised pig head, intestines, and tripe all together on one plate to let her bring some back home. 

Madam Fang knew that the purpose of making all of this food was to sell it at the docks, so she stubbornly refused. However, Xiaocao told her that the ingredients were all bought by the money she had made from selling the chicken offal. If Madam Fang didn’t want the meat, Xiaocao said that she would give her money instead. It was only after hearing that did Madam Fang take the plate of food back home. 

That night, after Zhou Dacang and his son came back from peddling goods all day, the two of them almost ate the entire plate of braised foods. They praised it endlessly and even wished that there was more for them to eat. They repeatedly told Madam Fang, ‘such a delicious set of meat dishes, in the future, you should buy more to eat at home.’ 

Madam Fang laughed but didn’t let out Xiaocao’s secret. The village wasn’t very big. If Madam Li and Madam Zhang found out Xiaocao’s culinary talents, the two of them would definitely come over to make trouble. Neither of them would ever tolerate the second branch of the family doing well! 

The next day, Xiaocao and her brother brought the extremely heavy basket to the docks. When they got there, Foreman Sun, who was directing the flow of workers transporting cargo and goods, spotted them immediately with his eagle eyes. He shouted in a loud voice at the dock workers, “Brothers, work hard! After you guys are done transporting the goods on this boat, you all can rest and eat breakfast!! The brother and sister pair who were selling a portion of a meat dish for one copper coin yesterday are here again!!”

The workers who had tried the braised chicken offal yesterday all felt their spirits rise and their enthusiasm for work increased significantly. In addition, the men who were unable to get a taste of the braised foods yesterday also became more energetic. They wanted to finish transporting the cargo before the other men in order to queue for the food and try the meat that their fellow workers had been praising without end. 

The owner of the cargo ship had been shipping goods for decades but he had never seen dock workers work so quickly before. He felt puzzled inside and curiously asked what this ‘one copper coin for a portion of meat’ was. 

Foreman Sun was an old acquaintance of this cargo ship master. He knew that if this cargo ship owner put in a good word for him for the merchant who sold the goods, it would help his business a ton.   

He quickly invited the owner of the ship to eat at the only shack in the area that sold stir-fried dishes and had Erzi call the two siblings over and said, “Little girl, can you give me ten portions of the braised meat from yesterday, and also give me two copper coins worth of blood tofu…”

“I’m sorry, Foreman Sun! I brought over a different type of braised food, and I don’t have any blood tofu today.” Foreman Sun felt very disappointed when he heard Xiaocao’s reply. He had been counting on this delicious yet cheap braised food to give him some face and reputation!

The owner of the cargo ship was a bit unsatisfied that Foreman Sun had invited him to eat at such a crude and lowly place. He thought a bit and decided that next time he should recommend Old Six to take the job of unloading the goods... 

However, at this point, he heard a young child cheerfully reply, “Foreman Uncle, today’s braised foods are even better than yesterday’s! I have some crispy slices of pig ear, tender and fatty pig lips, delicious and savory pig offal, and the chewy and fragrant pig tripe…I guarantee you won’t regret trying these after one bite!”

When the master of the cargo ship saw Little Shitou, who seemed to be almost the same age as his youngest grandson, he naturally started to miss his youngest and most beloved grandson. Although Little Shitou was dressed entirely in patched and ragged looking clothes, his face was washed completely clean and he had an incandescent and sweet smile on his face. The shipowner, who spent most of his time on the sea shipping cargo, looked at Little Shitou and smiled, “Little fellow, you have quite a nimble mouth! After hearing you advertise your wares, the gluttonous monster in me is suddenly quite interested!” 

Foreman Sun felt vindicated and interjected strategically, “Little girl, give us two portions of everything your younger brother recommended! If we like what we eat, we will also give you an additional reward.”  The braised foods that Xiaocao brought over this time had been packed together in small portion sizes again. Other than that, she had also packed a few individual packets in anticipation of any special requests from those who ate the food and only liked one of the types.

“Okay!” Xiaocao agreed in a ringing voice. 

One by one, the braised dishes were set out. First was the pig ear ribbons that were tossed in a mix of scallions, garlic, and chili oil. The dish had a beautiful scarlet color that raised the appetite. In addition, the pig ear meat glistened under the light and was delicious looking. Then there was the pig offal that had a rich, fatty taste without being greasy. Last, there was the pig tripe that had been sliced into thin sheets and seemed savory and delicious. Xiaocao had especially borrowed a couple of plates from the stall’s owner and carefully arranged the food. Although there wasn’t a large portion of food, the smell and appearance of the dishes immediately gave people an appetite.  

The owner of the ship had grown up in a rural area by the water, and was the type of man who loved to drink alcohol and eat meat. After traveling extensively all these years, this was the first time he had eaten something that was as delicious and as inexpensive as these meat dishes. As he ate from the food, he felt as if he had entered heaven. Before long, over half of the food had been polished off by the old man.  

On the side, Foreman Sun continued to toast with wine but he only ate from the stir-fried vegetable dishes. He didn’t forget to look at Xiaocao in the eye meaningfully to hint——don’t forget to leave me a portion, ok.... 

“Boss, there’s another boat that’s about to reach the shore. We should head over quickly and not let Old Six take away the business from us…” Erzi shouted loudly as he ran over, panting heavily. 

The master of the cargo ship also knew that the goods on his ship would be completely unloaded very soon. He looked at Foreman Sun and said, “Go and do your work, ok? No need to attend to me anymore! Don’t worry, in the future when I have business, I’ll make sure to take care of you…” 

After receiving his desired result, Foreman Sun contently jogged towards the docks by the sea. Wherever there were people, there would be vagrants. Similarly, wherever there was business, there would be competition. Since Tanggu’s docks were flourishing and busy, it was natural that there wasn’t only one team of dock workers that worked to unload cargo.  

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Translator: Sanguine