42.1 The Seven Great Forbidden Techniques and the Five Distinguished Knives
Seeing this, Nian Bing couldn’t help but cry out in his mind This was definitely what Master had called ‘shaking noodles’. Zha Ji had mentioned that the most profound technique of pulling noodles was called shaking noodles. Even Zha Ji himself couldn’t do it. By vibrating the noodles with your hands, the moment when one strand came in contact with another, a steady amount of force would be used to add toughness and flexibility to the noodles. Shaking noodles wasn’t suitable for anything thicker than thread noodles. However, Nian Bing was worried that if the dough was folded into another layer, would the noodles cook poorly when they were put in the water because they were so fine?
Finally, the instant the noodles, while shaking, reached the iron pot, Ming Hui suddenly left the kneading board. She pulled her left hand like lightning and raised her right hand high, letting the 4096 single-strand noodles hang in mid air. Her left arm darted through the middle of the noodle strands, and her right hand brought the noodles downwards. Through a pull and tug, a 8192 strands of noodles appeared; not a single strand was broken. It was the sort of godly skill that made people astonished to see.
With a light toss, the noodles returned to the length they had been when they were 4096 strands. Ming Hui shook her left hand and brought her left hand to the pot, gently placing the noodles into the boiling water. The iron pot was very large, almost one meter in diameter. Ming Hui set the noodles down at the edge of the iron pot and immediately took out a pair of chopsticks, using their front ends to separate the dough to the two sides without poking the noodles. Rather, she stirred the boiling water at the center of the pot rapidly. At this moment, her hands had suddenly became milky white. The steaming vapor was like sparkling pearls. The steam condensed into beads on her hands, which made Nian Bing recall something Zha ji had once said: “The azure ocean moon pearls have tears.”
Her motions became faster, all of the water swirling rapidly from the stirring. Since the noodles rotated in a rhythm, the boiling water did not bubble because of the speed of the mixing.
Nian Bing said in surprise, “I got it. This is ‘Wrapping Noodles in Water’ How amazing.” Wrapping Noodles in Water referred to the process of stirring water into a whirlpool, making all of the water in the pot reach boiling point without boiling over. As such, the food will be more evenly heated and won’t have its shape affected by the bubbling of the water. The whirlpool wasn’t very difficult; with enough training, any chef could use chopsticks to stir the water into a whirlpool. The difficult thing was that she was stirring boiling water. Although her hand did not directly touch the water, the temperature of the boiling water was not low at all. This technique demanded that the chef couldn’t be affected by the boiling water and must keep their hand steady. So the Wrapping Noodles in Water technique was extremely difficult.
Her chopsticks suddenly left the water, but the boiling water in the iron pot continued to spin fast under the effects of inertia. Ming Hui brought out a large bowl and opened an iron container on the side. From the container she ladled out a light yellow broth. The broth was extremely transparent without any impurities . She ladled it into the bowl. When it was still, it resembled a large, yellow water crystal; this was the prepared beef broth.
Her chopsticks went into the pot like lightning and gently picked up the all the noodles, without missing a single strand, and placed the noodles into the bowl. Steam rose from the noodles as it soaked into the beef broth, immediately raising the waterline of the bowl to the halfway point. The chopsticks adroitly drove the noodles in the bowl to spin clockwise, then immediately afterwards turning it clockwise once. Just as it had stopped, the slightly yellow noodles lay neatly in the bowl. Fetching a large iron spoon, she took out a spoonful of hot noodle broth and poured it into the very front, then placed her hand into the iron bucket and took out several slices of paper-thin daikon and wide pieces of cutlet that had been boiling in the beef broth and placed them on the noodles. Finally, she added a pinch of cilantro into the soup and dripped a bit of hot pepper oil into the soup.
”Beef noodle consomme soup. Please sample it.” There was visible sweat on Ming Hui’s forehead, but her hands had regained their original color. She looked at Nian Bing with eyes full of self-confidence.
Nian Bing did not say anything. He simply nodded at her and took the chopsticks from Ming Hui and started eating.
“I also want to eat some, so leave me a bit. Hey, you’re not allowed to eat that fast.” Xue jing stole some of Nian Bing’s noodles in dissatisfaction. Nian Bing actually was not eating fast at all. He had only eaten several strands of noodles, a slice of beef and drank a mouthful of the noodle soup.
He passed the chopsticks to Xue Jing and sighed lightly. He gazed at Ming Hui in admiration. “I submit. Since I have left my master, this is the first time that I have sincerely admired a chef. Your beef noodle soup is definitely worthy of the words ‘Superb Wheat Foods.’”
Ming Hui’s hideous faced flushed. “Elder Brother Nian Bing, you flatter me.”
“Wa, this really is delicious. I normally dislike noodles the most, but these noodles are so delicious! Ming Hui, why are your noodles so thin, without having a super soft texture. Every strand has such tension, and it tastes extremely good. On top of that, none of the noodles stick together. Also, did you cut this beef yourself? It’s flavor is wonderful. The broth is also tasty. Isn’t it made of beef bones, wait, no, beef bone broth isn’t this delicious! Moreover, its scent is a bit strange. Obviously it smells like beef broth, so why do I get this special feeling from it?” Xue Jing’s cultured table manners were nowhere to be seen. The beef noodle soup wasn’t scalding hot, so besides the little bit that Nian Bing had eaten, the remainder had entered Xue Jing’s stomach in a moment.
Ming Hui covered up her smile and said, “Big Sister Xue Jing, eat a little bit slower. If you still want to eat some more, I can make you more, no problem!”
Nian Bing smiled and said, “She’s done a pretty good job of assessing it. No doubt she is the successor of the Pure Wind house. Ming Hui, allow me to comment on what I think are the special characteristics of your beef noodle consomme soup. See whether if I’m right or not.” After muttering to himself for a moment, he then said, “The beef noodle soup that you make utilizes the traditional cow bone marrow. You’ve completely embodied the principle of ‘one clear, two white, three red, four green and five yellow’. The ‘one clear’ is the clear broth; the ‘two white’ is the daikon. The ‘three red’ came from the redness of chilli oil. ‘Four green’ was the addition of the cilantro, and ‘five yellow’ was derived from the yellow of the noodle. These vivid and fresh colors stimulates one’s appetite.
“On top of that, you’ve added your own innovation into this soup. In terms of the thinness of the noodles alones, I cannot compare. The shaking noodles are truly wonderful to actually be able to pull noodles this thin, while still maintaining its toughness. It is far thinner than even silk nest noodles, but still has strength and did not affect the taste. What I admire the most is your wrapping noodles in water technique, which is something that even my master cannot do. I think that you must’ve trained your right hand in a special way to be able to stand the scorching hot steam. However, it’s not enough to be able to withstand the battering of the scalding water vapor. Without a staunch will, you would not be able to keep your hand steady. This is what I admire the most!
The noodles are very good noodles, and at the same time, the soup is very good soup. Just as Jing’er said, your beef broth utilizes beef bones as well as the best beef treated with butter simmered to cook it. But it’s not that simple; you also put in at least three different kind of medicinal herbs. Not only did the medicinal herbs didn’t alter the flavor of the beef broth, they even acted as a foil to the umami of the broth. At the same time, the medicinal herbs’ flavor fused into the soup, making the beef broth even fresher so you could immediately sense the fragrances of the medicinal herbs. The two flavors completely harmonized together, making a top-quality beef broth. It really is very wonderful.”
“Even the beef wasn’t simply cut. It had to do with the beef itself. The best part of a cow’s body is not in its chuck1, or the place where the meat is thickest or has lots of muscle. Rather it’s the beef ribs. Beef ribs are plenty tough themselves, and at the same time it’s easiest to bring out its taste. Using it in beef noodle soup is the best choice! With all of these things combined, I dare say that there isn’t a beef noodle consomme soup that is any better than yours on the entire continent! I truly, truly admire you.”
Ming Hui’s eyes showed her surprise. “Elder brother, nothing you said was wrong, except for the fact that you couldn’t name the three medicinal herbs. Other than that nothing was off, no doubt you are the Magic Chef of Ice and Fire!”
Xue Jing caressed her stomach in satisfaction as she want up to the two who were talking at the side. She looked at Nian Bing suspiciously. “The beef noodle soup was really delicious, but was it really as complicated as you say? Little Sister Ming Hui, don’t be afraid to hit him. Just hit him, and I will support you. I think that he definitely must’ve said something wrong.”
Ming Hui shook his head and said, “No, there was nothing that he said that was wrong. Even if it was me, the only better description I could give would be the names of those three medicinal herbs. Elder Brother Nian Bing’s culinary arts are definitely far greater than mine. Elder brother, now I would like to try your ice and fire cooking. Can I?”
Nian Bing smiled and replied, “Having eaten your delicious beef noodle consomme soup, how could I hold back?” Having said this, he could not help but look at Xue Jing. The one who really ate the most was her; he didn’t’ have any time to eat more. To only be left with the empty bowl, my stomach was really pitiful!
Although he was thinking this, Nian Bing did not stop his actions. He walked in front of the kneading board and thought for a moment. Quickly he decided on what he was going to make. He washed his hands clean and then pulled back the cloth covering the dough and took out a piece of dough identical to Ming Hui’s. With a small smile, he said, “Since I ate your noodles, so I must return your politeness with politeness. You made beef noodle consomme soup, so I will make premium cold noodles. I don’t have the ingredients I need with me, so I will rely on you.” While saying this, he started the process of kneading the dough. He knew that if he didn’t use his most consummate skill, he would definitely be looked down upon by Ming Hui. He did not want other people to say that he relied on magic to cook his delicacies.
The dough in Nian Bing’s hands turned into a sphere. He was moving very slowly but applying a lot of strength. Gradually, his movements became faster. Every time he pushed the dough would be kneaded into a different shape. As his actions sped up, Nian Bing’s wrists seemed to be boneless as his palms kneaded the dough. His palms wrapped entirely around the dough so that none of the dough could be seen; the shape of his hands resembled a ball, cradling the dough within.
Ming Hui goggled at him and gasped, “This is separating tendons and bones to knead dough. It actually exists.”
Xue Jing asked with surprise, “Separating tendons and bones? Could it be that his hands and wrists have broken at the joint?”
Ming Hui shook her head and said, “No, that’s not it. This kneading technique is extremely hard to train. The primary reason is because of the wrist’s flexibility. You have to train your wrist to twist in a single direction, so its like your tendons and bones have broken apart. This kneading technique has another name, it’s also called Separating Tendons and Bones as the Hand Wishes. Like my Wrapping Water Around Noodles technique, it’s one of the seven Great Forbidden Techniques of pastry chefs. Through Separating Tendons and Bones as the Hand Wishes, you can keep the moisture in the dough while strengthening the toughness of the dough to its full capacity. Normally using this technique to knead dough requires a special cooking method to go along with it. Otherwise, even if you cook it thoroughly, you will be unable to bite it. There is a saying in the world of culinary arts that if a pastry chef can grasp one of the Seven Great Forbidden Techniques, then they can become a top-level wheat food master. I can only use the Wrapping Water around Noodle Mysterious Jade Hand, which is fourth on the list of the Seven Great Forbidden Techniques. I didn’t imagine that Elder Brother Nian Bing could actually use the third, Separating Tendons and Bones as the Hand Wishes. It seems that I am not as good as him in terms of wheat foods!”
Nian Bing’s actions stopped without any forewarning. He turned to Ming Hui and smiled. “No, you are wrong. The Seven Great Forbidden Techniques aren’t any sort of certification. You need to be good in every area as a top-level pastry chef. In terms of achievements with wheat foods, I am definitely not any better than you.”
A green light flashed, and the Proud Sky Knife appeared in Nian Bing’s hand. The body of the knife was groaning softly, releasing energy.
“What a nice knife. Is this your cooking knife?” Ming Hui asked in surprise.
Nian Bing smiled gently. “This knife is used for cooking. For simple knife skills, this is the most suitable knife. This knife is called Proud Sky. It’s also called the Free Wind’s Gentle Hymn. I can’t make noodles any thinner than you, so I will be using a trick.” His right wrist rotated strangely, turning the Proud Sky Knife upside down. His left hand held a spherical piece of dough that was smaller than before.
Ming Hui knew that Nian Bing’s next move could not be simple. She saw the focus in Nian Bing’s eyes that was even more intense than her own. The strange thing was that his focus wasn’t on the dough, but on the knife, the Free Wind’s Gentle Hymn – the Proud Sky Knife.
The water in the pot was still boiling when Nian Bing’s knife finally moved. It seemed to be going very slowly, like a green haze. However, the silhouette of the green knife could not be seen. She could only faintly perceive that the knife tip had pierced into the dough.
With a flick of his wrist, a slice of white dough entered the pot. This was just the beginning. Directly afterwards, slice by slice of white dough, as if pulled by a thread. It was like it had formed a three inch line of light as the noodles entered the fresh boiling water within the pot. Nian Bing’s movements were exceedingly quick. He had been holding the knife handle upside down from the start, and his bearing was very light, but his gaze hadn’t left the indistinguishable knife silhouette.
Ming Hui seemed to have thought of something and quickly moved towards the iron pot. When she saw the noodles boiling in the water, her entire body seemed to be stunned. She could only manage to spit out four words, “Brocade – Character – Void – Lattice.”
- Methinks this is the chesty part of the cow. ↩