Chapter 5.3 – Blue Fields on a Warm Day, Mist Rises from the Jade
When the waitress, who stood to the side, heard Nian Bing say that their food was disgusting, she could no longer stay calm and collected. She said snappily, “What did you say? This is how our food tastes in this restaurant. If you wanted to eat delicacies, you should have gone to Grand Pavilion or the Pure House in the city. The food there is good, but I’m afraid you couldn’ afford them.”
Zha Ji coldly glanced at her before taking out a gold coin. “Stop driveling and bring us to the kitchen. We just need to use your ingredients to cook only one dish.”
After seeing the sparkling gold coin, the waitress’ eyes lit up instantly. “Misters, please come this way.” A gold coin was able to buy an entire table of food, and they only wanted to make a dish. No matter how expensive the ingredients they used, they would definitely rake in a large profit.
The kitchen and the restaurant were only separated by a wall. Even though the kitchen couldn’t be said to be simple nor crude, it was obvious that the kitchen tools had been used for a long time already. Zha Ji couldn’t stop himself from frowning. There were only two chefs in the kitchen. They cooked the dishes eaten previously.
The waitress walked to the side of one of the chefs and whispered a few words in his ear. That chef frowned but curiously looked at Zha Ji. He impatiently said, “You can use anything you like in this kitchen. The ingredients can be found over in that area. We are elated to have a break. Brother, let’s go!” After he said that, he left the kitchen with the other chef to cool off in the shade in the backyard.
Zha Ji looked at Nian Bing before whispering, “I’ll teach you how to cook your very first dish today. How long can you use your fire magic?”
Nian Bing thought for a moment before replying. “If it is just a normal flame, I can use it for an hour without any complications.”
“Alright! Let’s start. You go and get a wok and scrub it clean.”
Nian Bing simply agreed, even though he didn’t know what Zha Ji wanted to do. He immediately went to get a wok from the corner of the kitchen and scrubbed it clean. Zha Ji had already gone to where the ingredients were stored as Nian Bing went to scrub the wok. It was obvious that the ingredients had been washed. As Zha Ji glanced at the ingredients, he took some of them out and placed them on the chopping board. He continued on to put some seasonings on the kitchen table.
“Except for the tomato, you can cut the vegetables into strips.”
“Yes, teacher.” Nian Bing picked up a kitchen knife. His expression became focused the moment the knife entered his hand, and he didn’t waste his year’s worth of bitter training as the feeling of the knife fused with him, forming one entity, making the eleven year old look incisive. The different types of vegetables in front of him weren’t significantly different, as they were only slightly different from chopping wood. That chubby hand of his placed the vegetables in front of him. The knife moved so fast that it only flashed light. The waitress couldn’t figure out how Nian Bing cut the vegetables, whether it was potatoes, carrots or onions, entirely into even strips. Nian Bing easily finished his task after a few blinks of an eye.
Zha Ji smiled and passed an empty mixing bowl to Nian Bing. “In cooking, one of the most important components is seasoning. The requirement of this dish that I want you to do isn’t hard, so I’ll totally pass it to you to cook. You should first chop the tomatoes, prawns and oysters into a paste separately before placing them in the mixing bowl.”
“En!” He followed Zha Ji’s instructions after agreeing. His knife seemed to be flying as the fine chopping made a crisp rhythm on the chopping board. Zha Ji didn’t stay idle either. He used another mixing bowl, put a few different seasonings in and used his bare hands to mix them evenly. Zha Ji had finished his part and combined the prepared seasonings with the tomato, prawn, and onion paste, at the same time Nian Bing finished his job. He passed a chopstick to Nian Bing and said, “Stir them evenly.”
Zha Ji smiled after Nian Bing stirred the ingredients evenly and said, “The next part is starting now.” He took a small brush and tossed it to Nian Bing. His expression became serious and he spoke at his fastest speed. “Mix one third of the seasoning sauces at the bottom of the bowl and follow that by placing all of the chopped ingredients on top, and finally, brush another third of the seasonings on top of everything.”
Nian Bing was accustomed to the speed of Zha Ji’s speech as it was not uncommon in the kitchen. He was able to understand Zha Ji, though unfamiliar with the kitchen, and was still able to finish everything quickly.
Zha Ji brought a board of sliced fish and placed it in the wok that contained the prepared seasoning sauces. “Waitress, can you please step outside?” He wasn’t willing to let her know that Nian Bing could use magic.
The waitress was stunned for a while. “But….”
Zha Ji impatiently said, “Don’t worry! We won’t burn down the kitchen.”
The waitress, who wouldn’t dare to utter a word as she had been given a gold coin, had no other choice but to leave the kitchen. Only Nian Bing and Zha Ji were left.
Zha Ji smiled and said, “Brush the remaining sauces over the ingredients and start using your fire magic to heat up the wok.”
“Passionate fire elements! I plead to you to gather from a flame of light and bring warmth to the world. Fire magic!” A red flame shone brightly from Nian Bing’s right hand, he held the wok in his left hand and then let his flame heat the wok up from beneath.
Zha Ji smiled. “Your flame spell’s temperature must be hotter than ordinary fire. You must heat it up evenly so that we can dig into the food as soon as possible. You must also remember the steps that I taught you previously. This is one of the easiest dishes and is known as the Three Sauces Marinated Fish. Because the ingredients used were just average, it won’t taste as good, but is still acceptable.”
As Nian Bing continued to heat up the wok, he asked Zha Ji, “Aren’t you afraid that the waitress would also learn how to make this dish?”
Zha Ji smiled as he replied, “I came up with the combination of the seasonings. There were more than ten types of seasoning. How could she remember? The amount of seasonings used were also very important so it won’t be that easy to learn it. You have to hold your fire. We should be able to eat it by the time half an incense stick has passed. The key components are the seasoned sauces. The three sauces are: the seafood sauces, tomato sauce, and the potatoes, carrots and onions. The three layers of sauces will all be eaten at once, including the fish flavor, so as to be able to know the real essence of the dish. For how to season the sauces, I’ll explain it to you in detail after we head back.” As he said that, he put a cover over the wok.
Nian Bing had used low grade ice magic to protect his left hand so it wouldn’t be scorched by the hot wok. The fragrance permeated from the wok after being cooked by Nian Bing’s flames. Nian Bing couldn’t help but to swallow a mouthful of his saliva after he smelled the fragrance leaking from the wok.
The time of half an incense stick had passed.
“It smells so fragrant. Where is this coming from?”
“It is really fragrant. I have never smelled such a fragrant dish before. It couldn’t be the doing of that old man, right?”
The two chefs that went to relax ran towards the kitchen. When they entered, they saw that Nian Bing was holding a wok. It was also the source of the fragrance they smelled earlier. After Zha Ji looked at the two chefs, he flatly said, “You can only look. You aren’t allowed to taste the food.”
They seemed as though they didn’t hear what Zha Ji had said as the two chefs just stared at the wok. They similarly swallowed their saliva just as Nian Bing had done. One of the chefs asked, “Hey! What did you two cook? It’s so fragrant.”
Just as Nian Bing wanted to reply to him, he was intercepted by Zha Ji. As he looked at Nian Bing, he said, “You have to remember about knowing whom you give your food to because not everyone has the right to eat your cooking. Chefs also have their dignity. They can only give their food to those who deserve it. Let’s go!”
“Master, I’m beginning to admire you more and more! This dish is simply too delicious! I truly don’t know what I would do if I were to part with you.” Nian Bing said as he patted his bulging stomach in content and comfortably moaned.
It could be seen how good the fish, marinated with three sauces, tasted from how Nian Bing ate it. He had wiped out eighty percent of it just by himself. He also had two more steamed buns. He ate his meal messily and after finishing, his clothes were stained by the different sauces. Except for the fish bones, the wok was left with only a little bit of the sauces. The waitress stood to the side with her eyes wide open.
Zha Ji chuckled and said, “Don’t be anxious. You’ll soon know how to cook your own dishes. If you want to keep on eating good food, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself.”
Nian Bing felt something ominous was going to happen, but the Zha Ji he knew wouldn’t tell him what was going to happen even if he asked him. He feared what he would be experiencing once they got back wouldn’t be good.
As he looked at his incredibly dirty, precious disciple, Zha Ji said snappily, “You should rest up now before finding a weapon shop to find a suitable knife for you.”
Nian Bing eyes lit up. “Let’s go! Teacher, let’s go now!”
Zha Ji pretended to think deeply. “It seemed that someone had said that he was too tired to move before eating. Why do you have the energy to move now?”
Nian Bing chuckled, “Teacher, I know you’re the best! I also don’t need to use much energy. I want to quickly get my precious knife so that I can get familiar with it as soon as possible.”
Zha Zi stood up and said, “You should go and change your clothes first. If you go out like this, you’ll just make a fool of yourself.”
“Yes! Yes! I’ll go and change now!” Nian Bing’s speed was disproportionate to his size as he flew out to change his clothes at the inn they were staying.
When Zha Ji and Nian Bing found the Ice City’s main street, the sky had gradually darkened. The afterglow of the sun shone from a far distance, with rosy clouds flowing around it, showing the most beautiful sunset while leaving a little light on the streets.
After walking for while, Nian Bing pointed to a large store not far from them. “Teacher, that should be a weapon shop. Let’s go and have a look.” There was a sword shaped brand on the door of the weapon shop that was really eye catching. Three big words were written on it, ‘Precious Tools Shop’. There were still many customers walking in and out of the shop even though it was the evening. It was obvious that the business was prosperous.
Zha Ji pinched Nian Bing’s chubby face. “Idiot, you came to this type of shop to buy a kitchen knife? It won’t be a wonder if you get tossed out of the shop.”
Nian Bing massaged his chubby little face. “How should I know that? Didn’t you say we were seeking a weapon shop?”
Zha Ji walked on. “Just follow me. A weapon shop is a weapon shop, but it isn’t what we’re looking for.” As he said that, he pulled Nian Bing into a small alley. He seemed to be familiar with the place as he brought Nian Bing by several streets and alleys. They probably used up most of the energy from their meal already. Zha Ji stopped while panting, the sky having turned pitch-black.. He pointed in front of him. “That’s the place!”