大煮干丝：raised shredded chicken with ham and dried tofu
香炸奶豆腐：fried dried milk cake
蒙?#25293;?#33590;：Mongolia milky tea
炸乳扇：fried dairy fan
烤羊排：baked lamp chop
红烧毛豆腐：stinky tofu braised in soy sauce
酸菜白肉：pickled Chinese cabbage with plain boiled pork
酸菜饺子：dumpling of pickled Chinese cabbage
Episode 3 Inspiration for Transformation
Taste is more important than anyting else as far as food is concerned. The Chinese have never restricted themselves to a certain tedious food list. With their understanding of food, the Chinese are always looking for an inspiration for change.
Once the clouds clear up, Yao Guiwen moves the split-bamboo baskets to the terrace. He and his wife have spent days making the tofu balls. Some tofu has already turned yellowish. But that's far from enough. Yao has to wait several days more. When it gets hard and shriveled and the skin turns black, then the tofu has matured. The change is because of fermentation.
Wang Cuihua tightly wraps the shapeless tender tofu with gauze and squeezes out the water. Then the tofu takes shape. There is no time to lose. The fresh tofu will quickly turn sour. It means Wang has to work very quickly without rest.
A basin of charcoal fire of proper heat will be the key to Yao's work in the afternoon.
Jianshui in Honghe Prefecture of Yunnan Province was named Lin'an in ancient times. It was once an important city in southwest China during the past 1200 years. Its brilliance has gradually faded with the passage of time. Just like many other towns in Yunnan, Jianshui is a multi-ethnic settlement. Different cultures have merged here, conjuring a unique atmosphere.
The tough tofu quickly inflates in the heat of charcoal fire. It reminds people of fermented flour. People of Jianshui like enjoying this special air-dried and fermented flavor. People can enjoy the tofu with varied sauces. But for Yao, the texture of tofu is the most important.
Tofu easily ferments in the warm weather of the river valley area. And the mildly dry air prevents it from rotting. Yao is more sensitive than anyone else to the subtle relations between wind, water, sunshine and tofu.
This is the famous Daban Well of Jianshui. Beside the well, women set up a production line of tofu by just using their fingers.
Water is a necessity in every procedure of making tofu. With a total of 128 wells in Jianshui, local residents are well versed with water. The Chinese believe water nourishes the spirit and mind up people. Just like water to tofu, the common points speak for themselves.
The ancient town of Shiping is less than 40km from Jianshui. Tofu here has a completely different look. The finished product is shockingly big. But it's unusually tenacious. And it almost doesn't crumble. A dash of salt can best preserve the tofu's freshness.
Yunnan has never been a major soybean production area, but it has a long history of making tofu. One corn for one piece of tofu. There is a tacit agreement between the buyer and the seller.
For the past 3 decades, Yao's tofu stall has never been quiet. It takes half an hour to walk from the stall to home and Yao has to go across almost the entire town. The rapid development has changed many aspects of Jianshui. As time goes by, some variables have disappeared and others, altered. And new ones are added. But there are some that stand the tests of time and remain.
The Yao's life centered on tofu is watery and hard. The biggest wish of the husband is to fish in the big lake far away. He has no merits but only shorcomings. To the couple, every piece of tofu is precious. It help them to support their children and sustain a happy family life.
In the past over 1,000 years, with rounds of northern immigration, tofu, the representative of central China's food culture, has taken roots in the abundant land on the south-west border. And it has developed its unique disposition. The production details remind us of the hinterland of central China that is thousands of miles away. There, from birth to prosperity, tofu has enjoyed a history of 2,000 years.
Hu Xuebing is on his way to the county town. He needs to sell his tofu at the morning market.
Shouxian County is an old little town in the north Anhui province, people there has a special attachment to tofu. They believe their ancestors invented the great tofu. In middle October, soybeans in north Anhui have already been ripped and stored tofu made with newly harvested soybeans has always been the most popular in China's thousands years old history of agriculture. Soybean has long occupied an important position among the well-known legumes. Soybean is the richest in protein. So for the cheapest sustenance, but it was once in an awkward position. Cooked soybeans failed to wet people's appetite and to make matter's worse caused flatulence people urgently need to find the best way to consume soybeans.
The white power on scale is gypsum, the key to turn soy milk into tofu. Hu Xuebing can use gypsum as skillfully as his ancestors.When the denatured protein meets the gypsum, the boiling soymilk quickly coagulates. The change is so drastic that it can be see in a blink of eye in ancient days.
Gypsum often appeared in secret scriptures of Chinese war locks. It is said that was how the relation between gypsum and tofu originated started.Over 2000 years ago, Liu An, the king of Huanan was addicted to alchemy when nurturing a mortal pill in soymilk. He happened to add some gypsum in it. Many people believe that's how tofu was invented, regardless of whether the reality was as dramatic as the story. Chinese must be coping for a long time before finally making tofu a great food of china. The invention of tofu however completely changes the fate of soybeans.
[en]The great flexibility tofu offers a huge space for the imagination of the Chinese well-known for color its skill. The disadvantages of soybeans were eliminated by reason or unconsciously. As the ancient Chinese transform soybeans into tofu, the value of soybeans protein to human body reach the climax for the invention of tofu. Chinese cooks' understanding of tofu will often take you by surprise. May be it is also correct to say that the Chinese are showing their adaptability through tofu, and thus, soybean has been sublimated.The milky juice arouses many thoughts in our mind.
On the vast grassland of north China,the Mongolian nomads are nourished by another flowing delicacy. In late September, the green cover is fading on Uzemchin grassland. Mengke and his family are seizing the last days of grazing before the bitter winter arrives. The chill is felt in the late autumn of grassland; dried cow manure can make the fire burn up.
Milk tea is always a must for breakfast. Brick tea, butter, stir-fired millet and fresh milk are the important ingredients for making milk tea. Milk curd was made several days ago. Milk tea and curd are indispensable for people living on the grassland. They provide vitamins and minerals that can't be gained from vegetables and fruits.
Grassland has the magical power to make tings simple. Mudu the cattle of Mengke, is in the lactation period, to get fresh milk from the cow, Mengke's mother, has to get permission from the cow. Fresh milk no longer ferments as easily as during the warm days. The mother must hurry to make the milk curd as food reserve for the long winter. The sour cream on the surface is carefully ladled out and the cream is very precious. Fermented milk curdles protein and whey is separated when heated. The whey, though, won't be wasted as it best for feeding livestock. You have to keep stirring the juice, so that the curdled milk won't stick to the pot. When the whey is fully separated, the hot curdled milk is put into moulds. Mengke offers the fresh milk curd to his grandfather. It’s the best delicacy.
Heading straight south, an almost identical scene is happening in Yunnan thousands of miles away. Thick and heavy chopsticks are moved vigorously. A smooth curdled "milk lump" has soon be rolled after several moves; the lump is dragged into a sheet which is then rolled up onto the bamboo rack by the wall.
In far away Dali, Yunnan, a similarly method is adopted by the Bai minority to transfer milk Rushan, made from milk are hung and air dried in the yard just like giant wind chimes.
Over 800 years ago, during the reign of Kublai Khan, the expeditionary Mongolians arrived and settled in Yunnan. They brought dairy products from their home. Unexpectedly, the way to transform milk has been passed down and still prosperous even today.
Mother takes the hardened milk curd out of the wooden box. Dried milk curd can be preserved for an extremely long time. Meat is a luxury as livestock is so precious. Dairy products have almost become the main food on the grassland.
This is a Mongolian restaurant in downtown Beijing. The mouth-watering roast lamb back is the top choice for dinners here. It easily reminds us of the food lifestyle on the grassland, but to people living in the depth of the grassland, milk products are more close to their real life.
Rain brings the temperatures down to freezing. Mengke's second elder sister has found the lost lamb in the bush. Lamb tock are family assets and part of the nomads' life.
Mengke has changed into his new winter robe. Hot tea and milk curd keep him warm, and the milk products will continually provide calories to sustain the entirely morning's herding. The telescope is the legacy of his grandfather's. Mengke lost his father at the age of three. He learned to herd with his grandfather. His grandfather has told him that it's good enough to be a qualified herdsman. Host poling in hands, Mengke threw himself on the horse, feeling full of strength.
Out the grassland, herding is substituted by farming. Without the conditions for grazing cattle and sheep, people choose to cultivate the limited land. Dairy products have failed to hold this position in kitchens of central China. People living in farming culture have shifted their eyes to other plant resources to obtain precious protein. It was revolutionary for the Chinese to gain protein from plants. To the Chinese who historically had insufficient meat supply, the discovery is wisdom as well as luck.
In the ancient temple of Mount Tiantai, the monks are preparing the most important meal of a day. Monk has vegetarian diet. The monastic life is poor and simple, even dinning is a practice of Buddhism. In fact, only Han Buddhism in China includes vegetarian diet as its religious disciplines. That has deeply impact to traditional vegetarianism in China over the past 1000 years.
Originating from plants, tofu can follow the strict disciplines, and it provides the best possible nutrition for the body. Soybean is the only plant food that matches meat for protein quality. So to vegetarians, it's perfect despite its plainness.
Chinese tofu is given a certain spiritual quality. The ancient people praised it saying tofu has merits. Those who have tofu are contained within simple life, and those who make tofu understand as to let life take its course.
The unique geological environment and mild weather in southern Anhui have form calm and conserved qualities in its people, though so produced unique food. The strange food covered with white hypha is actually tofu. As the season for mass production has not yet arrive, the hairy tofu in Fang Xingyu's shop is a rare commodity worth holding. It will be sold out before noon.
The heavy hair covering tofu launches our imagination. We link it , for example, to animal, and there is indeed a life in it. The white thin hair is the hypha of mucor, which gives tofu a new vitality. It’s hard to believe how this food is actually made.
Today, Fang Xingyu has handed over most of the workshop to her elder daughter. Fang has begun to associate her future of the shop with her.
The surface of soybean milk gradually coagulates, which shows the soybean is rich in oil, but to produce hairy tofu, oil is not required.
Tofu skin is hung on the chopstick when air dried and become a by-product of hairy tofu. In other delicacy with a totally different texture, the key to produce hairy tofu is to add self-made "sour juice" into soymilk for fermentation. The sour substance can make soy protein clot. What's more important is that microorganisms flow into the milk with the pouring of sour juice. It's just like burying seeds into tofu.
No matter wherever you are in China making tofu is an extremely hard work. Family members sit down and out and leave the dinning table in succession. The elder sister is always the last one to come. Her sister will accompany her to finish the already cold dishes.To the mother and the elder sister, the tofu workshop has already become a major part of their lives.
Fang will not make hairy tofu in the sultry summer.We can't control the fermentation of tofu in sauna days.But in other seasons, the warm and humid environment in Huizhou makes microorganisms ferment properly. Fang hopes her daughter can learn and understand everything about making tofu.
The hair is actually fungi, the index showing whether the yeast and germs are growing harmoniously. It decides the progress of fermentation and whether the final product is delicious or not.
Huizhou people who are gourmets can truly appreciate hairy tofu. You can have it in a simple or complicated way. In the mind of old Huizhou people, a little bit of chilly sauce goes best with coal roast tofu. The interia of tofu is completely different. Mucor secretes proteinase making soy protein degrades into smaller molecules of peptones, polypeptide and amino acid. This series of transformations give tofu an incomparable flavor. Huizhou people call this strong flavor—a flavor of hometown.
The small grains among the hypha are spores, and an indication of the hairy tofu is properly matured. The clever Chinese are profession in using the microorganisms. In fact, the wisdom of transformation sparkled early in ancient times.
Wine is probably the earliest case of how people transform food with microorganisms. Huangjiu, literally meaning yellow wine brewed from rice, is one of the oldest wine in the world. It's the morning of Lidong, the start of winter. It has started to drizzle in Shaoxing. It's a good sign for wine makers. Yeast favors the long but mild coldness of winter in Jiangnan, south of the lower Yangtze valley.
The wine makers go in and out of the wine workshop getting ready for tributes of the sacrifice. This is the day to worship the god of wine; no one dares to slight it, even the best wine maker can not ensure he can brew the best wine every year due to the capricious weather, wind, air and fungi. Every year, the sacrifice is for the wine makers to show their reverence for nature.
Winter brewing is about to begin in Shaoxing, also located in the Guyuan region, Xiuning of Anhui is on the same latitude as Shaoxing. 73 years old Cheng Jingshun is busy brewing homemade glutinous rice wine. Brewing wine isn't difficult for old people.
In the abundant Jiangnan, rice is an indispensable part of life here. It's only natural to make several jars of wine to treat them and treat the guests as well as worship gods during the slack season of farming.
The cocoon shaped Jiuqu or fermentation starter, is the soul of wine making. Jiuqu is considered to be "the seed of yeast". A variety of the yeasts are laying in the mixture of rice powder and red….herbs. They are waiting for the perfect time to wake up.
Cheng mixes the crushed Jiuqu with glutinous rice. Jiuqu is a great invention of the Chinese people, the most ancient and effective attempt of human beings at taming microorganisms. This is the most important step of making wine which will bring about the most magical part of the transformation.
A deep hole is dug in the well mixed rice. Not a single grain of rice will be wasted. To distribute the last handful of Jiuqu powder, all the procedures are finished. Now we will just let time deal with the rest of the work. The moulds will change the starch into sugar. The yeast will turn the sugar into alcohol. We can almost hear the hilarious singing of yeast spreading from the darkness. The longer the time, the more fragrant the wine will become. Huangjiu's flavor is thick and strong, and it stays for long.The Chinese can taste both the "tenderness" and the "toughness" in the wine.
Huangjiu-drinking Shaoxing people are mild and moderate, and their persistence to the tradition has allowed them to enjoy the time on their flavor.Almost every household in Shaoxing has soy sauce. Soy sauce is a must in the lives of the Shaoxing people, which has already become the most distinctive taste identity of Shaoxing. All the food can be braised in soy sauce. Enough salt allows food to stay fresh in humidity. Food rolled in soy sauce gives us a special aroma. Local people call it the "cuisine of home".
Historically, Shaoxing has been a prosperous and abundant land. Even today, many people love to reside by the river enjoying a relaxed life.
The ancient town of Anchang, outside Shaoxing city, is built along the river. It's the season for making preserved meats. Bamboo poles of different length display their abundance. The sausage of Anchang is very famous in Zhejiang. Its good flavor is largely attributed to the locally brewed sauce. Dozens of giant jars standing in the yard of sauce shop. 56-year-old Ding Guoyun still works vigorously. The sauce is thick and stinky. Workers have to stir it with the fixed schedule to ensure the fermentation takes place evenly within the jar, and within the jar the microorganisms will restricted one another, one kind's lose is another's gain.
The jars have been through many repairs during the past several decades. The direct exposure in the sun can greatly stimulate the vitality of yeast, but rain could ruin everything. Time slips always in the repeated sound of lids of jars, being moved away and put back.
The sauce of China started the trend of human beings' history of fermentation. Several thousands of years had passed, and it has become a fundamental flavor on dinning tables in China.
In north China, the meaning of sauce is more straightforward. Only a little paste is left in the jar of Wang Yuying's. Enough salt ensures the sauce won't get frozen in sever winter. In chilly northeast China, quiet a long time, salt in a form of sauce, has provided a physical and psychological support for people.
3 months later, it will be time to make new soybean paste, but the preparation work will start now. The cooked soybeans are smashed in the pot. In northeast China, soybean is the only ingredient for making sauce. The monopoly is also a luxury.
Heilongjiang province boasts the most fertile black soil in China. The farm and the harvest here is short and hasty, but the place produces the best soybeans. On the heated bed, six hands work together to pile the smashed beans into shape. The taste of the paste can even be the standard to measure whether a housewife is qualified. The tightly wrapped warm paste is hung on the wall. Over the course of the next 2 months, it will quietly ferment, and when spring arrives, the transformation will get even more dramatic.
Under the powerful Siberian high winter in north China. It is more unbearable than any other places. Facing the sever chill, people will learn to adapt themselves. After a more than 30-day complicated fermentation, the Chinese cabbage in the jar has gained a whole new life. The northern people have an unaffected love for pickled cabbage. In the winter which lasts for nearly 7 months, the pickles have almost become a lifestyle. Squeezing out the sour water in the leaves, not only get rid of the bitterness but also make the cabbage taste crispier, the pickled cabbage gives out a pleasant and savory sour fragment that is the smell of lactic acid. After the fermentation, oxalate acid is discomposed. When dissolved in water, protein gives out peptide and amino acid which bring out this great flavor. The best partner of pickle cabbage is pork. Pickled cabbage subtly mutualizes the natural grease of pork. The caldron of northern Chinese doesn't enjoy a delicate look, but they content inside the caldron is just like the personality of the locals—straightforward and generous.
Today, the children are all come back to visit their parents. The pickled stuffed cabbage dumplings will be the main course for dinner.
Time flies as usual, and life remains prosperous. Another year has passed.