Chapter 4: Braised Fried Silver Pomfret
Translated by Kollumceti of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Lin ShuYi finally got his first paycheck after working for more than a month. It was a small sum that was a little more than one thousand yuan. ($150 USD) However, this was a lot of money to him. Old man Yang had said that he was still young and for him to be cooking, and so on, at such a young age was somewhat inappropriate. Thus, even though he knew that he could cook a lot of dishes, it was not often that Old man Yang would let him do it. Most of the time, Old man Yang was the one cooking and Lin ShuYi would just be lending a hand.
Lin ShuYi would wake up on time every day. No, to be more accurate, he would wake up quite early as he was still unable to completely change his work and rest habits even until now. He would become sleepy very early in the evening and would wake up very early in the morning. Since he had nothing to do after waking up, he would take a stroll outside and would head to the XiQin Restaurant after one round. This was also the time when Old man Yang opened for business.
In fact, Old man Yang sometimes found it strange that Lin ShuYi would always rise early. This was because the kids from other families always loved to sleep in and would be unwilling to get up before ten o’clock. However, Lin ShuYi was different from other kids and he sometimes gave the impression that he was particularly unlike a child. Old man Yang could only blame his family situation for the early maturity of this child, so he would sometimes feel increasingly sorry for him, and slowly began to regard him and dote on him as his own grandson.
Though Old man Yang’s vegetable garden was some distance from the XiQin Restaurant, it was also not too far. Lin ShuYi was now the one who usually went there to water the plants and loosen the soil. In any case, it was not heavy work and he felt that he should help out more if he could, otherwise, he felt embarrassed to take his salary from Old man Yang.
Lin ShuYi did not spend nor save his money. He originally wanted to earn money because he had nothing to eat. There was no need for him to prepare a meal by himself now he that he was helping out in the XiQin Restaurant, so he had nothing to spend on. As for not saving money, it was because he did not know exactly how to save it.
He did not want for much and also did not need much money.
In addition to helping with cooking every day, Lin ShuYi was continuously learning about the knowledge in this world. The more he knew, the more advantageous his foothold in this world would be.
The teacher he greatly respected once said that he was the disciple he was the most proud of, and was clever enough that he would understand something as long as he touched on the subject. However, Lin ShuYi never thought he was smart. If he was clever, he would not have insisted on being an official, resulting in his tragic death in the end.
Yet, it was true that he did have an astonishing memory. He was able to write down everything he had seen word for word even if he did not understand it at all. This was very useful in helping him to learn about this world. He only needed to see them once for him to know how most things should be used, such as the bicycle in front of him.
The bicycle was also given to him by Old man Yang. Old man Yang said that he was still a child and it would be boring if he was either at home or at the restaurant every day. Therefore, he pulled out his bicycle from his home and told Lin ShuYi to ride it around if he had nothing to do.
He had seen someone on the television ride this thing and knew he what he should do to get it to move. Nevertheless, there was always a gap between imagination and reality. When he sat down, pedaled a half-circle, and was about to fall over, he hardly knew what in the world was going on!
Finally learning it after much difficulty, he found that he did not want to ride the bicycle out anymore.
When he returned, Old man Yang even happily asked him, “Xiao-Yi, how was the bicycle? Although I bought it more than a year ago, I have always cherished it and it is practically the same as a new one.”
Lin ShuYi squinted his eyes into a crescent, “It’s very good. Thank you Grandpa.”
He liked this grandpa who was always smiling and this grandpa was the one he was the closest to in this world.
In the afternoon, Old man Yang managed to get two fish through some unknown methods. He was exceedingly happy and kept saying that he wanted to cook fish for Lin ShuYi to eat. S City was a waterfront town and now was the season when the fish were fat and fleshy. However, the town was still a little far from the river. If one wanted to eat fish, they would have to wait for others to bring some back when the fishing boats returned. This was why Old man Yang was so happy.
“Xiao-Yi, this fish was just caught. It’s really fresh. How would you like to eat it? Grandpa will make it for you.”
Old man Yang liked to ask Lin ShuYi’s opinions on everything he cooked. He would always cook it as long as it was something Lin ShuYi liked to eat.
Lin ShuYi walked up and looked at the fish in the basin. Inside were two medium sized mirror fish with flat bodies. These fish could only be caught in the gulf. “The mirror fish is a fish from the sea. It tastes salty and fresh and is most suitable for frying and braising.”
Old man Yang looked at him. He would always have a completely new appraisal of this lad. He did not know whether Lin ShuYi read it from books or from other places, but this lad seemed to understand a lot about food.
“You even know that it’s called a mirror fish, ah. Normally, people would call it a pomfret.” As he spoke, Old man Yang swiftly cleaned the fish. Pomfrets had less bones and tender meat. He specially asked others to bring the fish back from outside. Now was the time that Lin ShuYi was growing, so it was better to eat more fish from the sea.
Old man Yang really regarded Lin ShuYi as his grandson and these were all things he wanted to do for his actual grandson. Fortunately, there was Lin ShuYi here to satisfy his craving to be a grandfather.
“Score the sides of the pomfret a few times, sprinkle some salt and marinate it for ten minutes. Finally, pat some starch onto it and sauté both sides in hot oil until they are golden brown. Stir-fry some scallions, ginger, garlic and chili. Add fresh water, sugar, dark soy sauce, cooking wine and pepper. After it comes to a boil, put the pomfret inside and cook for five minutes. Add some salt, flip the fish over and wait for it to come to a boil. It’s done when the sauce thickens. Sprinkle some chopped onions when plating. It’ll improve the taste and make it look better.” Old man Yang explained to Lin ShuYi as he cooked while doing this. Lin ShuYi actually knew all this, but when Old man Yang was talking, Lin ShuYi kept nodding and listened to the lecture earnestly.
A plate of Braised Fried Silver Pomfret was paired with a plate of stir-fried vegetables. The vegetables were grown in their garden. They were lush and green and the taste was particularly delicious. Since the seeds were not planted in a inhomogeneous manner, home-grown vegetables generally would not grow very large. But it was because of this that made the leaves neither thick nor thin, making it the most delicious to eat.
Old man Yang seemed very happy. He opened a bottle of beer and sat there drinking it. Though Lin ShuYi knew that he was drinking alcohol, the alcohol was different from what he used to drink and was a light yellow in color. He knew that it was beer, but he had never drunk it before and was a little envious when he saw Old man Yang drinking it.
Seeing him staring at the alcohol, Old man Yang laughed. “What? You want to drink? You’re too young to drink.”
“I’m already eighteen.” Lin ShuYi conscientiously and seriously answered. He knew that it was illegal to drink in this place before he was eighteen years old. This was unlike Da Yan, where few people could out-drink him when he was sixteen years old.
“You are already eighteen?” Old man Yang looked at him and earnestly sized him up. He really did not look like it, but it should be all right for him to drink a little of this beer. So he took a cup and poured some for Lin ShuYi. “You should drink less. This beer is quite strong.”
Lin ShuYi nodded, lifted the cup and took a small sip, and then he frowned.
Old man Yang thought he could not drink anymore, and was preparing to take the beer back. Who would have imagined what Lin ShuYi would say was, “Is this alcohol? Why is it like water?”
Old man Yang was stunned and then he laughed heartily, “Young fellow, you can really drink. Don’t underestimate this beer. Even if the alcoholic content is low, you’ll still get drunk if you drink too fast or too much.”
Before he had finished speaking, Lin ShuYi had already downed the whole cup when he was not paying attention. Then he seriously stated, “It’s really the same as water.”
Old man Yang thought that this young fellow was a drinking genius. If it wasn’t that he was still young, he would really like to have a drinking match with him.
Lin ShuYi felt that the alcohol looked beautiful, but in reality… it was not much to speak about. It seemed like that something red wine he saw on the television last time that was as beautiful as glass beads was probably not that good too. He had wanted to try a taste of it but it was probably not as good as the Erguotou from Old man Yang’s house, which he stole a taste from.
Old man Yang’s business was not always at a peak. Although there would be people on Saturdays and Sundays, most customers would usually stay at home and cook something more luxurious. The location of his restaurant was good, but the ones who usually patronized it were those from ChaoYang Street since the place was small. So sometimes there was no business in the shop from Sundays to Saturdays.
Thus, Old man Yang did not open the shop this Sunday and he had already arrived at Lin ShuYi’s door before Lin ShuYi could even go to the XiQin Restaurant.
Although it was so close, Old man Yang had never been to Lin ShuYi’s house. Lin ShuYi was usually the one going to the XiQin Restaurant and he would also sometimes go to Old man Yang’s house to help.
Lin ShuYi came out as soon as Old man Yang knocked on the door. He wore a white T-shirt that was somewhat old and washed-out. However, his features were quite nice and he had a pair of bright black eyes, so he appeared rather handsome and lively. Even though Old man Yang did not have much of an appreciation for beauty, he also knew that Lin ShuYi would surely be a young man that would draw the attention of young girls if he was a little older.
“Let’s go. Today is Sunday and there’s not much business at the store. Grandpa will bring you to TianHua Mountain for a stroll. There is a red bayberry farm there. Now it the period when they’re ripe. Grandpa will take you to pick some red bayberries. I really wonder how you’re able to stay at home everyday with nothing to do.”
Lin ShuYi was stunned, then he smiled until his eyes turned into slits, “Okay!”
There’s something to eat. The television said that red bayberries were delicious and it was also a fruit he had never seen in Da Yan.
They took the bus all the way to TianHua Mountain. Lin ShuYi would look around from time to time on the way there. He not only went out to look, but also calmly and collectively looked around the interior of the bus. It was the first time he was sitting in one despite having seen buses on the television. Moreover, this was the first time he was going so far away even though the bus was just traveling out of ChaoYang Street.
TianHua Mountain was in S City, but in was located in the suburbs of S City and it took more than an hour to get to TianHua Mountain by bus. Although Old man Yang’s house was not in the center of the city, it was also not so remote.
Now was the season where the red bayberries ripened, so there were a lot of people going to TianHua Mountain. Every bus was packed full of people since there were not many buses going to TianHua Mountain.
It was obvious that the combination of Lin ShuYi and Old man Yang was very strange within this group of people. Nowadays, few children who were so old were willing to come out with their grandparents, let alone go to the mountain together; they would rather play games at home.
Lin ShuYi attracted the eyes of all the girls on the bus as soon as he got on. He was tall, slender and good-looking, and was even more handsome when he laughed, so much so that they were unable to turn their eyes away.
Originally there were no seats on the bus, but a girl gave up her seat as soon as Lin ShuYi and Old man Yang got on. Although she gave up her seat to Old man Yang, it was clear that she had ulterior motives by doing so as her eyes kept looking at Lin ShuYi.
Lin ShuYi did not notice how he attracted the gaze of people at all. His eyes narrowed as he smiled and thanked the girl, “Thank you.”
The girl’s face turned red in an instant, and she was teased by the girls with her for quite a while.
Old man Yang thought cheerfully, this young man was just such a delight.