This section is from the book "The International Cook Book", by Alexander Filippini. Also available from Amazon: The international cook book; over 3,300 recipes gathered from all over the world, including many never before published in English. With complete menus of the three meals for every day.
(In the higher family circles.)
Breakfast is usually partaken of between 9 and 10 A. m., the items consisting of four or five dishes: Soup, made of pork, vegetables or of dried fish. Fish, fried or boiled, with sauces; also fish prepared by steam. Eggs, fried or prepared by steam. Vegetables, boiled or fried, of various sorts. Rice, boiled in an iron pan, well dried and brought to table with other articles. Spoons are used for soup, but knives and forks are never used. Rice is most essential at all meals. A pair of chop-sticks are always used by each person in picking up the articles before them. None of the eatables are ever touched with the hands. Butter is never used for cooking purposes, ground nut oil is used instead.
Luncheon is usually served between one and two o'clock, p. m. It is a very light meal, consisting of cakes, sweets or rice canju.
Dinner, as a rule, is partaken of between 5 and 6 p. m. The courses are about the same as for breakfast, but with some addition, such as boiled or fried fowl or steamed duck, etc. When guests are invited it is usually for dinner. On the table there are always about eight small dishes full of fresh and dried fruits and cold meats, so that the guests can help themselves to whatever they like. Then all the courses are brought in by servants, and with chop-sticks each helps himself. Other dishes besides those mentioned are often served for dinner, such as shark-fins, birds'-nests, fishmams, beche-de-mer, dry shellfish, turtle, birds, dried mushrooms, etc.
Shark-fins are first boiled in water for an hour, then removed, plunged . in cold water for a few minutes, taken up, skinned, scaled and set to boil again until considerably softer. After this the fins are placed in a vessel with a little fowl broth or a small thoroughly cleaned duck, then cooked (steamed) in the pan until very soft. Slices of ham are then placed over all and served.
Birds'-nests are first thoroughly cleaned, carefully cleared of every particle of feather, washed carefully and wiped dry, placed in a vessel with a little fowl broth, then the vessel is placed in a pan to steam until quite soft. After this some ham, cut in small, thin pieces, is added shortly before serving, which gives an excellent taste. This dish is highly appreciated, and considered one of the most delicious articles of food in China.
Fishmams are cut into one-inch pieces, thoroughly cleaned and wiped, then fried in oil, when they will swell considerably. They are next removed, boiled in water till free of the oil taste, then transferred into a vessel with fowl broth and cooked in a steaming pan.
Beche-de-mer (hoi tarn) trepang (sea cucumber or sea slug). This powerful dry fish is and has been in very high favour not only in China but all over India as well. I was informed on very high authority that it was well known that by continuing to partake of beche-de-mer it effectively enabled women who had been married several years and remained childless to become mothers - competent persons having put the treatment to successful tests. The fish is soaked in several changes of cold water for a full day (twenty-four hours), removed and properly cleaned, then it is boiled in two different waters till free from lime taste. After this it is put in a vessel with a good-sized, well-cleaned pigeon or a small duck, with some broth, and steamed in a pan until thoroughly soft, then served. It is also very extensively eaten by persons affected with weak eyesight, and is recommended by eminent physicians.
Dry shellfish are first boiled in water for thirty minutes, removed, thoroughly cleaned, placed in a vessel and steamed in a pan with some broth till nice and soft.
Turtles are cut in pieces a little larger than for soup, carefully cleaned, placed in a double pan or vessel with broth, some dried mushrooms added, as well as pieces of ham, then steamed till cooked.
Birds are prepared in various ways - roasted, boiled or steamed, with broth.
Dried mushrooms are carefully washed in cold water, drained, fried in a pan with lard for about twenty minutes, transferred into a small pan with broth, then cooked until soft. .
In preparing by steam they place a deep pan on the fire with boiling water, bain-marie-like, then a vessel containing the food is placed in it, and a wooden cover to completely cover pan is placed over in order to avoid evaporation. It is then allowed to steam. Sauce is always served with every course.