After that morning, the villagers received a notice that the scaled Buddha shrines were all banned and needed to be dismantled one by one. It took less than an afternoon before the initial confusion and incomprehension finally settled down.
When we were tidying up Agui’s attic, Agui couldn’t hide how lonely he was. I hated this kind of behavior of making money off of other people’s painful memories. And the worst part was, it forced people to remember the pain and immerse themselves in it.
The so-called replica in the attic was just the product of a strange hallucination. If we wanted to know the real principle behind Guan Luo Yin, then we’d have to get it straight from the mouths of those sorceresses and masters. If the relevant parties were willing to broadcast it on the news, I’d really like to hear it.
Afterwards, we went to the cemetery to dispose of the statues and offerings on the graves one by one. Everything around us slowly returned to a pastoral state, and the evil aura immediately disappeared, enabling that familiar rural feeling to return.
As Fatty cleaned up Yun Cai’s grave, I suddenly thought of Pan Zi again. It would be great if what I saw at that time wasn’t actually an illusion. By the time I finally went down to the underworld, Pan Zi would have probably already become the Great Judge Pan and cancelled all of my evil debts from this life. Then, maybe in the next life, I would become a giant tree deep in the mountains. But whether I would grow for ten thousand years or slowly wither away for ten thousand years, no one knows.
There was a stream and pond next to the cemetery. After we finished our work, we went into the water and collected a big basket full of giant Amazon snails and river snails. More than half of Agui’s ducks were gone, so we went to buy him some more in order to make up for it. I picked the snails out of the shells while Fatty and Poker-Face sat off to the side, smashing the giant snails to feed to the ducks. No one who passed by would think that we were brave heroes who stood up for the truth.
This whole incident reminded me of the warning Jiang Bai had relayed to us before we left.(1) It almost seemed like we would encounter many similar things in the future, but after carefully thinking about it, I realized that we had been and always would be the cause of many incidents. It seemed that we would have to pay off some debts in the second half of our lives.
I wanted to sigh just thinking about it.
At the same time, it seemed that Jiang Bai would become a lama in the future. This prediction of his was so accurate that I decided to invite him out to dinner next time.
That night, I used a steel wool ball to clean all the snail shells and then put the snails in a bucket full of water. This time, I was determined and changed the water every three hours, not going to bed until about three or four in the morning. When I woke up later, I kept changing the water until about noon. But after smelling the snails, I found that the earthy odor was still very strong.
I decided to forget about this dish for the time being and instead focus on looking for crabs in the mountains. The locals liked to eat the small stream crabs by roasting them in bamboo tubes. There actually wasn’t much meat in them, but I knew that in Yunnan, there was a special way of preparing them.
Poker-Face used his two long fingers to catch crabs at an extremely fast pace, but after about an hour, I couldn’t help but worry that the crabs here would become extinct. The baskets were almost full, however, so we kept going for about ten more minutes. Like this, we were forced to return with a full load.
The reason why I said we were “forced” to return was because I thought that we could stay in the mountains all afternoon. Since mountain crabs crawled very fast, hid in the gaps between fallen leaves and stones, and were small and difficult to catch, I figured it would take us a while.
But Poker-Face was too skilled at catching crabs. Fatty and I followed behind him with two bamboo baskets, not even having to bend over since he would immediately throw the crabs into the baskets as soon as he saw them.
When we got back to Agui’s house, Agui said that these crabs were usually fed to the ducks since there was hardly any meat on them. I told him that I was going to read some travel guides and try to make some new crab dishes. I went to chop firewood, built a fire, and then watched a video tutorial. Once that was done, I washed the crabs, tied them up, and placed them next to the fire.
Then I went next door to buy two free-range chickens, killed them where A-Gong and A-Mu couldn’t see, wrapped them in about seven or eight layers of lotus leaves, and put them by the fire as well.
As we all gathered around the fire, we adhered to the tradition of trash-talking whoever wasn’t around and began discussing all the gossip about Xiao Hua and Black Glasses. We continued chatting until the crabs were roasted red.
We found a bamboo tube, removed the crab shells, removed the gills, and dug out the hearts. Once that was done, we threw them into the bamboo tube, mashed them down in there, and added seasonings.
In fact, the practice in Yunnan was to add some special local spices, but I didn’t know what those spices were so I just used some Guangxi spices instead. In addition to the hot and sour spices, there was also a kind of hot pepper, which had a savory taste mixed in with the spiciness. The bamboo tube immediately became colorful, with the golden crab roe wrapped in the white crab meat and red crab shells, as well as the mixture of red and green spices. When the hot and sour spices were added, the aroma of cooked crab meat was released into the air. There was an especially strong aroma coming from the bamboo tube as well.
The shells of these mountain crabs were as crisp as a cracker, and after smashing them up, they tasted like a very crisp Oreo with a slightly burnt aroma.(2)
It took us half an hour to mash the roasted crabs into half a bamboo tube. We couldn’t see the crabs’ broken shells at all, but there was definitely a crisp taste of Oreos in our mouths. After we were finished preparing the crabs, I removed the chicken from the lotus leaves and placed both the chicken and lotus leaves into a bowl of chicken stock. The aroma from the lotus leaf chicken immediately filled my nose. For a while, the savory taste of the crabs and the aroma of the lotus leaf chicken mixed together, making all of us feel hungry.
As a final touch, Agui cooked rice on the stove. Fatty tore the chicken into four pieces, divided the bowl of soup into four parts, poured it over the rice, and then covered the chicken soup with crab sauce. I made sure to grab a little rice, some chicken soup, and some crab meat when taking that first bite.
It felt like my taste buds immediately exploded—the strong savoriness combined with the hot and sour flavors of the cooked meat were just right. Fatty and I both closed our eyes in pure ecstasy, enjoying the taste.
This definitely wasn’t the authentic Yunnan dish, but it was still surprisingly delicious.
That night, even Poker-Face ate two bowls, and Fatty ate eight. After I ate three bowls, I went back to the house and began recording all the ingredients we used just now. I honestly hadn’t expected it to be so delicious, but this was definitely going to be a future crab season specialty recommended by Xilaimian’s chef.
After eating, there was still a lot of chicken left so I decided to marinate it in white wine. I was going to continue my battle with the stuffed snail meat tomorrow, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t taste better than today’s dishes.
Fatty came over to me, clutching his full stomach, and said, “You’re wrong. Although today’s dishes were delicious, stuffed snail meat has a secret weapon—it can be braised.”
<Chapter 39><Table of Contents><Chapter 41>
(1) Warning might be a poor word choice here but I’m blanking right now. The characters are 打的机峰 and the pinyin is dadi jifeng. It’s a term in Zen Buddhism that refers to a dialogue method full of profound meanings. Zen masters often use it as a teaching method to confirm the degree of scholars and guide students to achieve enlightenment. This was the closest English explanation I could find, although the terminology didn’t match.
(2) Not quite sure how you get the taste of Oreos from crab shells but whatev.
Pic added 1/31/2023 (fan translation courtesy of me)
4 thoughts on “Chapter 40 Traveling Notes”
Pan Zi 😭😭😭 I also wish that part of the hallucination was true
I highly doubt I would like the food they’re cooking. I’m very particular about the things I can eat and crabs and snails are not included. But Wuxie always managed to make me feel hungry 😅
Ohh and I would love to know what they were gossiping about Xiao Hua and Black Glasses
Thank you for the chapter
I need me some seafood in my life. 🤤
Maybe I just really need to learn how to explain and describe certain things from NPSS.
Because this dish sounds so freaking dope, what the hell.
The tradition of speaking behind peopleʼs backs is so true, lol.
With a hint from Wu Xie, Xiao Ge cleared the entire area from bad guys. He should have done it sooner. 😄
Thank you for the chapters.