OCN C15 Every Dish a Piece of Art

Xiao Ming started to open the bowl that he had pulled closer before while continuing to explain. “There are several different ways to present your dish in an aesthetically-pleasing way. I will demonstrate them according to today’s dishes and try to point out what you should take note of. What I want to start with is the dish itself. You might think that I’m exaggerating but every dish can be a piece of art.”

Back on their channel, some of the viewers were expressing how excited they were about what he would come up with but Qian Huang didn’t read them out this time. Right now, Xiao Ming was still explaining. It was best not to disturb him and wait for him to have some down-time instead.

On the other hand, Si Shi Wu didn’t need to pay attention to that and could talk freely. “I agree with what he is saying. I’m quite curious as to how he is going to show that though and what else he will include. From what I understand, the live streams sometimes last for several hours which is both the time for cooking the dishes, answering the questions of the audience, and tasting the dishes.

“Actually, I’m not quite sure if I should be regretful or not that I have decided to see ‘Bright Yellow Water’ today of all days. On one hand, I likely won’t get to see this anchor Xiao actually cook which is a pity. On the other hand, this is an important topic, and even one that many people will gloss over. So seeing how he handles this specifically is quite interesting as well.” He fell silent again while Xiao Ming continued to explain.

“Maybe you have already guessed it but the first dish we’ll finish up will be the figurative buns. Looking at the ingredients, these buns aren’t any different from regular baozi. The difference is that you shape the dough into something that’s, well, figurative.” He smiled at the camera when he said so. “One thing that is important here is that not only can you make different figures, you can also make the dough in different colors.”

He turned the bowl slightly and several balls of dough could be seen inside, each of them in a different color. “This is usually done by using juice instead of water. Alternatively, you could use some food coloring or spices if it fits with the rest of the dish.

“For figurative buns, I would actually recommend using colorful dough. While it’s not a prerequisite, I think it adds a nice touch and makes them look more lifelike. If you do decide on doing this, make sure that your hands are clean whenever you touch a new part of the dough so that it doesn’t smudge.”

He took the dough balls out and then started to knead them again while continuing to explain. “Now, since the dough is already prepared, we can start to turn it into the right shape immediately. As for what you can choose here, you are actually only limited by your own imagination. It could be an animal shape, some type of flower, maybe even an item that you would use in your everyday life. You could even make it look like another dish if you want to.” He smiled again and then started to form the first bun.

“Personally, when I make figurative buns I like to with some kind of theme that connects all of them together. Since I mentioned animal and flower shapes just now, that could be a zoo with an assortment of different animals or maybe a bouquet of different flowers. Today, what I’m going to make is a bunny in a field of sunflowers.” He winked at the camera and picked the dough for the sunflower, shaping it quickly. He would have liked to explain more closely but since there were several dishes and a lot of things he wanted to say, there really wasn’t too much time.

“I think the sunflower is quite nice because there are three different colors that work well together, with the bright yellow making a very friendly impression, the brown being kind of neutral, and the green making for a good background.” He finished shaping the sunflower and then added another one before picking up the dough of a different color. “Now, we have already shaped two of our sunflowers, so what’s missing now is our bunny.” He shaped that bun as well and then stopped for a moment, turning back to the camera. “I said before that it is supposed to be a sunflower field but we don’t have as much time so I will make the rest of the dough into round buns for simplicity’s sake.” Saying so, he already picked up the rest of the yellow dough, made it into small wraps to put the filling inside, and then shaped it in a few seconds.

On the other stream, Si Shi Wu nodded slowly. “You can see that his movements are very practiced. He has probably done this a lot of times already. Actually, I can’t say that this is any less proficient than what a professional chef would do. Both for the simple buns and for the figurative ones. I’m quite impressed, actually.” He nodded again, making sure that he praised Young Master Xiao now that he got the opportunity.

Back in the house of Bright Yellow Water, Qian Huang realized that Xiao Ming didn’t have anything else to say so he glanced at the channel to see if there were any questions regarding the topic yet. Thankfully, this was actually the case.

He cleared his throat and then went ahead. “Since Xiao Ming will need a moment to shape the buns, let’s have a look at some of the comments. ‘Green Dot’ is asking if there are shapes that can’t be used.” He looked at Xiao Ming, not quite sure if this question was a good one. After all, Xiao Ming had basically said that all shapes were alright. Wouldn’t he just reiterate? But maybe that would also allow him to drive home some important point.

Xiao Ming didn’t mind the question. He continued to shape the buns while he pondered what to say. “Well, there are one or two things that have to be considered. If you make baozi, you usually have a filling. This means that you can only choose a shape that will allow you to envelop the filling in the dough. If you were making mantou, then you could potentially shape it in more ways since you don’t need to account for that.

“Other than that, you always have to keep in mind that the dough will expand when you steam it. This can mean that a more detailed shape is much more difficult to achieve. I will show you later how the buns look after being steamed but you can probably imagine that it would be difficult to make the bunny look more lifelike, for example. I hope that gives you a clearer idea of what shapes to choose.”

Xiao Ming slightly nodded to indicate that he was finished and went on to shape the next part of the dough.

Qian Huang looked through the comments again only to find that one of Nin Sha had popped up again as if that guy had only been waiting for him to read out the messages so he could try to get some attention.

His brows twitched and he already wanted to ignore it when he remembered that Nin Sha was the reason they had had the luck of being mentioned by goddess Tao Jin. Well … even though this guy was shameless, he could probably do him a favor this once.

“Nin Sha is asking if you have a favorite shape.” His brows twitched again. God, just saying that out loud, he felt embarrassed.

The other viewers seemed to have a similar reaction as there was a lull in the chat before they started laughing and pointing at Nin Sha again.

Needless to say, the person in question couldn’t care less. Si Jin just continued to stare at the screen, taking note of the smallest movement from Xiao Ming. Learning to cook well for him and taking part in ‘Golden Spoon’ was one thing and he didn’t doubt that he could do it but he wanted more. If there was the chance to impress him more and show him his care, then he would grab that chance. Knowing more about what Xiao Ming liked was indispensable to that.

Xiao Ming felt that the question was a little odd but seeing that it came from Nin Sha, he justified it thinking that he was probably just trying to be nice. “Well, in terms of preparing it myself, there isn’t really a shape I especially enjoy. Instead, I like using and even trying different shapes. What I like is actually the variety.

“In terms of eating, I’m afraid I don’t have much of a chance to choose.” He glanced at Qian Huang and Li Shui, smiling cheekily. “If those two actually leave enough that I could choose among everything I made, I might go for something cute. There’s no special reason. But who doesn’t like looking at cute things?”

Si Jin raised his hands and replied without pressure.

Nin Sha: [I like looking at you for sure.]

Qian Huang facepalmed and didn’t dare to read anymore, even though the other viewers seemed to have fun trying to tease Nin Sha. It was just a pity that their victim seemed to have no self-awareness and wouldn’t respond no matter what they wrote. It really was as if he believed he and Xiao Ming were the only ones on the channel.

Hearing his Master’s question be asked, Si Shi Wu naturally couldn’t just ignore it. He gave a faint smile and motioned at the screen. “I have to admit that this is something I could actually be a little envious of. As a professional chef, even though people might come to my restaurant, ‘Si Shi Wu’, because they know it is mine and have certain expectations, there isn’t often the chance to speak and get to know them.

“It is a different matter for ‘Bright Yellow Water’. Just listen to this! One of their viewers who I assume must be following them for a long time is actually interested in their personal opinion instead of just their professional one. This is unthinkable in a restaurant.

“I don’t think it is bad though. Eating has more and more become a social event. We gather to mingle, to share in something we love, and have a good time. Treating everything around food — from the moment we choose the ingredients to the cooking to finally eating — with a feeling of connecting with intimate friends makes it very special. I think in this regard, streaming is a chance for a small revolution in how we see cooking and eating.”

Meanwhile, Xiao Ming finished shaping the last bun. “Now, the buns have all been prepared. They will need to rest a few moments and will then be steamed. For that, we will put them in the steamer already. I’ve set it up on the side so we can do that immediately.” He started to pick the small buns and then gently placed them in the steamer before placing the lid on top and putting it on the stove. “I’ll let it rest there so that I can immediately turn it on when it’s set enough.”

He smiled and then pulled over another bowl. “Since the figurative buns are finished so far, let’s get to the next dish: the sesame roll-ups. For these, I have already prepared the dough as well. Contrary to the buns, these don’t need to proof very long before shaping and will instead be set aside afterward. Thus, it will take quite some more time before they can be eaten.

“In any case, there is yet another difference to figurative buns and that is that we don’t have to shape them with as many details. Instead, they traditionally have the same shape which is what actually makes them a rollup.

“Since there isn’t any variation in doing these, I will quickly demonstrate it once for you so that these can be set aside to proof long enough.” While he said so, he already started to work, flattening the dough and scattering the sesame seeds on top before cutting it into pieces, and then shaping it into the traditional form. For the first one, he slowed down a little so the viewers had a better view.

“Actually, doing these isn’t too difficult if you have grasped the concept once. It could be that it’s a bit difficult if you have added too much of the sesame seeds so they’ll come out at the side. This is something that will also likely happen if your knife isn’t sharp enough.”

Si Shi Wu used that opportunity to chime in again on his channel. “Ah, yes, I could imagine that this is a mistake many beginners make: Your knives always need to be sharp. If you want to cook, you should always take care of your utensils. Otherwise, you’re just going to make your own life difficult.”

Meanwhile, Xiao Ming continued. “Since you’ve seen how it’s done now, I’ll speed up a bit for the others.” He demonstrated and then put the finished ones into the second steamer that he had prepared. When he was finished, he wiped off his hands again. “Now, as I said before, these will need to proof for quite some time so we can’t start steaming them yet. On the other hand, it should have been enough time for our figurative buns over there so we can turn on the stove.”

He put the second steamer to the side for now and then reached over to turn on the stove so the buns in the other one would start to steam. “The buns need roughly about twenty minutes so in the meantime, we can already continue. At this point, all the dishes are prepared as far as necessary. This means that the other dishes just need to be decorated and plated which brings us to the second option of making sure that you can present your dishes in an aesthetically-pleasing way.”

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