OCN C18 To Guide the Eye

“The last dish that is left is the coconut milk jellies. You have probably seen these before. So you will also know that they are just as plain in appearance as the durian pudding. In fact, since they are white they might seem even more unassuming at first glance. So I think that it would be nice to add a bit of color.”

He turned around, opened the fridge, and took out yet another tray. The jelly was spread out in one layer, not yet cut into pieces. Xiao Ming put it down on the table and gave Li Shui a second to give the audience a better view before he started to explain his thoughts.

“So, these coconut milk jellies still have to be cut into their final form before we can arrange them. My idea for this part is to do several different arrangements to give you an idea of just how varied your options are. You should keep in mind though that even if I demonstrate several methods to go about this, they will never be the only ones. There might be some go-to options for the plating of dishes but that doesn’t mean that you can’t try new options. In my eyes, the plating is one of the places where you can really use your creativity to its fullest.”

Over on the other channel, Si Shi Wu nodded once again. “I really like this idea of his as well. It gives a good overview but still encourages everyone to come up with their own ideas. I wonder what exactly he is going to show.”

He fell quiet and just watched as Xiao Ming picked up a knife and started to cut the jelly and finally transferred the pieces over to a couple of smaller plates that he had already put to the side before.

The plates in question were rather plain, of a slightly darker color but without any further pattern. Motioning at them, Xiao Ming went on to explain. “For this, I’m going to choose slightly darker plates because the color contrasts nicely with the white jellies.

“Now, I’ve cut the jellies in a diamond shape. For the first plate, I think it would look quite nice to make a bigger shape out of them. For example, we could place them in a way so that the smaller diamonds will make up one big diamond.” He picked up four of the jellies and put them on the first plate.

Li Shui immediately zoomed in, giving the audience a better look.

“Now, if we go about it this way, the jellies are rather close together. A viewer might pay more attention to the whole shape rather than the individual parts. If you want to put more emphasis on the individual pieces, you could put them further apart. This way, there also won’t be such a heavy focus on the center of the plate.” Once again, Xiao Ming demonstrated what he meant by putting four of the jellies on the second plate.

“While the arrangement on the first plate makes up a new shape and focuses on the middle and the second one looks a bit arbitrary in where the jellies are placed, you could also play around with direction. For example, if your plate is a rectangle, you could place them in a straight line from one side to the other or even organize them around the middle axis by putting them alternatingly a little more to one side or the other.”

He pulled the last two plates toward him and then motioned at the middle. “I’m not going to measure exactly where the middle is and will just eyeball it.” Saying so, he picked up the first jelly piece and then placed it toward the top of the plate, roughly in the middle. Then, he first placed the other jellies on that plate in a straight line before switching to the other plate and following the steps he had just talked about.

Li Shui zoomed in on the two plates one after the other and then zoomed out again, giving the audience an overview of the four ways that Xiao Ming had suggested.

“Well, these are just four ways that I have come up with to arrange these jellies. Other than this, you could naturally also stack them up similar to how we have done it with the deep-fried milk. For that, I probably wouldn’t cut them into a diamond shape though because it will not be as stable as it could be if you used rectangles or maybe small dice.”

Xiao Ming glanced at Qian Huang to see if there had been any question but his assistant shook his head. He did raise a hand though to signal Xiao Ming to let him talk for a moment.

“If you’re going to give plating your own jellies or maybe plating another dish a try, we would love to see what you have come up with. So don’t forget to take a photo and show us on Weibo.”

Xiao Ming nodded. “Right. I’m sure there would be many more variations. Maybe we could feature a few in the next stream?” He glanced at Qian Huang, not quite sure if this was actually a good idea. They hadn’t talked about this before. He had just suddenly thought about it but he felt that it would be nice to include everyone’s efforts just like how they had talked about Nin Sha cutting up the ten-thousand onions before.

Thinking of that, he couldn’t help but become a little distracted. Nin Sha hadn’t seemed to say much today. Who knew what he was up to? Well, maybe this topic wasn’t quite to his liking.

Qian Huang lightly cleared his throat when he saw that Xiao Ming was getting distracted. “I guess that would be nice. We could either put a bit of time aside at the beginning for you to go over them or maybe at the end while eating. What do you think?”

Xiao Ming was pulled out of his thoughts and hurriedly nodded. “Yes, yes, let’s do it that way. I’m really looking forward to everyone’s creations!” He smiled brightly, prompting a certain ninja to finally pipe up in the chat again.

Nin Sha: [If you are looking forward to it, then I will make coconut milk jellies for you, Xiao Ming.]

As usual, his comment was followed by laughter and people complaining about his shamelessness.

Qian Huang also saw the comment. His brows twitched but he didn’t read it out loud. Even if he wanted to suck up to him for being friends with the husband of the national goddess Tao Jin, there were boundaries as to how far he’d go. Well, maybe he’d reconsider if this guy brought in even more viewers …

Glancing at the number of viewers that had risen to an all-time high during today’s stream, Qian Huang couldn’t help but feel satisfied.

Xiao Ming who had no idea what was happening in the comment section just carried on. “Now, while the contrast between the jellies and the plate is quite nice just like this already, you might feel that it is lacking a certain highlight. To change this, we could just add another ingredient on top of the jellies to decorate them like we did before with the durian pudding but I was thinking of maybe using another method. For this, I’ve made a fruit sauce which is called Coulis.”

He turned to the fridge and took out a bowl, holding it into the camera. “As you can see, it is bright red. It’s made from currant and thus a little sour. Some people prefer something sweet like caramel with these jellies but personally, I felt that since we already have several sweet dishes today, it would be a little much. So I thought that having something sour to go with it as a contrast would be a nice change. Also, with the bright red added to the black-and-white, this’ll make for a stunning picture.”

Back in the other channel, Si Shi Wu gave an appreciative hum. “I really like this. You can see that he is paying a lot of attention to details. With this, he had added yet another way of how to garnish dishes and since he made four displays of the jellies, he can also present four different ways to spread the Coulis. He can even relate the way he does this to the different arrangements he made before.

“The only thing I would critique here is adding the Coulis now instead of before plating the jellies. This will make some ways of using it impossible and might also make it more difficult for everyone to follow. Although, I can see why he would do it if we look at how the rest of the stream played out so far.”

Si Shi Wu fell silent again with that. Actually, he didn’t really see anything negative about this. Even though there were some ways to spread the sauce before putting the jellies on the plate, that wasn’t really important. Anyway, Young Master Xiao could only present four different ways. But he had to say something that could be seen as a negative point every now and then or it would look like he had been paid for this. That definitely wasn’t the impression they wanted to leave people with.

On the other hand, Xiao Ming took out a spoon and stirred the sauce before motioning at the first plate. “Now, I will just do this with a spoon. There are other options like using brushes, a spatula, or maybe knives but for now, this will be enough. When you try this, make sure that you don’t use too much of the sauce and pay attention so you won’t accidentally spill some of it.

“Now, let’s get right into it. Of course, there are also several ways of how to use the sauce. In general, the way you spread it should always compliment the rest of the plating. You can have the sauce below a component of a dish, next to it, or even on top of it and the options of how to spread it are also very varied.

“First, let’s look at our plate with the big diamond shape again.” Xiao Ming pulled it closer to himself and Li Shui zoomed in on it. “With this shape, there is a clear focus on the center of the plate. I think it would be nice to keep this focus so I will use the sauce to add to it and actually make the viewers’ gaze more focus on this part.”

He swung the spoon and the sauce turned into a bright red semi-circle around the white diamond. It really looked as if Xiao Ming had framed the dish.

Li Shui secretly wiped his forehead behind the camera. Thankfully, he knew Xiao Ming so well and had seen him cook often. If he hadn’t zoomed in, the viewers likely wouldn’t have been able to follow that gesture. He gave the plate a close-up before he zoomed out again for Xiao Ming’s explanation.

“Now, the circular shape compliments the diamond shape and guides the eye. Seeing this, you might even think of a sparkling diamond.” He winked at that but then turned to the second plate again. “With the second plate, it seems a bit more difficult. The jellies are distributed with more free space between them and there isn’t a clear point to put a focus on.

“In this case, we could try to match the jellies with some spots of sauce. What we have to keep in mind though is that the sauce is a bright red which usually attracts the eye more than the jellies’ white color. That means that too much of the sauce would actually result in taking attention away from the main part of the dish. This should not be the case. The sauce is there to aid in making this into a compelling dish. It can’t detract from the main part of it.”

He put the spoon back into the bowl with the sauce and then motioned at two spots between the jellies. “We could maybe put two dollops here and here. Since there are less they form a bit of a highlight without being too dominating.”

Saying so, he placed a bit of the sauce in the places he had specified and used the spoon to turn them into a flat and round shape.

Once again, Li Shui gave the plate a close-up before zooming out again. At the same time, he couldn’t help but gulp. There were so many dishes today but he hadn’t gotten a single one to eat yet. This was the last one, right? He should be able to taste them soon?

Xiao Ming smiled at the camera almost as if he had noticed what was going through his head but he just continued as if nothing had happened. “Now, there are two plates left both of which put an emphasis on the middle axis of the arrangement. Especially with our third plate which has a straight line, there is once again a clear focus. Thus, I want to use the sauce to support that. In this case, I think a few straight lines next to this one would be nice. If you make several of them that get shorter toward the side of the dish, it will guide the eye toward the middle of the plate where the jellies form the biggest of lines even if it is only imagined.”

Demonstrating again, he quickly moved onto the last plate. “Now, with this plate, it is a bit more difficult. The line these jellies form isn’t straight. Instead, it would be kind of wavy or jagged if you tried to link them. This doesn’t give a clear focus like the first or third plate and is instead more similar to the arrangement on the second plate. Thus, we will need some creativity to tackle this.” He looked at the plate as if he was thinking of what to do with it. Then, he put the spoon back into the bowl, once again taking a bit of the sauce.

In fact, Xiao Ming was really thinking about it. He wanted to make sure that he showed different options. There were a few he could think of for this plate but he didn’t want to make it boring. Finally, he gave a faint hum.

“I think for this one, let’s have a bit of fun.” He smiled at the camera mischievously and then just raised the spoon, waving it down fast and creating a splotch of red between the white jellies. He smiled faintly and repeated the action another two times before he put the spoon away.

“Now, I have chosen this approach because the splotches are irregular. I think this fits the jellies quite well because while they don’t form a straight line, they are still regular. So the splotches are a contrast to the jellies here. On the other hand, even between them is a regularity in how they are approximately the same distance from each other. Additionally, the splotches put the focus back into the middle of the plate, thus grounding the eye once again.

“I think this is an important lesson: The garnishes that we use to decorate our dishes like the ingredients from the pudding or the sauce for the jellies are there to aid our perception of the dish. They guide the eye, they add highlights, and can give the dish a new dimension.”

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