# 169. Making a Simplified Chicken Bouillon The Ministry of Law Two jailors opened the prison door, and struck the bars with their batons, shouting: “Sirs, you’re free to go.” As they shouted, the jailors felt happy for themselves, that they kept to the rules. Every job has its rules, and one of the biggest unspoken rules for a jailor was: do not anger martial artists… unless they were death row prisoners, who had had their cultivation stripped from them. And as for these high rank martial artists, they could turn their fortunes at the drop of a hat. In front of their eyes was one perfect example. Upon hearing the jailors’ words, the first reaction of the Nightwatchers was that His Majesty had already issued his imperial sentence. The reason they were freed was that his goal had already been reached. However, leaving the jail, they were told they could sign out, and retrieve their uniforms and gongs. The Nightwatchers were very familiar with this process, it meant that they were found not guilty, and furthermore could return to their offices. “His Majesty has pardoned us? That can’t be it…” someone muttered. The Nightwatchers exchanged glances. seeing each other’s confused looks. Everyone felt rather lost. Their visits to jail was clearly a result of party conflict, and as experienced Nightwatchers they knew well the treachery and toxicity of party politics; given the opportunity one side will squeeze the other side all the way to the death, and would never let someone off so lightly. *Duke Wei sacrificed something to get us out of the Ministry of Law…* Jiang Lyuzhong quickly came to a hypothesis, and looked at the three Gold Gongs beside him. They silently exchanged glances, and saw each other all had similar thoughts. For a moment their hearts all felt heavy, but then welled up with emotion and loyalty towards Wei Yuan, secretly thanking his protection. Retrieving their uniforms, arms, and other items, the Nightwatchers silently left the Ministry of Law, and only on the road back to their constabulary did they have a feeling of joy of overcoming the storm. From the initial silence, they burst into excited conversation, someone even started going around their colleagues, talking about going to the Jiaofangsi again. The Gold Gongs looked at him, he was a squint-eyed, thin man, and had an unctuous and devious aura. “Song Tingfeng, you’ve just gotten out of jail, and you already want to get into trouble.” A Bronze Gong beside him said disapprovingly. “What do you know, my boss is squeaky clean and yet he also got arrested, no matter if you’re corrupt or not, they’ll get ya anyway. The only thing that matters is if the people above us want to get you ot not.” That squint-eyed Bronze Gong was overflowing with words. *He’s not dumb…* the Gold Gongs thought. “Well if Xu Ningyan wants to go, then we’ll go.” Jiang Lyuzhong’s eyes lit up, as he said to his colleagues with a laugh: “Ningyan is the Jiaofangsi’s pet, the oirans fight after him. Earlier when Yang Yan and I took them to the Jiaofangsi for drinks, what a lad… apart from Fuxiang, there were four other oirans present.” Under the questioning gazes of the other three Gold Gongs, the carefree feeling Jiang Lyuzhong rubbed the corners of of his eyes, laughing: “The oirans of the Jiaofangsi certainly live up to their name, it made me feel like I was young again.” The three Gold Gongs could not hide their admiration. Even though none of them lacked in women, the Jiaofangsi’s orians were not available for the Gold Gongs to enjoy with abandon. This was not to say that the Gold Gongs lacked influence, but rather the Jiaofangsi was controlled by the ministry of Rites, the power of the Nightwatchers did not work there. The Gold Gongs could also could not demand an oiran serve them during drinking games — they would most certainly be refused. And in that case they couldn’t cause a ruckus, because the Ministry of Rites would love them to cause a scene. Returning to the constabulary, the four Gold Gongs went first to the Tower of Noble Spirit, to hear Wei Yuan’s teachings and express their loyalty. “Good, we can use this opportunity to rid the constabulary of its malignant trends, control well your subordinates.” Wei Yuan said. The four Gold Gongs lowered their heads, and heeded his command. Wei Yuan nodded in satisfaction, “The reason you were able to get out this time was not because of me, you need to thank someone else.” *Someone else? His Majesty was feeling especially gracious that day?* The four Gold Gongs began guessing. “It’s Xu Qi’an.” Wei Yuan said. *Xu Qi’an?* This answer caught the four Gold Gongs off guard, to the point that they were somewhat in disbelief. Jiang Lyuzhong straightened his back, his voice deferent, “Duke Wei, what happened when we were in jail?” Wei Yuan told them about the case involving the Minister of Industry and the Church of the Warlock God, especially emphasising the importance of Xu Qi’an within the case. The four Gold Gongs left the Tower of Noble Spirit. Jiang Lyuzhong’s face was gloomy, his emotions low. Another Gold Gong mocked him: “Jealous that that Bronze Gong continuously gets merit?” Jiang Lyuzhong shook his head, closing his sharp eyes, sighing, “Back then I should have fought to the death with Yang Yan to get Xu Qi’an under my command.” “Bronze Gong Xu is certainly a rare prodigy, only his strength is a bit lacking.” “What do you know, you don’t even know that he…” Jiang Lyuzhong suddenly shut his mouth. “Mn?” The three Gold Gongs looked back at him. “Can’t say, can’t say.” Jiang Lyuzhong shook his head. “Oy, Jiang, are you learning from the brothel whores, taking your clothes off and shaking your arse just to lead us on.” “Say it, what’s up with that Bronze Gong? It’s strange isn’t it, Wei Yuan has taken too much of a liking to him.” “If you want to know, go ask Wei Yuan.” No matter how much the other three Gold Gongs tried, Jiang Lyuzhong just wouldn’t talk. … The next day, after greeting Second Uncle, Xu Qi’an immediately went to the estate broker and bought the haunted house. In reality, Uncle Xu wanted to look a bit longer, but Auntie and Lingyue were already quite happy with the house — except the ghost in the well of course, but they heeded the words given by the master of the house: If the Sitianjian people had looked at it, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Auntie and Lingyue were fully satisfied by that. The brokers were rather in admiration of Xu Qi’an’s headstrongness, and were even somewhat embarrassed at the state of the house, and especially hired people to clean it beforehand. After dinner, Xu Qi’an asked Xu Pingzhi: “Uncle, the house has sat uninhabited for quite a few years. That day when we went to look at it, the building was sturdy and stable, but some of the windows and doors were showing signs of rot. Xu Pingzhi thought for a while, saying: “Half a month should be enough.” *Half a month? We’re not getting any master craftwork, why do we need that much time…* Xu Qi’an said: let’s just hire some craftsmen from the outer city, then get them onto shifts for the entire day, this way it should be done within a week. Xu Pingzhi hesitated for a moment: “Why the outer city, the craftsmanship of the inner city is much better.” “Because the craftsmen of the outer city are cheaper. Also, they don’t know the house is haunted, they can happily live inside.” *You’re really unscrupulous…* the whole family thought. The task of hiring carpenters was given to Xu Pingzhi, Xu Qi’an was still wet behind the years, and lacked the experience to do it properly. Uncle Xu was old and experienced with the capital, he was the most reliable for the job. … This rest day, Xu Qi’an rode his horse to the market, and from a few sellers whom he had built good relations with purchased two wicker baskets of shiitake mushrooms. With this, he planned to honour two promises that he had made: One, to help Chu Caiwei advance to a sixth rank Arcanist; Two, to make noodles for her to eat. His goal was very clear: to make a simplified version of chicken boullion. In the past, Xu Qi’an had seen a video made by a famous cooking content creator — not one of those trash ones, someone that actually does the real thing. This creator collected many different ancient recipes, and followed them to cook various ancient dishes, yet he discovered that these ancient recipes weren’t actually as delicious as he had hoped. In the end he found out that the biggest difference between modern and ancient recipes was not the cooking methods, but rather the development and availability of seasonings. After coming to this world, Xu Qi’an felt in much agreement with this perspective. Whilst the cooking skills of the lead chef of Guiyuelou is excellent, normal family home cooking just felt rather bland, even if the Xu family always had a supply of meat stock. “The appearance of MSG was a great culinary revolution in human history…” Xu Qi’an threw the two baskets of shiitake into a large pot to soak. Afterwards, he vaulted the wall into the main dwelling, nicked an old hen and slaughtered it, putting the chicken on the small stove to stew. He then washed the now rehydrated mushrooms, drained them, and then threw them into a different pot to stew. Xu Qi’an didn’t plan to make MSG, because he lacked the relevant knowledge and experience. He only knew that Monosodium Glutamate itself could be extracted for fermenting grains, or kelp. *…though isn’t the result of fermenting grain alcohol?* Xu Qi’an muttered internally. As for kelp this idea was struck off immediately. The reason was simple: the costs were too great. The Capital of Feng was situated in the central plains, far from the sea. Even though there were trade from the sea through the rivers, ocean products in the capital were still luxuries limited to the purview of aristocrats and wealthy merchants. *If I wanted to use kelp to make MSG, I’d need so much seaweed that even bankrupting the entire family would get me hardly any.* Thus Xu Qi’an decided to use chicken bouillon to replace MSG. When he was younger, they had used MSG, but one day, Totole Chicken Bouillon[^1] arrived to their household, and mother never used plain MSG again. He was curious however, as to how this tub of yellowish looking grains could come to replace MSG, and thus looked carefully at the label. The main ingredient in this chicken bouillon was guanosine monophosphate, or guanylic acid, a chemical that could rival monosodium glutamate in amplifying the umami in foods. And this guanyic acid occurred naturally in large amounts in shiitake mushrooms. Time passed second by second, and several times the pots were refilled with water. The mushrooms and chicken were slowly boiled softer and softer, and a unique savoury smell filled the small kitchen. Xu Qi’an took the shiitake out of the water, leaving a thick liquid in the pot. The cooked shiitake were laid out onto a cheese cloth, and he squeezed them tightly, extracting every last drop of the thick mushroom broth. After a few rounds of this, the shiitake in the cloth were as dry as a bone, looking like they had been emptied of all vitality. Afterwards he combined the concentrated chicken broth with the mushroom stock, and also crushed the boiled chicken meat and bones into a paste, combining it well with the liquid. Then, he waited until the liquid had dried off, leaving only the residue, and then grinded the solid into a powder. Thus, his simplified version of chicken bouillon was complete. After finishing everything, Xu Qi’an looked at the sky — it was already dusk. At this time, the cooks would be busy making dinner, it was perfect opportunity for him to test his invention, the pride of a 21st century underachieving student. He would get feedback from uncle and auntie. *I have a feeling, that tonight Xu Lingyin will eat ten bowls…* The corners of Xu Qi’an’s mouth curled, as with a light heart he made some into a thick stock, and took it over into the main house. --- [^1]: 太太乐 “tai tai le”; you can find it at most Asian importers.