Chapter 268: The Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar
Translator: E.3.3. Editor: Vermillion
"So, which dish did you find unsatisfying?"
Bu Fang's tone was very calm. His glance landed on the slightly chubby man, without any hint of overbearingness. It felt like a question he put forward quite at ease.
The chubby elder was taken aback. A smile quickly flashed across his face as he gazed at Bu Fang with sparkling eyes, "So, you must be the owner of this restaurant. I have long heard of your name. Seeing you today reminds me of the saying that the youthful can make great heroes."
"I am merely a chef, far from a hero." Bu Fang waved his hands and shrugged it off. This old man seemed amiable enough, not like one looking for trouble at all.
Bu Fang pulled over a chair and sat right across from the chubby elder. There were three dishes before the elder-Egg-Fried Rice, Lees Fish, and Sweet 'n' Sour Ribs.
All three dishes had been touched. Half of the Egg-Fried Rice was gone, the Lees Fish had been poked a few times, but only one or two pieces of the Sweet 'n' Sour Ribs have been eaten.
"Heh heh, it's quite a coincidence. This old fellow also happens to be a chef. I've heard that Owner Bu's dishes are incredibly delicious and thus travelled thousands of miles to come here. Never did I expect the dishes to be so below expectations. Honestly, I'm slightly disappointed." The elder looked disillusioned as he shook his head.
Ouyang Xiaoyi, who stood behind Bu Fang, curled her lips. She obviously thought this old man was here to pick a quarrel.
To both the elder and Ouyang Xiaoyi's surprise, Bu Fang actually nodded solemnly. He converged a ball of true energy in his hands and formed a pair of chopsticks. Then, he picked up a piece of Sweet 'n' Sour Ribs, and placed it into his mouth.
After chewing for a while, Bu Fang knitted his brows into a frown.
"There are many flaws in this Sweet 'n' Sour Ribs. But then again, one's cooking can only improve through tireless practice. Nobody can make the perfect dish right from the start, right?" Bu Fang explained earnestly. He dissolved the true energy chopsticks and peered toward the elder.
The old man was somewhat taken aback, and then burst into a hearty laugh. Even his eyes squinted into a thin slit.
"Yes, Owner Bu speaks with reason. It turns out this old fellow has been too inflexible."
The corners of Bu Fang's mouth curled.
"I come from the Hundred Thousand Mountains. Ever since that lassie Ye tasted your gourmet delicacies, she went on and on about it beside my ears. I finally grew tired of all her nagging and sneaked away from home. I though that while I'm at it, I might as well come try Owner Bu's cooking myself. Prior to this conversation, I was not convinced of your talent. Yet after Owner Bu's words, I've finally come around." The elder cackled with glee. With the wave of a hand, a yellow earthen-toned gourd materialized.
"Owner Bu, this is a treasure of mine. I'm wondering if it could be exchanged for a meal made with Owner Bu's own hands?" The old man laughed. As he shook the yellow earthen-colored gourd, the nectar inside swashed against its vessel.
Hun? Bu Fang paused for a moment and studied the gourd within the elder's hand.
The old man broke into a wide smile and pulled off the lid of the gourd. As the plug popped off, a rich, citric aroma surged out. This sharp sourness was mixed with a particular trace of sweetness, tugging at one's heartstrings.
Bu Fang's heart, which was utterly unaffected before, now suddenly shuddered. His gaze fixated on the gourd as he drew in quick breaths.
The elder was satisfied to see Bu Fang's startled expression. Nobody could keep their cool once smelling his specially-made vinegar.
"Lassie, get us a saucer here." The elder simpered at Ouyang Xiaoyi and instructed.
Ouyang Xiaoyi couldn't help but glare her eyes. Despite so, she still walked back to the kitchen window and asked Xiao Xiaolong, who was busy inside, for a saucer.
"Oh hey, Owner Bu is back?!"
Not after long, Xiao Xiaolong and Yu Fu both emerged from the kitchen. The two of them looked at Bu Fang excitedly. Yu Fu still seemed rather bashful whereas Xiao Xiaolong couldn't stop chuckling.
Ouyang Xiaoyi handed the saucer to the elder, and humphed with a twitched nose.
The old man smiled softly, oblivious to Ouyang Xiaoyi's attitude. He set the saucer on the table and carefully poured a little vinegar from his gourd.
Bu Fang's heart trembled, his eyes glued to the rim of the gourd.
A thick stream of blackish red hued vinegar streamed out of the gourd's mouth. It was accompanied by peculiar waves of spirit energy, in addition to that burst of sourness.
Ouyang Xiaoyi, and everyone nearby, also detected this scent. The insides of their mouths began to numb as they salivated at a faster speed.
Bu Fang's eyes lit up. As he drew in a deep breath, the tart flavor crawled up his nostrils, tingling his entire nose with a sharp acidic sensation. Yet, at the same time, it was all incredibly gratifying.
"If I didn't guess wrong, this should be a type of fruit vinegar!" Bu Fang observed.
The elder filled the saucer with this vinegar and then retracted his gourd. After making sure it was safely plugged, he waved his hands, causing the gourd to disappear.
"Precisely correct. Owner Bu has got sharp eyes. This is a creation of mine, the 'Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar', something that this old fellow has always taken pride in." The elder waved at this saucer of vinegar and pushed it directly in front of Bu Fang.
Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar, Bu Fang's heart quivered. It was most likely that this Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar was not brewed by any ordinary spirit fruit. Seeing the fluctuations of the spirit energy and its rich sour flavor, he speculated that this may be the product of eight pieces of seventh grade spirit fruits.
However, Bu Fang couldn't be so sure yet. He cautiously picked up the saucer and brought it closer to his lips. Suddenly, the critic scent exploded in the air near him, bringing with it a whiff of sweetness.
For a chef, condiments like vinegar, wine, or sauce were highly important. An exceptional serving of vinegar could add a magical touch to the dish, whereas top quality wine could give it a finer aroma.
He took a small sip of the Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar, and the sourness immediately drilled through his tongue. Its critic scent bloomed within his mouth and danced on his tastebuds. This was a sensation that covered his body with goosebumps. Yet, after the acidity faded, what took over was a sweetness that refreshed his heart.
That Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar felt like a cool creek trickling through his body, prompting him to close his eyes and truly savor its delicate taste. This was a flavor that lingered in both his mouth and heart for a long time.
Bu Fang's face was covered with little beads of sweat. The zesty tang of the fruit vinegar caused him to perspire involuntarily.
"Yes! Excellent vinegar!" Bu Fang fluttered open his eyelids and praised it a second time. This was truly the first time he had tasted such spectacular fruit vinegar.
"Hehe, of course. This Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar took this old fellow tens of years to brew. Eight different servings of the vinegar respectively rested in barrels made with the bark of eight spirit fruit trees. Every year, the fruit vinegar within each barrel would switch places and be intermixed with each other while I incessantly nourish it with my own spirit energy. Given all of this, it'll actually be difficult to end up with a disappointing end product!" The elder was very pleased with himself, curling his beard as he introduced his masterpiece. He was evidently confortable with giving away the procedures, since many more intricate steps were needed to truly brew this vinegar.
Bu Fang was still immersed in the aftertaste, but didn't ask for any more. Fruit vinegars should only be savored a sip at a time. Too much all at once did no good.
Pondering over the mixture of sweetness and sourness in his mouth, Bu Fang curled his lips. He ogled the elder, with his eyes shining brighter and brighter. Mind you, this was the kind of stare that sent shivers down the latter's body.
"Sir, you mentioned you wished to try my cooking? I've been experimenting with a new dish lately and have been short of a good ingredient. Once I tasted your Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar, I honestly could not contain my enthusiasm for it." Bu Fang uttered slowly.
The chubby elder's eyes widened. What did Bu Fang mean by this? Could it be he wanted to use his fruit vinegar to cook dishes?
"Owner Bu... this old fellow's vinegar is very precious. Allowing you to taste it once is already a generous move. I cannot offer it to you in bulk!" He spent years brewing this vinegar, and to be honest, there wasn't that much in volume. He simply couldn't afford to have Bu Fang squander it on dishes.
Bu Fang merely shook his head, stood up from his seat, and instructed Yu Fu to get another saucer from the kitchen.
Bu Fang placed the saucer before the elder and reassured him solemnly: "I don't need much, just a small saucer. If my new dish doesn't suit your taste, or turns out unworthy of your Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar... then I am willing to personally cook every dish there is in this restaurant for you... free of charge."
The old man was dumbstruck. Ouyang Xiaoyi, Xiao Xiaolong, and Yu Fu, all standing beside Bu Fang, also gaped with open mouths.
"Owner Bu... oh... that is too much!" The elder's eyes lit up. With a smile, he waved his hand and summoned the gourd. Then, he poured a little fruit vinegar into the saucer.
Too much my ass... Bu Fang took over this saucer of Eight Spirit Fruit Vinegar, twitched the corners of his mouth, and took in a deep breath.
"Please wait momentarily."
Afterwards, Bu Fang returned to the kitchen with the fruit vinegar, ready to cook his new dish.