The reason why she settled on making steamed buns came from the fact that she had some basic experience making them before. In college, during one new year's celebration, she had assisted her roommates in creating some. Though she barely remembered what the steps were, she definitely had a general idea of how steamed buns, such a staple food, were created.
Besides that reason, Chef Hong, whose hometown was in the north, knew how to make steamed buns very well. Yujia ate some radish ones just yesterday. The guidance that she could receive from someone who made steamed buns weekly would definitely be superior than if she asked Chef Hong to teach her a dish that the chef didn't know well.
At least to Yujia, steamed buns were also one of the quicker, easier food items to make. One only had to make a dough and filling, and then fold the buns properly. After that, throwing them in a steam basket would finish it off. Altogether, compared to other dishes, this choice would be the easiest.
Chef Hong even revealed that the dough she was kneading when Yujia walked in was dough that she prepared for making steamed buns today.
With all of these reasons, Yujia came to the conclusion that steamed buns were the way to go.
Hearing her final decision, Chef Hong remarked, "Then today, you shall be my assistant."
"Sure." Yujia nodded. "Sounds good. Works for me."
Staring at her, a sudden smile creeped onto Chef Hong's face, as she spoke with a peculiar tone, "You better not regret it."
"Regret?" Yujia froze. "Why regret?"
"Oh… you'll see."
Without giving Yujia a proper answer, the chef quickly began. She started off by moving the dough she kneaded before to the side. Then, she yelled in the direction of one of the doors, "Ay, Old Wu!"
In a few seconds, a skinny man who Yujia had seen once or twice, carrying an ax over his shoulder, leaned in from the doorway. The rhythmic sound of chopping wood, which Yujia treated as background noise all this time, paused. This man, though as skinny as a twig, didn't look all that old, but rather about the same age as Chef Hong. He walked with a bit of a limp.
"What you need, Great Chef Hong?" he asked lazily, dragging his eyes from Chef Hong to Yujia and then back to the chef.
"Go slaughter a pig for me," she ordered, "We're making pork buns today!"
"Pork buns? I thought you were making sweet buns for breakfast…" Old Wu responded.
Chef Hong's face scrunched up, and she waved her hand dismissively. "Change of plans. We're doing both. Now hurry; go slaughter that pig, quick!"
"Alright, alright," Old Wu turned and slowly wobbled off, in what Yujia presumed was the direction of the pig pen.
Chef Hong turned back to Yujia, nodding her head to the right of Yujia. "Go fetch me the flour sack, then get a bucket of water from the well."
She then went under her station to get two large bowls and some other ingredients.
Yujia obediently went to where Chef Hong directed her too, finding a few large hemp sacks in that corner. She opened one of them, and the sight of flour greeted her eyes.
Retying the top of the sack, Yujia wrapped both of her arms around it, attempting to carry it back over to Chef Hong's station, a couple steps away.
But she couldn't lift it up.
Yujia's eyebrows tightened, her eyes glaring down at the sack.
Ah. This was pathetic.
To be unable to lift a single sack of flour…
Perhaps in her old life, she might be able to. But the Fourth Miss's body was still frail, and she truly couldn't muster up the strength to lift this entire bag of flour no matter how hard she tried.
Yujia's fingers curled up. She stopped her attempt at lifting the bag, opting for dragging it across the room.
This, too, took way too much effort than it was supposed to.
Seeing this, a young woman rushed to her, placing her hands on the sack that Yujia was dragging. "Do you need help with this?" she asked with a kind voice.
Yujia looked up, putting on a smile. She recognized this individual as well. Though she didn't know the name of the girl, who looked to be in her mid-twenties, she had seen her a few times in the kitchens. She usually worked with Chef Hong.
Did she need help? Of course she did.
Before she could answer anything though, the loud voice of Chef Hong interrupted from behind them, "Lili, don't you dare lend her a hand! She better drag it here all by herself."
"Auntie, why?" The young woman, Lili, raised her eyes up, countering.
Yujia turned around as well. Indeed— why, Chef Hong, why?
"I've long thought that this little disciple girlie has no muscles. If she wants to learn from such a great chef as me, then she better work for it."
Yujia's mouth dropped into a gape. This logic…
But okay. Manual labor was manual labor. She might as well get it over with.
Turning back to Lili, Yujia gratefully said, "Thank you. But I guess I'll have to drag this myself."
Lili loosened her hands. "Alright then."
Yujia tried to motivate herself with the idea that perhaps through dragging flour around, she could build those muscles that Chef Hong spoke about. It was definitely crucial to strengthen the body she had right now, which couldn't even run a few steps before going completely out of breath.
A few moments of intense dragging later, Yujia finally dumped the sack of flour at Chef Hong's counter. In an easy sweep, Chef Hong grabbed the sack from her, pulling it up to the counter effortlessly.
Yujia stared at the chef's strong arms, then back at her own weak twigs.
Ah. Life seemed a bit unfair at times.
Chef Hong noticed her staring, then waved her hand. "What are you staring at? Go fetch that bucket of water for me. Do you want this dough made or not?"
Yujia wiped at the sweat beading at her head and wordlessly went off in the direction of the well.
Only five minutes in, and she was already exhausted.
But it was okay! Yujia attempted to cheer herself up with the idea that this was a workout. She would be fine. She was just building muscles, and learning how to make steamed buns as she did so.
It wasn't manual labor! It was a workout!
Positive thinking! That was the way to go.
"Got that bucket of water? Now go, fetch me some eggs."
"Did Old Wu finish butchering that pig yet? Go check and grab that pig back for me if he's done. It might be the weight of four sacks of flour, but I believe that you can do it."
"Hm, we might need another bucket of water. Fetch that for me, will you?"
"Chop this pork for me. The knife might be a bit heavy, but heavy knives do the trick, no?"
"Go dig for ginger, scallion, and cabbage once you're done with that chopping. Why are you the one doing it? Because I'm an old woman; having my back hunched over for half an hour won't be any good. You're a young little girl; what are you complaining about?"
"This fire is running a bit low. Does Old Wu have any more wood? No? Well, that's a surprise. Maybe you should try chopping some yourself. If there's no fire, there's no steamed buns."
"Ah, we might need water again. Get two buckets this time?"
By the end of the day, or around late noon, Yujia had done as much manual labor— no, she was not considering it as a workout anymore— as she could possibly do.
She finally comprehended what Chef Hong meant by "regret".
All along, by assistant, Chef Hong meant "manual laborer". If Yujia wasn't nineteen physically, she could possibly even consider this child labor! Screw all of that positive thinking.
Her limbs were sore, her back was sore, and she was sweating all throughout. The rising heat of the day didn't seem to help either.
It didn't help that the Fourth Miss had such a weak body with absolutely zero muscles. It didn't help that no one was allowed to lend a single hand without Chef Hong yelling at them to stop. None of this helped.
But in between those moments of physical labor, she had worked on folding the steamed buns to have the perfect shape. She had done a bit of actual cooking, like kneading the dough, chopping the ingredients, and shaping the buns. The proudest thing that she had done was shaping and folding the steamed buns to have their classic shape. She had done most of the work in that step after learning how to fold them with Chef Hong.
She poured as much effort as she possibly could.
And she had to admit that she did learn. She learned a lot more by being part of the entire process of making steamed buns from scratch— from getting the ingredients fresh from the source, fetching everything by hand— than she would ever if she was just handed some premade filling and dough.
As much as Yujia hated to admit it, she could see why Chef Hong made her do all the things she had to do. It wasn't manual labor, nor was it a workout. It was just a part of the process. Find authorized novels in romanticlovebooks，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.romanticlovebooks.com for visiting.
So when Yujia lifted that bamboo basket lid, greeting her eyes with a perfect sight— curls of steam rising off of cream-colored buns— she couldn't stop an exhausted but proud smile from spreading across her lips.
Yujia settled on making two things: salty steamed buns and sweet steamed buns. Within the salty steamed buns, there would be a meat filling, while in the sweet buns, it would be a black sesame filling.