An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wushi zhongkui lu 吳氏中饋錄

Mar 14, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Wushi zhongkui lu 吳氏中饋錄 "The Wu family's cookbook", also called Pujiang Wushi zhongkui lu 浦江吳氏中饋錄 or briefly Zhongkuilu 中饋錄, is a text with recipes of dishes from the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The Wu family lived in Pujiang 浦江 (today's Yiwu 義烏, Zhejiang). In ancient times, women who managed the kitchen of large households were referred to as zhongkui 中饋. Some scholars therefore believe that the book was written by a woman specializing in cooking, and the title can thus be translated as "Madam Wu's cookbook".

The contents of the book are divided into three categories, namely meat and fish dishes (fuzha 脯鮓), vegetable preparations (zhishu 製蔬), and sweets (tianshi 甜食), with more than 70 recipes listed in total.

For meat dishes, there are over 20 dishes such as crab "sashimi" (xie sheng 蟹生), grilled fish (jiu yu 炙魚), roast chicken (lubei ji 爐焙雞), "abacus" pork stripes (suantiao bazi 算條巴子), clam preserve (cheng zha 蟶鮓), drunken crab (zui xie 醉蟹), half-steamed meat (rou sheng 肉生), steamed mayfish (zheng shiyu 蒸鰣魚) or siskin preserve (huangque zha 黃雀鮓).

Vegetable preparations include 39 vegetarian dishes like sweet-steamed eggplant (tangzheng qie 糖蒸茄), three-cooked melon (sanzhu gua 三煮瓜), carrot preserve (hu luobo zha 胡蘿蔔鮓), mixed vegetables (saban hecai 撒拌和菜), "quail" eggplant (anchun qie 鵪鶉茄), fried leeks (baoji 暴齏), preserve of zizania tips (jiaobai zha 茭白鮓), sweet-and-sour eggplant (tangcu qie 糖醋茄), stuffed cucumbers (nianggua 釀瓜) or pickled radish (zao luobo 糟蘿蔔).

Sweet treats include 15 pastries and snacks such as snowflake pastry (xuehua su 雪花酥), fried and filled pastry (youjia'er 油{食夾}兒), five-spice cakes (wuxiang gao 五香糕), jade-pouring lung (yuguan fei 玉灌肺), sweet biscuits (tangbaocui 糖薄脆), sweet wontons (hundun 餛飩) or sugared torreya nuts (tang fei 糖榧).

Detailed and easily understandable descriptions are provided for each recipe, including the selection of ingredients, processing, seasoning, and cooking methods.

Quotation 1. Examples of dishes from the Wushi zhongkui lu 吳氏中饋錄
蒸鰣魚 Steamed mayfish
鰣魚去腸不去鱗,用布拭去血水,放蕩籮內,以花椒、砂仁、醬擂碎、水、酒、蔥拌勻,其味和,蒸之。去鱗,供食。 Remove the catfish's intestines but leave the scales. Wipe off the blood with cloth, put it in a steaming basket, mix with grounded Sichuan pepper, cardamom, soy sauce, add water, wine, and a scoop of finely cut scallions, and steam it until done. Remove the scales before serving.
糖薄脆 Sweet biscuits
白糖1斤4兩,清油1斤4兩,水2碗,白面5斤,加酥油、椒油、水少許,搜和成劑,搟薄,如酒盅大,上用去皮芝麻撒勻,入爐燒熟,食之香脆。 Take 1 jin (see weights and measures) and 4 liang of white sugar, 1 jin and 4 liang of vegetable oil, 2 bowls of water, 5 jin of white flour, add butter, peppered oil, and a little water, mix into a dough, roll it thin, the size of a wine cup, sprinkle evenly with peeled sesame seeds on top, and bake until crispy.

Because the quantities of ingredients and preparation instructions are clear and straightforward, making them easy to replicate, the majority of these varieties have been adapted by later cookbooks like Yi Ya yiyi 易牙遺意, Yinzhuan fushi jian 飲饌服食箋 or Shixian hongmi 食憲鴻秘.

The Wushi zhongkui lu makes use of 115 different cooking ingredients and seasonings, with over 120 different methods of cooking, processing, and preparing ingredients. Many of these terms and techniques are still in use today, providing valuable reference for studying the development and evolution of Chinese cooking techniques.

The text in included in the series Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei Shantang edition 宛委山堂本), Lüchuang nüshi 綠窗女史, Zhongguo pengren guji congkan 中國烹飪古籍叢刊, and the Japanese series Chūgoku shokkei sōsho 中国食経叢書.

There is an English translation by Chen, Sean J.S. (2023). Madame Wu's Handbook on Home-Cooking: The Song Dynasty Classic on Domestic Cuisine (Ontario: Linea Publishing).

Gao Yanjie 郜彦傑 (2009). "Wushi zhongkui lu ciyu shiling 《吳氏中饋錄》詞語拾零", Xiangfan Zhiye Jishu Xueyuan xuebao 襄樊職業技術學院學報, 8 (2): 112-114.
Sun Shizeng 孫世增 (1995). "Wushi zhongkui lu 吳氏中饋錄", in Zhongguo pengren baike quanshu 中國烹飪百科全書 (Beijing: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 618.
Zhuang Shufan 莊樹藩, ed. (1990). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Yiyao 醫藥卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 24.
Zhu Ruixi 朱瑞熙 (2004). "Pujiang Wushi Zhongkuilu bu shi Songren zhuzuo 浦江吳氏《中饋錄》不是宋人著作", Yinshi wenhua yanjiu 飲食文化研究, 2004 (1): 53-54.
蜀漢 (221-263)