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The taciturn shopkeeper began to prepare the food. However, Isaac's expectations fell greatly. It seemed that the dish had already been cooked in a pot, and the shopkeeper had simply begun to heat it up in a slightly smaller one. The pot was placed on the fire, and when it had started to make simmering noises, a sweet smell drifted from it. Although it smelled a bit like boiled beans, this was different.
「Shinobu-san, what is that dish?」
「Oh, that is gyusuji doteyaki.」
「Gyusuji doteyaki, huh? Fumu~」
(TL note: gyusuji = beef tendon)
He had never heard of it before.
It seemed that there was beef churning inside the pot, but it wasn't a part that he usually ate. The dish wasn't something that was usually displayed on the dining table, so it was most likely the tendons. If it wasn't boiled very thoroughly, it was better left uneaten, since it would be tough.
「That thing that's being boiled together with the beef tendon… what is it?」
Another word that he head never heard of before appeared. He was confident that he was quite familiar with the dishes from the Empire, the Eastern Kingdom, and the Three Territories of the North, but he couldn't recall such an ingredient.
Its soft appearance made him think that it might be some sort of internal organs.
The internal organs weren't distributed and sold very often, since it was difficult to maintain their freshness. Hence, each region had their own name for them. Even though he could tell which portion it was by sight, he wouldn't recognize it if it was called by a different name.
Was this dish, which used beef tendon and internal organs, also born out of poverty?
Even so, this smell!
As the fire spread and warmed it up, the fragrance that was tickling his nose intensified. Together, its rich, sweet aroma and the sounds of its simmering hit his stomach directly. Even though he had eaten tempura just now, he somehow felt like he had not eaten yet.
「Here, sorry to keep you waiting!」
There were some finely chopped spring onions on top. The gyusuji doteyaki, a thick, light brown soup containing meat and konnyaku mixed together, was served in a small bowl.
Upon closer inspection, the meat was, as expected, beef tendons. He had some knowledge about cooking the tougher portions of the meat through boiling or grilling, and he had enjoyed its chewy texture before. It was a technique of cooking that placed importance on the natural flavours of every part of the meat. However, he was curious about its smell. Its rich, sweet aroma was very thick. Wouldn't the flavours of the meat be covered up? Isaac wondered to himself as he brought the first bite into his mouth.
He had imagined that the tendon would be tough, so he was quite surprised at how tender it was. Despite this, the flavours of the meat hadn't disappeared. Rather than calling it a soup, it was more of a seasoned sauce that matched the meat quite well.
Then, this konnyaku.
It was just jiggling, but its texture was interesting. When he put it into his mouth with the meat, he couldn't help but enjoy it.
「When the weather is cold, it makes you want to eat gyusuji doteyaki, doesn't it?」
Shinobu didn't pour his usual mug of lager, "Toriaezu Nama," but rather, some sake in a small bisque cup. A fragrant aroma rose from its colourless, transparent contents.The cup was a little hot when he held it in his hand. When he brought it to his lips to test it, a refreshing taste washed over his mouth.
「It goes well with atsukan, doesn't it?」
「This alcohol is called…atsukan?」
(TL: atsukan = hot sake)
She had also named the brand, but he had never heard of "Aizu Homare" or "Ide" before. The strange-sounding names gave off a foreign feeling. He ate the doteyaki and drank the hot sake. With just this, joy spread from the bottom of his heart.
(TL note: the raws say "bottom of stomach", but I figured that it would sound nicer with this.)
「Please teach me. This meat is beef tendon, right? If so, how is it possible to boil it until it's this tender?」
The one who answered wasn't Shinobu, but the shopkeeper in the kitchen.
「I have been simmering it for three days.」
The revelation made him feel dizzy.
This was a pub, not the kitchens of the Imperial Court. It was also the shopkeeper of this pub who was standing there, not the head chef for the nobles and royalty.
Even so, three days.
Isaac couldn't say anything at the degree of enthusiasm given to accomplish this dish. It wasn't only the amount of time used, but the costs of the charcoal and firewood as well. He might not be up to the task.
Still, this taste.
The shopkeeper simmered the meat for that long in order to achieve this taste.
Nobody could laugh it off as a foolish endeavour.
On the contrary, Isaac wondered how such a delicious dish could be made in such a short time.
「Goodness gracious! I give up. To be honest, I intended to leave after figuring out how to copy the taste, but how would I do that? It doesn't seem to be easily achieved.」
「It's because the preparation for the meat in doteyaki is tedious. After simmering it for three days to soften it, I boil it to let the flavours seep into the meat, and then I let it rest overnight.」
「There's that, too. Adjusting the flavour is difficult as well, isn't it?」
「We are fortunate to have somebody with an excellent tongue.」
When the store owner looked at Shinobu, she happily stuck out her tongue. It was a store with a warm atmosphere. Isaac definitely wanted to be a regular customer.
「That being said, it seems that there's still a long way to go for me to understand the dishes of the Old Capital (Aiteria).」
「In that case, I'll introduce you to some stores that stay open in the afternoon. There are stores open at night, but don't you think you can gain more knowledge by trying out various food in the afternoon too?」
「I would be grateful.」
At this time, the inns and pubs of the Old Capital (Aiteria) were devoting themselves to developing new dishes for the Grand Bazaar. Isaac felt that these events would only benefit this store, and that they had nothing to lose.
After telling the store owner about the stores he recommended, Isaac was seized by an irresistible urge.
「By the way, Shinobu-san, I have a request.」
「W-What is it?」
Shinobu flinched at Isaac's serious face and straightened her back.
「May I… have another bowl of gyusuji doteyaki? If possible, make it a large serving. Also, another atsukan, please.」
He wondered what kind of poem Arnoux would recite while eating the dishes here. Strangely, eating gyusuji doteyaki made him want to listen to that unskillful poetry of his.