Ark Galactapedia

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    a taste, texture, and quality wheel from Three Leaves of Flavor

Xi'an Cuisine

Xi’an cuisine is the traditional method by which Xi’an prepare their food for consumption. Rather than using heat to alter the nutrient bioavailability of ingredients as is traditionally done by Humans, Xi’an utilize aging and fermentation. Xi’an cannot digest the majority of fresh fare and are intolerant of hot or cold meals. Level of ageing, type of fermentation, strength of flavor, and texture are the most important aspects of Xi’an food preparation. Humans consider Xi’an food to be harshly flavored.

History

The first indications of cultivated Xi’an cuisine arose when Xi’an established permanent homesteads. Before this time, they traveled in nomadic family groups, scouring the landscape for sustenance while protecting one another from predators. The hot, humid environment of their homeworld was conducive to rapid decay of potential food sources. Food with rich microbiomes such as carrion and rotted leaves made up the bulk of the early Xi’an diet. Predators kept them on the move. It wasn’t until agriculture and animal husbandry were discovered that families were able to create long-term settlements fortified against natural predators, allowing them time and space to experiment with meal preparation techniques.

Major characteristics of contemporary Xi’an cuisine soon emerged. Bacteria, molds, yeasts, and spices that enhanced food with intense textural sensations and robust flavors were sought after and cultivated. Aged eggs collected from abandoned s.āoth nests became so popular that the lizard was domesticated. Meat harvested from animals allowed to die of natural causes became famous among prosperous families for being more tender and flavorful than meat from slaughtered animals; this attitude persists among Xi’an chefs today. Meat that was heavily spiced, left to age in the sun until soft and pungent, and served alongside strips of the leafy vegetable nga.u’ii’yēl became a favorite dish.

The discovery of fermentation revolutionized the Xi’an diet. Plants they couldn’t previously digest, such as grain pai'pun and legume pai’lio, became staples of their new diet. Vessels used for fermentation doubled as long-term food stores, allowing families to stockpile their resources and expand beyond homesteads into state-like powers called Houses. Demand for spice and other food additives opened trade routes between distant locations. As Houses continued to grow, so did the Xi’an palate.

Flavor and Texture

Every Xi’an dish is constructed to balance texture with intensity of flavor. 13 favorable tastes, 13 favorable textures, and 13 unfavorable qualities were identified by members of House Uai’i in their treatise Three Leaves of Flavor. These were compiled into a text and sold to traders en route to other Houses. The treatise was hugely influential to Xi’an cuisine as an art. Even today, the ideal y.iy’atin’tang (multitextured) meal described in the treatise remains the end goal for Xi’an chefs.

Fermentation and Aging

Fermentation is the foundation of the Xi’an diet. Ingredients are typically cut into large pieces, then seasoned and placed inside a tyixa’yetui (fermentation vessel). The vessel is then placed inside the nyuntui (fermentation chamber), a temperature-controlled room with deeply grooved walls inoculated with colonies of yeast, mold, and bacteria. These tya e Yii’ua (House strains), unique to each House and closely guarded, are cultivated over generations. At first, the vessels are left open to invite the strains into the process. The vessels are then sealed, usually for months, before being opened again, cut into bite-sized pieces, placed on large dishes, and served alongside other meals, most often at room temperature (30 C).

Food that isn’t fermented is aged via air-curing, sun-ripening, drying, controlled rot, the addition of micro-organisms, or other methods. If a dish has been prepared well, a Xi’an might say that it is “properly rotted.” A bland dish might be described as “lacking rot.” This applies to beverages as well. One popular drink, chui.y’o’sui, is made from the aged blood of various animals and mixed with complimentary vinegars. Even purified water would be considered unpalatable to Xi’an; on Xi’an worlds, drinking water is enhanced with minerals and various micro-organisms for health and flavor.

Condiments

Xi’an eat only a few times per week. Shared meals are considered a big family affair. Even Xi’an who are traveling alone will choose to share tables with strangers at restaurants. At the center of a communal table filled with various dishes one can always find a thauil (condiments platter) loaded with seasonings and dressings that will impart various favorable flavors on one’s food, such as ki.s’a (ammoniac; chemical; bitter), ngi’pi (itching; buzzing; pain), or p.ūnt.a (alcoholic, warming). Xi’an do not experience intoxication from consuming alcohol, and some more forward-leaning Xi’an restaurateurs on Oya III have added Human-influenced alcoholic seasonings to their menus.

Modern Trends

Since the thawing of tensions between the United Empire of Earth and the Xi’an Empire, Xi’an have begun to explore Human styles of cooking. Dishes such as shikara, blue cheeses, and lutefisk have been unreservedly embraced by Xi’an chefs. Cold-brewed pu’er tea has made waves due to its similarity to hai’pe, a beverage steeped in sunlight from the leaves of a tropical pine tree. The beverage rotik is similarly popular among adventurously-minded Xi’an. This is especially notable because nginguichui (milky; creamy; like animal milk) has been considered an unfavorable food quality for hundreds of millennia. However, hot and cold food, also ill-regarded in the Xi’an tradition, seems unlikely to catch on.

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