In Every province and region of China, there is a universal method of slowly simmering meat and offal, poultry and eggs and even some seafood, such as ink fish and octopus, in a pot of liquid known as ‘lu’ stock. Lu stock (flavour-potted stock) is always seasoned with salt, soy sauces, sugar, wine and a variety of spices consisting generally of star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cassia bark or cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel, liquorice and others. When a family wish to start a master lu stock, one person will go to a Chinese pharmacy and ask for lu stock ingredients. Depending on the price, the pharmacist may include very esoteric things such as dried lizard and sea horse, which are valued for their tonic properties. But the packets of mixed spices found in Chinese supermarkets definitely do not contain any such exotic ingredients! The master lu stock, once prepared, can go on for a long, long time, for you can add more seasoning ingredients; and the ingredients flavoured in the stock will themselves add to its richness and flavour. Initially, you should cook a strong meat such as beef in the first spread of this recipe, for it can take the full impact of the spices in the stock. Thereafter, chicken wings and drumsticks, gizzards and livers are very popular items to be flavour-potted. Alternatively, poussins or Cornish hens, quails and quail eggs (which nowadays are easily available and inexpensive) make a delicately delectable second spread. For the third spread, try ink fish or even octopus.
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