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791 Minute Difference

 "Boss Yuan, I am here again," Liu Zhang greeted Yuan Zhou the moment he sat down.

"You're here. What do you want to eat today?" Yuan Zhou asked.

"I'm here with someone else today. We're here to eat Thousand Thread Mantou," Liu Zhang pointed Ji Yi who was sitting silently by the side.

"Hello," Yuan Zhou politely greeted.

"Um," Ji Yi nodded, not saying much.

"He doesn't speak much. Get us two servings of Thousand Thread Mantou, two servings of Egg Fried Rice, Phoenix-Tailed Prawns, and White Oil Tofu," Liu Zhang explained before ordering.

"Ok. One moment, please," Yuan Zhou nodded and went to the kitchen.

"Ok. I'm starving," Liu Zhang said longingly.

Yuan Zhou did not say anything else. He started focusing on cooking while Ji Yi paid for the meal. After all, this meal wasn't a cheap one.

"You are playing a trick on me, right? Bringing me to eat something so expensive," Ji Yi looked at Liu Zhang doubtfully.

"Don't worry. You will understand after trying the food. Don't even think of snatching my Thousand Thread Mantous later," Liu Zhang gave a forewarning.

"Do you think I'm a thief like you?" Ji Yi said with contempt.

"That's good to hear," Liu Zhang replied, not angry at all.

The two bickered back and forth, stopping Ji Yi from meticulously studying how Yuan Zhou cooked. Nevertheless, he was still able to get a rough glance at how Yuan Zhou cooked.

"Not bad, he's actually kneading the flour by hand," Ji Yi nodded approvingly as he looked at the Mantous that were being steamed.

Snacks would only be served after the other dishes were served. Beside Ji Yi, Liu Zhang was already stuffing himself with food like a pig. As for Ji Yi, he was waiting for the main dish to be served.

Of course, Liu Zhang had been asking him if he required any help to deal with the other dishes. Naturally, Ji Yi had strictly forbidden Liu Zhang from helping him.

"Two Thousand Thread Mantous. Please enjoy your meal," Zhou Jia said as she served two bamboo steamers with the Mantous in them.

"Thank you," Liu Zhang nodded and took his Thousand Thread Mantou before he continued digging into his food.

Ji Yi finally started eating as well.

The moment the lid of the dark green bamboo steamer was lifted, a fragrance of wheat assailed his nostrils with steam spiraling up into the air.

"It smells good," Ji Yi nodded and started studying the Mantou.

The Mantou was tiny and seemed to only require two bites to finish. It was not as snowy white as regular Mantous as well. Rather, it was somewhat yellow in color.

"It looks good as well," Ji Yi acknowledged the Mantou's appearance.

Although the Mantou had "thousand thread" as its name, not a single thread could be seen from it. This was how this dish should look like.

Ji Yi picked up the Mantou with his chopsticks. From the sensation, he could feel that the Mantou was soft and springy. After studying it for a bit, he sent it into his mouth.

A unique characteristic of this dish was the "thousand threads", and a side effect of splitting the dough into a thousand threads was the reduction of springiness with an added loose feeling to it. But this was not the case for the Mantou made by Yuan Zhou. It was still very soft and springy.

Onom. Onom. Ji Yi started eating.

"Weird." Ji Yi was not using his chopsticks anymore. He pulled the remaining Mantou apart and saw numerous thin threads interweaving together in it. After tearing the Mantou apart, the smell of wheat became even denser.

Ji Yi pulled a single thread out. At first glance, the thread was somewhat yellow in color, but now that he was studying it in detail, it appeared glossy. It was spotlessly white and was as pretty as a snowflake, emanating a pleasing aroma at all times.

Ji Yi stuffed this thread into his mouth. Logically, with how thin this thread was, it should be tasteless. However, that was not the case.

The thread did not immediately dissolve upon entering his mouth due to the layer of lard wrapped around it. Rather, the aroma of the lard started spreading in his mouth before a gentle flavor of wheat started appearing.

This reminded him of his childhood. Back then, he did not get to eat much meat and when he finally had the chance to eat a bowl of rice mixed with lard, the pleasant aroma of the lard would spread in his mouth. This was exactly the sensation he was feeling currently.

"Wu, when chewed upon, it is sweet and has the unique flavor of lard attached to it. Even so, the odor of meat is nowhere to be found. Rather, it gives off a gentle feeling. Delicious, really delicious."

"This is an exceptionally good snack," Ji Yi was extremely satisfied.

Ji Yi rained praises on the dish while eating. The taste was exceptional and it was finally proven that Liu Zhang was not playing a trick on him by bringing him here.

It was quite unexpected that Yuan Zhou who made his name from Steamed Rice Served With Japanese Grenadier Anchovies could actually prepare a dish like this as well.

Both Yuan Zhou's grasp over the strength exerted during the kneading and the grasp over the fermentation period was perfect with zero mistakes.

"Apart from me, someone else is actually capable of making a Thousand Thread Mantou like this as well," Ji Yi stared at how young Yuan Zhou was, feeling like it was time to be replaced by the young. Ji Yi's hand started itching for a challenge.

But...

He set his chopsticks down and paused for a bit.

"This Thousand Thread Mantou is still not better than mine. I can only consider them equal." Ji Yi was still confident in his Mantou. His evaluation was given fairly.

The two Mantous were equal.

Liu Zhang was not one to speak for no reason. Since he had claimed that the Mantou here surpassed his Mantou, there must be a reason for it.

"There is still a slight difference. Try eating again," Liu Zhang said.

"Oh?"

Was there any flavor that he had missed? Ji Yi did not argue and started eating again. This time, he chewed slowly and was more meticulous on tasting the Mantou, as if he was going to uncover every flavor hidden within it.

Although Ji Yi was old in age, his taste buds were still in pristine condition. With a few bites, he managed to sense something. His expression shifted, turning more and more solemn.

After he finished the Mantou, the nerves on his face were already visible.

"Boss Yuan, a moment of your time, please," Ji Yi suddenly raised his head and said to Yuan Zhou.

"Um?" Yuan Zhou merely glanced over instead of walking over. After all, there were other customers waiting for their food.

"No sugar. You did not add any sugar to your Thousand Thread Mantou, right?" Ji Yi asked, his tone solemn.

"Yes," Yuan Zhou nodded. Someone was actually able to figure this out.

No matter what type of sugar one used, there would be a sugary taste to it. For most people, a sugary taste was simply a sweet taste. However, the flavor on this Thousand Thread Mantou was a type of sweetness that was unlike the sugary type of sweetness. Rather, it was a natural type of sweetness.

Although Ji Yi had already figured it out, when Yuan Zhou finally admitted to it, he was still incredulous.

"Impossible. That is impossible."

"Honey? Or something else?"

"No, none of them can give off that natural type of sweetness."

"This feels like the flour's own natural sweetness."

"Illogical. This is too illogical."

Ji Yi seemed to have gone crazy as he started talking to himself. He had also done extensive research on the Thousand Thread Mantou before. He had never been able to discover a better method of making it. Numerous ingredients appeared in his mind, yet he was unable to identify the ingredient capable of giving off the natural sweetness he tasted from the Mantou.

What was going on?