I am super excited about this topic—food. Why? Because “there is no love more sincere than the love for food”.
As for Chinese dishes, people tend to think they are healthy and tasty. Yes, they are. But today, I would like to introduce to you a ridiculously delicious and mysterious cuisine from my hometown: Fo Tiao Qiang. Fo Tiao Qiang is a Chinese name which sounds boring. Let me give you its English translation — “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall”. See, astonishing and hilarious! Literally, its name doesn’t create any correlation with delicious food. Confused? I will tell you the story behind that.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is a famous Fujianese (Fujian is southeastern province in China) dish most often served at lavish banquets. Preparing the dish is difficult and time-consuming, for it brings together many different ingredients. Buddha Jumps over the Wall is made from numerous delicacies and is considered one of the foremost dishes in Chinese cuisine. A typical recipe requires many ingredients including quail eggs, bamboo shoots, scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, shark fin, chicken, Jinhua ham (regarded as the best ham in China), pork tendon, ginseng, mushrooms, and taro. Some recipes require up to thirty main ingredients and twelve condiments. Use of shark fin, which is sometimes harvested by shark finning, and abalone, which is implicated in destructive fishing practices, are controversial for both environmental and ethical reasons. Great skill is required to prepare the dish: more than 10 ingredients have to be simmered slowly for many hours with just the right amount of heat. The dish has a wonderful aroma and is simply irresistible. Actually, the skill to cook this mystery cuisine is considered as a national secret which is rigidly protected by Chinese Government, which partially explains why it is so expensive.
About the origin of its funny name, there are three versions of stories. The earliest mention of the phrase “Buddha Jumps over the Wall” appears in a book from the Song dynasty (960-1279 BC). Stories abound as to the origin of the dish’s colorful name. According to one version, the fragrant smell of the dish was so powerful that it induced a Buddhist monk to climb over the monastery wall to get a taste of it.
Another version says that a monk prepared the dish one day, adding many non-vegetarian ingredients to his stew, and that when he was caught eating it he had to leap over his monastery walls to escape. But it is impossible to prove or disprove either of these versions.
A third tale says that during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911 BC), the dish was first prepared by an official from Fuzhou (my hometown where I spent 17 year before college), who was trying to make a good impression on his superior, Zhou Lian. He combined many ingredients; including pork, duck and chicken, and simmered them slowly in an urn that was used to hold ShaoXing wine (ShaoXing is a famous city in Eastern China and famous for Eastern style Chinese food and stunning traditional Chinese water city scenery with the fame of Eastern Venice). After tasting the dish Zhou praised it profusely, and asked what the dish was called. The man replied that it was intended to bring “good luck and prosperity, happiness and longevity,” and so it was called Happiness and Longevity. Zhou’s chef then wrote down the recipe and improved the dish, and when Zhou served it to his guests someone wrote a few lines, saying that “The fragrant smell pervades the neighborhood, so that monks forget their Zen meditations and come jumping over the wall.” Ever since then the dish has been known as Buddha Jumps over the Wall.
Since Fo Tiao Qiang is made of many precious ingredients and consume much time to be prepared, and even requires skilled chef with rich experience to control the time of simmering, it is very expensive for guests to have an authentic Fo Tiao Qiang in my hometown. As for me, I only have tasted authentic Fo Tiao Qiang once during a family get-together ten years ago. Back then, that cuisine costed about 100 USD in restaurants. Today, you might have to pay up to 500 USD to get it in the few restaurants that keep serving it. I don’t think I can describe how unbelievably delicious it is with my pale words. However, I do believe this cuisine has a magic to make you feel satisfied and happy because when I had it, at first spoon, it was like a bunch of sunshine enlightened my world totally in a flash, which made me feel that it is such a luck to be alive and that life is so gorgeous; I couldn’t help falling in love with it. I swear that the unprecedented flavor experience it brought me is the bestkind of happiness brought by food I have experienced so far. Let me show you some lovely pictures to make you get closer to my favorite cuisine—Buddha Jumps Over the Wall.
Famous couplet (traditional Chinese literature form: two word matches each other to create harmony in literature) related to Fo Tiao Qiang.
A lot of precious ingredients of this cuisine.
Unbelievably delicious cuisine served in a wonderful way!