Saturday, September 29, 2007

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

The Story of "Buddha Jumps the Wall"

This is quite a popular dish in many non halal(serves pork) Chinese restaurants in Malaysia.

However its origin is in Fuzhou, China. It is definitely not something a Foochow housewife would cook at home as it is a very complicated and costly dish.

It is made of an assortment of materials: shark's fin, shark's lip, fish maw, abalone, squid, sea cucumber, chicken breast, duck chops, port tripe, pork leg, minced ham, mutton elbow, dried scallop, winter bamboo shoots, xiang gu mushrooms, and so on. These are seasoned and steamed separately and then put into a small-mouthed clay jar together with cooking wine and a dozen or so boiled pigeon eggs. The jar is covered and put on intense fire first and then simmered for some time on slow fire. Four or five ounces of Foochow Red Wine is added into the jar, which is kept simmering for another five minutes. Then the dish is ready.

The origin of the dish is explained by a local story. A Foochow scholar of the Qing Dynasty went picnicking with friends in the suburbs and he put all the ham, chicken, etc. he had with him in a wine jar which he heated over charcoal fire before eating. The attractive smell of the food spread in the air all the way to a nearby temple. It was so inviting that the monks, who were supposed to be vegetarians, jumped over the temple wall and partook heartily of the scholar's picnic. One of the party's participants wrote a poem in praise of the dish, of which a line reads: "Even Buddha himself would jump the wall to come over." Hence the name of the dish.

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