Every Chinese Dish Has a Story

The names of Chinese dishes are diverse, but behind each of the famous dishes there is an interesting story, explaining why it is so popular. A catchy name may add value to the dish. However, some names are so eccentric that they may confuse people, both Chinese and foreigners. This article will introduce you several famous Chinese dishes and their related stories.

The Goubuli Steamed Buns in the city of Tianjian are all handmade and of the same size. When served in neat rows in the tray, they look like budding chrysanthemum flowers. The wrapping is thin, the fillings are juicy, and the taste is tender and delicious yet no greasy at all. Then, why the name? There is an interesting story behind it.

Goubuli Steamed Buns (Goubuli Baozi)

Goubuli Steamed Buns (Goubuli Baozi in Chinese) were first sold in Tianjin about 150 years ago. A local young man called Gouzi (dog) worked as an apprentice in a shop selling steamed buns (baozi). Three years later, he set up his own steamed bun shop. Because his buns were so delicious, he soon has a thriving business. Although he worked very hard, he still could not meet the demands of his customers, who had to wait a long time for the buns. Impatiently, some people would call out to urge him on. But, as he was busy preparing the buns, he had no time to answer. People therefore called his buns Goubuli, meaning “Dog pays no attention”. This odd name, however, had very good promotional effects, and has been used ever sine. Now Goubuli is a time-cherished brand name in Tianjin.

In Hangzhou, there is a well-accepted dish called Dongpo Pork. This dish is prepared over a slow fire, with streaky pork in big chunks and garnishes of green onion and ginger at the bottom of the pot, cooking wine, soy sauce, and sugar. The finished dish is bright red in color and tender and juicy in taste, yet without any feel of greasiness.

Dongpo Pork

This dish was named after Su Dongpo, a great poet of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). When Su was an official in Hangzhou, he was in charge of the drainage work for the West Lake. He leaded the local people to dredge the lake and construct a causeway across the West Lake, making the West Lake take on a new look. To thank Su Dongpo for his great job, the local people gave him a lot of pork which they knew was Su Dongpo’s favorite. Su Dongpo rewarded the workers with stewed pork in soy sauce, and people later named it Dongpo Pork, to commemorate this gifted and generous poet. And the causeway, today’s Sudi (Su Causeway), also bears his name.

Fujian cuisine boasts a famous dish called Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (Fo Tiao Qiang in Chinese), the No. 1 dish of the province. This dish is prepared with more than 20 main ingredients, including chicken, duck, sea cucumber, dried scallop, tendon, shark lip, fish maw, ham, and more than a dozen garnishes like mushrooms, winter bamboo shoots and pigeon eggs. All these ingredients are placed into a ceramic pot, with cooking wine and chicken broth added, and then cooked over a slow fire until the meat is tender and juicy and the soup becomes smooth and thick. How did the dish get its name – “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” ?Buddha Jumps Over the WallThe dish was created during the Qing Dynasty by a restaurant called Gathering Spring Garden in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province. It was first named Eight Treasures Stewed in a Pot and later changed to Blessing and Longevity. One day, several scholars came to the restaurant for a drink. When the dish was served, one of them improvised a poem: “The aroma spreads to the neighborhood once the lid lifts; Even the Buddha is tempted by the food of the mortal world and jumps over the wall to have a taste, abandoning the Zen precepts”. So the dish is called Buddha Jumps Over the Wall. A taste of the dish will leave a lingering aftertaste in the mouth. It has becomes the most expensive bowl of soup, costs £108 ($190) at the Kai Mayfair restaurant, London, UK.

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