Rare Dishes: Really for Kings?
Winter Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(4) page(s): 13
A common question: Did King K.B. Ling really reign
when the Yellow River overflowed frequently?
We once read that he did and it did. But we also
wondered if he needed a flood control office with
large appropriations? Were the funds so large that the
officials used huge sums to fill their own desires, their
bellies, and the flood control needs? Did they have
enough for grand eating, lots of drinking, and more
to fill their stomachs with rare foods? We did learn
that many specialties were made from this loot; and we
wondered if the kings of those days got their share and
really enjoyed them?
We also read that to satisfy these folk, they needed
to and did devise new dishes. One source called their
meals ‘lavish’ while another said they were ‘ridiculous.’
We do not know which is true; do you? We do not wish
to judge their meals or their dishes. We simply want to
share a few things we recall, then you decide.
The most famous among them was a dish made of
monkey brains consumed when the guests were seated
and the Number One waiter removed a cloth over a bulge
in the center of the table. There in perfect view he used
a hammer to break open the skull of a live monkey; its
brains for the guests to stare at. The head was cleanly
shaved, the monkey strapped down, and the furry thing
simply stared back from the hole cut in the center of the
table. Then, the waiter then poured boiling water over
the aperture protruding from the broken skull. Diners
were instructed to use their chopsticks, and to enjoy
the brains said to be a tasty treat. This meal, like many
others, was sponsored by the local Flood Control Bureau.
Another marvelous meal at the same location included a
Cantonese dish of several poisonous snakes. They were
to be selected and enjoyed, but before that, they needed
to select the snakes from those brought to the table
by the chef in a wire cage. They were ugly and slimy-looking,
ready for preparation, as requested. The guests
were to look them over and select the best among them,
and how they wanted them prepared. The famous chef
doing the job returned from the kitchen to tell all at the
table that he planned to combine them in a dish known
as Sanshehui. Those who ate his spectacular dish, did
get itchy soon after they did, sensations throughout their
entire bodies. Their sweat became thick and deep yellow,
their energy invigorated, their headaches disappeared,
and their eyesight better than ever.
At another Flood Control meal at another eatery there
was a duck dinner beginning with a soup made with
duck and with sheep testicles prepared to restore all
sexual desires. This meal continued quickly, and the
guests were invited to retire to rooms set aside for their
needs, companions provided, of course.
One other meal featured a batch of just born mice. In
this Sichuan Flood Control dinner, the meal began with a
soup, each diner supplied with an infant mouse there to
be swallowed. These folk did report they did enjoy them
but not their squeaks and squeals as they slid down from
throat to belly.
A last dinner for these Flood Control diners came with
a delightful dish called ‘‘Eight Rarities Repast’ served in
three sittings in different places at different times. One
included the palm of a bear, another a tiger tail, and the
third a camel hump. Each was prepared with a mushroom,
names unknown but for one of them. It was called yutou
and said to look like an actual brain. That multi-location
meal also had a dish made with the tail of a carp, the lips
of an orangutan, the breast of an osprey, and the brain of
an elephant nursing her twins.
Let us not forget a meal omitted, almost forgotten, that
began with a large platter of yet another paw, that of a
goose and his gander prepared over a low fire cooking for
twenty-four hours, then dressed with a mix of arrowroot
and lotus paste mixed with lots of avocado oil. The part
of the geese they usually walked on were soft like gelatin.
They melted in the mouth as they touched the tongue.
If you were you invited to attend one or more of these
Flood Control extravagant repasts, we wonder what you
would think of them. We encourage you to search your
brain for other dishes that might be presented. We did
ask this question of many who said they would adore
eating at such a fine eatery.
Many told us what they might have had; what rare and
costly dishes might be set before them. Some suggested
foods of the sea, others mentioned fowl, a very few spoke
of cold dishes, some of meats or soups or vegetable items.
Not one spoke about a sweet dish, a rice or staple one
made with flour or nuts, none spoke of one with corn or
If you could select one dish in any meal category, what
would it be? How would you describe it? Do feel free to
detail one main course not already mentioned, different
from those spoken of. Search the innermost recess of
your brain assuming it is not impacted by flood foibles
so you can be hired to make it. We wonder what you are
thinking, what recipe or recipes would you make? Which
one or ones would you then want to eat? Share them with
us and our readers, and tell us if you will be the first to
be chosen. We anxiously await hearing from you as you
help us feed King K B. Ling.