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Rare Dishes: Really for Kings?

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Unusual Ingredients

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 potatoes.

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.

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