My Citizens, this recipe is going to be controversial to some of you – I ask that you read the entire post before commenting about its use of one particular ingredient. This recipe is considered the most opulent and luxurious dish in the entire Chinese canon – it will cost you a fortune to make and two full days of cooking time. That said, I salute your challenging spirit if you decide to take on this ultimate culinary challenge!
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, also known as Buddha’s Temptation (Chinese: 佛跳墙; pinyin: fó tiào qiáng), is a variety of shark fin soup in Fujian cuisine. It was created by Zheng Chunfa, celebrated chef and proprietor of the Ju Chun Yuan Restaurant in Fuzhou, Fujian Province.
Zheng was private chef of a senior local official in his early years. Since its creation during the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), the dish has been regarded as a Chinese delicacy known for its rich taste, usage of various high-quality ingredients and special manner of cooking.
There are many stories on the origin of the dish. A common one is about a scholar traveling by foot during the Qing dynasty. While he traveled with his friends, the scholar preserved all his food for the journey in a clay jar used for holding wine. Whenever he had a meal, he warmed up the jar with the ingredients over an open fire. Once they arrived in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, the scholar started cooking the dish.
The smells spread over to a nearby Buddhist monastery where monks were meditating. Although monks are not allowed to eat meat, one of the monks, tempted, jumped over the wall. A poet among the travelers said that even Buddha would jump the wall to eat the delicious dish.
Concerns over the sustainability and welfare of sharks have limited consumption and availability of the soup.
The soup or stew consists of many ingredients, especially animal products, and requires two full days to prepare. A typical recipe requires many ingredients including quail eggs, bamboo shoots, scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, shark fin, fish maw, chicken, Jinhua ham, pork tendon, ginseng, mushrooms, and taro.
Some recipes require up to thirty main ingredients and twelve condiments. According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the nearly $200 bowl of Buddha Jumps Over the Wall sold at Kai Mayfair in London holds the record for the most expensive soup in the world.
Citizens – my version of this soup of soups is extremely close to the recipe from “The Chinese Kitchen,” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. I’ve made a few tiny changes, but it its DNA is all hers.
Many of TFD readers may take exception to this recipe as it uses shark’s fin. I include this recipe for two reasons – one: it is one of the greatest dishes in the Chinese repertoire and deserves to be preserved and two: I specify using only ethically harvested shark fin.
Battle on – The Generalissimo