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Luoyang Soup Banquet

Updated:2008-07-18 11:14 | Source:

Luoyang is a city surrounded by mountains, and the weather here is cold and dry. In ancient time, people hardly got any fruit to enjoy. To resist the dry and cold climate, thus Luoyang people who are fond of soup invented various soups to make up the need of water. Luoyang cuisine provides diners a chance to experience different flavors, an integrated state banquet called the “Luoyang Water Banquet” (luoyang shuixi). So the Banquet is not simply a drinking test, but a local custom that has been running for over a thousand years.

There are two reasons why the banquet has its name. The main reason is that, unlike most meal customs in China, the dishes served in this banquet are brought one after another, like flowing water. The second reason is that around one third of the dishes served are soup or semi-soup ones.

The banquet first appeared as the official feast in the early Tang Dynasty, when temples in Luoyang received many worshipers everyday. In order to entertain them, monks created the Shuixi of stewed vegetables. It became popular among common people in the Song Dynasty. Dishes are served one after another. That makes an exception in Chinese dining service, which generally places all courses on the table at the same time.

The dishes eaten during Shui Xi are rated according to the quality of the materials and cooking skills, rather than the rarity and high cost of the materials. The high-grade feast includes delicacies from land and sea, while the ordinary feast consists mainly of two chickens.

There are 24 courses in the banquet and the number stands 24 years, was on the throne. These 24 dishes that are served one after another, wave upon wave, like flowing water. Each of these dishes is stewed with water, as all the dishes are served in big bowls of soups. Usually it takes about 12 hours to prepare a pot of mouthwatering soup. First served are eight cold dishes: four meats and four vegetables. Another four dishes are reserved for the end o the meal. The remaining 12 dishes are brought up in four groups, each consisting of three dishes that are similar in taste, one o which is the main dish and the other two are side dishes. This way of serving is amusingly called “a father taking his two sons to court.”

The first course named “Luoyang Swallow Dish” is made of turnip shreds, chicken shreds, minced pork and other vegetables simmered in soup. Legend has it that Empress Wu Zetian was full of praise after she tried it and she cared or no other meat dish or three months. The main dish of the third group is the “Eight-Treasure Rice Pudding with Honey” and that of the fourth group is “Sour and Spicy Egg Soup”. The side dishes include “Field Snail Meat” (meat cut and shaped like the meat of field snails), “Shoulder of Pork Cooked in Soy Sauce”, “Boiled Whole Chicken”, “Turtle and Chicken”, “Steamed Quails”, etc. “Swallow Dish” represents the spring swallow, which is a symbol of hope. “Happiness for the Whole family”, as the name suggests, is a means of expressing good wishes to the guests and their families. The “Eight-Treasure Rice Pudding” is a wish for rich harvests. And the egg soup, sometimes called the “Farewell Soup”, tells that the banquet is nearly over and the host wishes his guests a pleasant journey home.

Although the dishes in these banquets vary from one restaurant to another in both amount and consistency, you may be assured that Carp is included nine times out of ten. The Zhenbutong Restaurant in the old part of the city serves the most orthodox water banquet, which is priced at around 300 yuan. As this banquet has 24 courses, so one would better invite eight friends or relatives to go and taste it rather that partaking alone.

Editor : Zhang Yun

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