Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Buddha Begins....

With my 31st Birthday coming up on Friday, I have a assembled a small group of cooks to help me cook what many Chinese people consider to be "the ultimate feast." That's right, we are going to attempt to prepare "Buddha jumps over the wall."

There are many versions of the story behind this dish, but my favorite involves a traveling scholar who set up to cook it one night outside of a Buddhist temple. Allegedly the aroma was so intoxicating with meats that it caused many of the vegetarian monks to say fuck it and climb over the walls to eat. It is said that the dish is so good that even Buddha himself would jump over the wall to devour a huge bowl.

Well, there are no vegetarians invited to eat with us, but I may reconsider if their willing to convert. We are using a recipe from “The Chinese Kitchen” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. It contains over twenty components, including a host of side dishes, and takes three days to prepare. The meats are presented on a platter, and the broth is served in cups.

Just to give you an idea, some of the ingredients are:

Shark’s fin
Dried scallops
Two separate stocks (requiring lots of meats)
Yunnan ham (like a Chinese version of Smithfield ham)
Whole chicken
Whole duck
Pork shoulder
Lamb top round
Dozen quail eggs
Bamboo leaves
Lotus leaves
Fresh bamboo shoots

The traditional side dishes:

Snow Pea Shoots with Steamed Mushrooms
Choi Sum with Yunnan Ham
Mustard Green Stems in Sweet Mustard Sauce
Lotus Root with Pickled Peach Sauce
Chinese Steamed Bread

So it began this morning, when Drew and I headed down to Chinatown for some of the harder to find ingredients. We perfected an amazing move at the toll booths on the way down, where Drew would roll down the window and hold his hand out as if we were paying cash, then I would fake them out with the EZ pass. It’s the little things sometimes.....

We start out at Penang Restaurant for a Chinese breakfast soup known as “Bak Kut Teh.” It’s has rich and aromatic broth, a perfect balance of sweet and medicinal. It contains pork ribs, belly, trotters, and intestines. Washed down with an ice cold beer, I can’t think of a better way to begin my day.

Immediately I can see why this is such a special occasion dish, as the dried scallops, shark’s fin, and abalone alone come to 150.00. I find a quality bottle of Shaoxing wine at the liquor store, which i’d been searching for because the Asian markets in Portland can only sell the ones marked “cooking wine.”

Other finds include fresh bamboo shoots, dried boxthorn fruit, quality dried black mushrooms, lotus leaves, choi sum, yunnan ham, lotus root, and a fuckload of peanut oil (we’re going to need it).

With shopping phase one complete, I can officially say that I’m going to be really pissed off if this doesn’t come out well. On the other hand, cooking with four good friends for three days is fun no matter what the outcome.

I'll keep you posted each step of the way....


  1. You started your day with Penang? I completely hate you and love you in the same breath. I'm sorry I missed your pre-berfday party @ kon.
    My buddha's approve of your feast ahead.. :)

  2. Very exciting. Looking forward to reading every detail.

  3. I just read the recipe and that is just absolutely incredible. I mean, holy crap, I haven't had shark's fin or abalone in such a long time! I'm so f'in jealous of you right now, but damn, that's a spectacular way to celebrate your birthday. Glad you were finally able to find the Shao-Hsing wine you've been looking for. Crossing my fingers for you that it works out!

  4. This sounds like the beginning to an epic feast...can't wait to see who survives.

  5. I have to say, everyone, that I'm pretty fucking excited as well.

    Part 2 tomorrow....

  6. I wish I knew what all that stuff was.....

  7. Shark fin? That is sad. When they catch a shark, they chop its fin off, and then toss it back into the ocean to die. Literally 100 million sharks die that way each year, and population is down to 10%.

    Shark fin add no flavour, its a traditional prestige thing. Please don't use it!