“Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” Soup
How expensive can a bowl of soup be? I look on the Chinese menu’s, whether it be a take-out menu, or on the menu of some of the best Chinese restaurants that we have reviewed, and I have never EVER seen anything like this. And, how complicated can a recipe for soup really be? You just chuck some meat, vegetables, seasoning, and broth into a big pot and let it stew into deliciousness, right? Wrong!! Soup recipes can get really crazy. As in like, requires-three-full-days-of-cooking-and-upwards-of-thirty-ingredients crazy! The soup is named “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” (or Fo Tiao Qiang in Cantonese), and is a delicacy from the Fujian province of China. THIS IS CRAZY!
Legend has it that a scholar was cooking the soup near a Buddhist monastery and the aroma spread to where the monks were meditating. While monks are not allowed to eat meat, the scent was so alluring that a tempted monk jumped over the fence to get some soup. A poet writing about the incident proclaimed that even Buddha himself would jump a wall to get a taste of the dish, hence the name.
The soup itself consists of a slew of animal products including shark fin and abalone, both of which raise ethical and environmental concerns, as well as more common ingredients such as scallops and Chinese ham. The list of directions are incredibly detailed, and divvied up over two days according to this recipe for the soup from “The Chinese Kitchen” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.
The Insanity of it All!
According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the nearly $200 bowl of “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” soup sold at Kai Mayfair in London, holds the record for the most expensive soup in the world.
While we don’t encourage making this at home for the sake of your sanity/wallet/neighbors and also sharks, here’s the recipe if you really want to make a splash:
~ Ingredients ~
1/4 pound shark’s fin
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup stock
1/4 cup Shaosing Rice Cooking wine or dry sherry
2 ounces lard or peanut oil
One 1/2-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, lightly smashed
3 scallions, white parts only
4 whole abalone
1 cup stock
2 tablespoons Shaohsing Rice Cooking wine or dry sherry
4 dry scallops, each 1 inch in diameter
2 tablespoons Shaohsing Rice Cooking wine or dry sherry, for scallops
12 quail eggs
3 small fresh bamboo shoots
1 quart cold water, for bamboo shoots
One 4-pound chicken
1/4 cup salt
1 1/2 pounds pork feet (3 halves) each half cut into 4 pieces by butcher
2 pounds lamb filet
2 1/2 pounds pork (fresh ham)
1 pound ham
2 quarts cold water, for the ham
12 Chinese black mushrooms
2 1/2 pounds Chinese turnips, peeled, both ends discarded, cut into 4 pieces lengthwise, then into 1-inch pieces
1 pound carrots (3 large), peeled, cut into 1-inch sections
Four 3-inch-long cinnamon sticks
4 pieces eight-star anise
6 scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
5 cups Shaohsing Rice Cooking wine or dry sherry
7 cups chicken stock
6 ounces rock sugar (rock candy) – you can substitute granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons double dark soy sauce, regular dark soy sauce, or mushroom soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
4 bamboo leaves, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, until softened, and washed
1 large lotus leaf, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes until softened, washed and dried
3 1/2 cups peanut oil for frying
~ Preparation ~
- To prepare the shark’s fin, the night before, soak the fins in a bowl of water with the white vinegar for a least 4 to 6 hours, rinse, and drain. Place the soaked shark’s fins in a steam-proof dish with the stock, wine, lard, ginger, and scallions and steam for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, discard the ginger and scallions, strain off and discard the liquid, and reserve overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the abalone, the night before (at the same time you soak the shark’s fins), wash the abalone, place in a pot with 3 quarts water, bring to a boil over medium heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to rest in the liquid in the pot overnight. Place the abalone in a steam-proof dish with the stock and wine and steam for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until softened. Discard the liquid and reserve the abalone overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the scallops, place the scallops and wine in a steam-proof dish and steam for 20 minutes, until softened. Turn off the heat, discard the liquid, and reserve the scallops overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the quail eggs, cook them in boiling water for about 7 minutes, until hard boiled. Remove from the pot and cool. Shell and reserve overnight, refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature on Day 2.
- To prepare the bamboo shoots, remove all outer husks down to the tender, cream-white core. Place the whole shoots in a pot with the water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. If very tender, simmer for 7 minutes; if a bit tough, simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, run cold water into the pot, and drain. Allow to cool, cut each shoot lengthwise into 4 pieces, and reserve overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the chicken, wash and remove the fat and membranes. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Sprinkle the outside with the salt and rub in well. Rinse, drain, and dry. Cut the chicken into 12 pieces and reserve overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the duck, prepare precisely as the chicken in the preceding step.
- To prepare the pork feet, cut up the pork feet, if necessary, and reserve overnight, refrigerated.
- To prepare the lamb and pork, cut the lamb into 12 equal pieces and reserve refrigerated, overnight. Cut the pork into 12 equal pieces and reserve refrigerated, overnight.
- To prepare the ham, place the ham and water in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow to rest in the liquid, and return to room temperature. Remove, discard the liquid, cut into 12 equal pieces, and reserve, refrigerated, overnight.
- To prepare the mushrooms, soak the mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes, until softened. Wash, drain, remove the stems, and reserve overnight, refrigerated.
- Heat a wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add the peanut oil and heat to 350 degrees F. Place the turnips in a Chinese strainer and lower into the oil. Blanch for 2 minutes, remove, drain over a bowl, and reserve. Bring the oil back to 350 degrees F, blanch the carrots and bamboo shoots similarly for 3 minutes, remove and drain, and reserve. Bring the oil again to 350 degrees F., add the quail eggs to the wok, and deep-fry for 2 minutes or until the eggs brown lightly. Remove, strain, and reserve.
- Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok and set aside. Heat the wok over high heat for 20 seconds. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 pieces of star anise, and half the scallions. Stir-fry until the fragrance is released, about 1 minute. Add the reserved chicken and duck, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the entire contents of the wok to a bowl, and reserve.
- Wash the wok and spatula. Heat the wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add the 3 tablespoons of the reserved peanut oil and coat the wok with it using a spatula. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the remaining cinnamon, anise, and scallions and stir for 1 minute. Add the pork feet, lamb, and pork and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Place the contents of the wok into a large pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and rock sugar and stir. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of the soy sauce and stir well. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the reserved chicken an duck and the contents of the bowl, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow all the contents of the pot to rest in the liquid for 10 minutes. Empty the contents into a bowl, including the cooking liquid, discard the scallions, and allow to cool sufficiently to handle.
- While all the meats are cooking, place the reserved blanched turnips, carrots, and bamboo shoots in a wok. Add the stock. Raise the heat to high, mix well, stirring, and bring to a boil. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce and stir. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, strain, and reserve. Reserve the liquid for another use.
- Wrap the reserved shark’s fin, abalone, scallops, and ham in cheesecloth. Sew or tie to close.
- For this final step, a large pot, about 3-gallon capacity, should be used. Pour 2 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the bowl into the pot. Place a rack on the bottom and cover with bamboo leaves trimmed to fit the shape of the rack. Begin layering ingredients.
- Place the pork feet in a single layer on the bamboo leaf-lined rack. Place a single layer of lamb atop the pork feet. Place a single layer of chicken atop the lamb. Place a single layer of duck atop the chicken. Place a single layer of pork atop the duck. Place the cheesecloth bundle atop the pork. Ladle 1 quart of cooking liquid over the layers. Place the mushrooms over the bundle. Layer the turnips, carrots, and bamboo shoots over the mushrooms. Pour the remaining liquid, including the spices, over the top. Lay the lotus leaf over the top of the pot. Place the pot cover on the leaf to seal the pot.
- Over low heat, allow the contents of the pot to simmer for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest for 10 minutes. Remove all the foods from the pot to a large heated serving platter. Garnish the platter with the quail eggs. Place the liquid, now a rich broth, in a heated tureen. Remove the cheesecloth bundle to another heated plate, discard the cheesecloth, remove the contents, slice the abalone thinly, and arrange it with the other ingredients as an accompaniment.
Mmm Mmm Crazy!!
Call me when the soup’s on!
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)