Wall Vaulting Buddha

January 25, 2010

Despite the fact that this sounds like a nickname for a Chinese track and field champion it’s actually the name of a famous dish: 佛跳牆, or, literally, “Buddha jump wall”. Basically it’s a couple dozen awesomely delicious things (including ham, abalone, shitake mushrooms, shark fin, quail eggs, etc.) slow cooked together for a while. The history (or legend?) claims that when this dish was originally served it had no name. But then these dudes were like, dude, this dish is totally flippin’ epic in fact if you were to cook it while Buddha himself was meditating next door he would vault over the walls of the monastery and nom on this here epic bowl of ambrosia.

Except that these guys were rich liberal arts majors so they did not just say that out loud they had to write a poem about it. The lines that the dish got its name from are

「壇啟葷香飄四鄰,佛聞棄禪跳牆來。」

They basically mean something like “the aromatic cooking smell spreads to four grottoes away, when a buddha smells it he will abandon the state of zen and come leaping over walls”. Technically it’s “four residential units measured by the level of governance immediately below that which is designated a ‘village’ in the Chinese governmental structure” instead of “four grottoes” and also, although the word for “buddha” is used it really should be translated to “monk” or “holy man”. But then again we’re established that accurate translation is not the goal of this blog.

What is important is that, two hundred years ago, there’s this dude in China who created a dish so delicious that in theory if it was to exist centuries before his time it would prevent a major religious figure from achieving nirvana and prevent one of the largest religions on the planet from really forming. That’s pretty darn epic there.

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