Gung hay fat choy! May your soup bowl contain many treasures.
This is a Fujian classic, Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup, served at the Silks Palace Restaurant next to the National Museum in Taipei. It was set up for a photo shoot during our luncheon when I was in Taiwan. They took a bunch of photos of me pretending to eat, too. Never thought I’d be a fashion magazine model!
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is a deceptively simple-looking soup. It has dozens of ingredients, including shark fin, abalone, chicken, ham, quail eggs, and many vegetables and herbs. It’s served at the New Year in Taiwan. You can read about the preparation and ingredients used here.
And the name? It’s one of those stories with conflicting legends. But it seems that the smell of this soup cooking drove a Buddhist monk to distraction, and he either jumped over a wall to get to it or away from it, depending on the version. Read more about it on the Taiwan Food Culture website, which provides an excellent synopsis.
The version we had at the restaurant was in a ding, a ceramic version of a traditional cauldron. The lunch was really cool — we were treated to the Imperial Treasures Feast, a set menu with food prepared to evoke artifacts in the National Museum. We ate a poached replica of a baby bok choy made of jade, a thankfully more tender interpretation of a braised pork belly carved from agate, and nibbled on miniature deserts nestled in a model of a famous curio box. There’s a similar menu on the Silks Palace website, and more pictures.