Learn more about Confucianism through its cuisine
By Tang Hsiang-yi, The China Post
March 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Dishes designed based on Confucius' (Kongzi, 孔子) teachings are almost unheard of in Taipei. Students in Taiwan grow up studying the Chinese philosopher's thoughts in their textbooks, but relating food with Confucius is something else.
Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Taipei is offering a selection of Kong family dishes brought by chefs from the soon-to-open Shangri-La hotel in Qufu (曲阜) in China's Shandong province, as well as Confucius' birth place.
Story-telling dishes such as Three Ingredients Soup (三套湯), The Kirin Imperial Book (麒麟御書) and Wisdom Frees Perplexity (知者不惑) are among the must-tries. Served in tea ware, the well-seasoned soup is cooked with chicken, duck and pig trotters for approximately 24 hours — the sum of three repeated procedures. In the end, all the ingredients are filtered away to keep only the essence of the soup. The long and painstaking culinary process reflects one of Confucius' famous quotes: Food can never be too good and cooking can never be done too carefully (食不厭精，膾不厭細).
It's difficult to guess what the dish is made of by the name Kirin Imperial Book. The deep-fried snapper with crispy scales turns out to be quite surprising — when was the last time you ate a fish with its scales? Legend has it that right before Confucius was born, a Kirin (a mythical Chinese creature) appeared in the neighborhood of the Kong family. The Kirin had a jade stone in its mouth and the calligraphy on the stone hints at Confucius' future as a spiritual leader. The chef keeps the scales and fries them until golden brown to signify the skin of a Kirin.
The dish Wisdom Frees Perplexity may not look very special but the braised pork ribs stuffed with spring onion stalk are truly tasty. In Chinese history during the Qin Shi Huang period (259 B.C. ~ 210 B.C.), a Kong family descendent was about to be buried alive by the emperor, until he was swapped with a minister's son. The dish was created to pass on the information secretly.
The Kong family cuisine is served at the hotel's Shang Palace, offering three table menus and 25 à la carte items from NT$180 each. Whether you are a follower of Confucianism or not, you can always enjoy a delicious meal. ■
► For reservations, call (02) 2376 3229