Chinese 9 Course Dinner

The following recipes form the most popular items in a nine-course dinner program:

Bird’s Nest Soup

Soak one pound bird’s nest in cold water overnight.  Drain the cold water and cook in boiling water. Drain again. Do this twice. Clean the bird’s nest.  Be sure to take out all feathers and loose particles.

Put the bird’s nest into a pot, cover with water and make a soup. Chop one-half pound of pork into a hash and add to bird’s nest. Cook over slow fire for two hours. Add one tablespoon Chinese sauce and dash of salt.

Pour into bowl, garnish with shredded chicken and cooked ham, and green Chinese parsley.

Bird's Nest for Soup

Bird’s Nest for Soup

Steamed Chicken

Clean a chicken, cover with water, and boil until tender. This makes a soup which is generally used as stock for other courses.

Remove chicken. Chop up, bones and all, into slices, which are heaped into a bowl. Garnish with slices of ham, black mushrooms cooked in soup stock, and green  parsley.

Whole Duck

Clean a duck. Cut an opening below neck and remove bones and all.

Make this mixture: one-half pound pork, one-fourth pound ham, one cup white chesnuts, one cup chestnuts, one cup water chestnuts, one-half cup mushrooms. Chop all fine, and add salt and pepper.

Stuff duck with this mixture, place in a pan and steam for two hours.

Serve duck in bowl, pour a little chicken soup over it, garnish with green parsley.

Fried Pigeon

Clean pigeons; it will require three to make one bowl. Wipe dry. Cook the bird in boiling oil.

Place lettuce on bottom of bowl before you place the cooked bird in it. Garnish with won-tun chips.

This dish tastes best when eaten with a special Chinese salt called wai-yim.  (wai-yim is MSG or monosodium glutamate)

White Mushroom Chicken 

Clean chicken. Remove bones. Cut meat into pieces. Cover with a seasoning made of Chinese sauce, two tablespoons of sugar, and five tablespoons of cornstarch.

Cover one can of white mushrooms with water in pot.  When soup comes to a boil, add the seasoned chicken.  Cook for one hour and a half, adding a little soup stock.

Pour into serving bowl, garnish with cooked shredded ham and green parsley.

Fried Frog Legs

Cut two frogs in pieces, dip in a mixture of three eggs, three tablespoons cornstarch, four tablespoons Chinese sauce, and a little wine.  Fry the frogs’ legs in hot fat, dipping one piece at a time, as you would doughnuts.

Serve garnished cauliflower, bamboo shoots, and Holland peas cooked in a little soup stock, and green parsley.

Shark’s Fins

Soak sharks’ fins over night.  Clean out all the loose particles. Cover with water and boil for two hours, adding tow tablespoons Chinese sauce, one cup chicken soup stock, dash of salt, and one tablespoons cornstarch.

Serve garnished with shredded chicken, already cooked, and green parsley.

Oyster Special

Soak one-half pound dried oysters in hot water.  Remove and grind into hash, together with one-fourth pound fish cake (scraped raw fish), one-fourth pound ham, one cup water chestnuts, one cup white mushrooms, and a little bamboo shoots.

Make thumb-size sausages of this hash, by enclosing each with the clinging fat of pork.  Dip each sausage into egg and then fry in hot fat.

Serve garnished with green parsley.

Deep Sea Abalone 

Soak one and one half pounds Chinese dried abalone in water over night.  Drain and wash clean.

Cover with water and boil for six hours, until abalone becomes fluffed and soft.

Remove and slice.  Into the broth left place one cup of sliced water chestnuts.  Put in the slices of abalone.  Add two tablespoonfuls sugar, two tablespoonsful cornstarch, four tablespoonsfuls Chinese sauce.

Simmer for half an hour. Serve garnished with parsley.

Seasoned Pork Slices

Boil two and one-fourth pounds pork for half an hour.  Use the part of pork that is used for making bacon.

Remove pork and drain.  Wipe dry.  Fill frying pan with peanut oil and cook the pork in it.  Remove and wash in cold water.  Wipe dry.

Make a seasoning of narm-yai (red bean sauce) and Chinese sauce. Slice pork and saturate each slice with this sauce.

Heap slices of pork in deep bowl over slices of cooked lotus. Place bowl in covered kettle and steam for one hour.

The Nine-Course Dinner

Chinese dinners are given for all the usual occasions, a marriage, a birthday, to honor a friend or to celebrate success in some enterprise.  The guests receive invitations in the form of a folded red cardboard with the name inscribed on a loose leaf inside.  Written inside the folder in black characters are the time of the dinner, where it is to be given, the purpose of the celebration and the names of the hosts.

If you arrive at the place at the time set you are likely to find yourself the only one present.  The dinner may actually begin one to three hours after the time announced.

Gradually the other guests drift in.  You chat with them, getting hungrier all the time.  Most of the social diversion of a Chinese dinner party comes before the dinner itself is served.  Frequently the guests rise and do directly home from the table.  And there is little conversation during the dinner itself, the time at the table being devoted almost exclusively to enjoying the food.  Silence is not a breach of good manners; only the clatter of earthen spoons and the patter of chop sticks is heard.

The size of a dinner party is indicated b the number of tables.  Each table is round and ofa a size to accommodate just ten guests comfortably, no more nor no less.  A twelve-table dinner party therefore, is obviously a large and elaborate affair.  The guests sit on stools rather than on chairs.

The table is covered with a clean white cloth and there are no decorations in the center, as soon there will be no room for such a thing as flowers.  Ready on the table are small dishes of dried watermelon seeds, Chinese sugared fruits, dried cured chidken livers, cakes and fresh fruit.  There is also a typically shaped pitcher of soyu or Chinese sauce and perhaps a jug of light wine.

At each place is laid a pair of chopsticks, a china spoon, a plate about the size of a butter chip and another about the size of a saucer.  There is also a bowl about six inches in diameter.  All the food is eaten from this one bowl, portions from each large dish brought on being dipped into it as desired.

The small plate is used to hold soyu or Chinese sauce.  A morsel of food is picked up in the chopsticks, dipped into the sauce and then put into the mouth.  The saucer-sized plate is used to hold bits of bone or anything else discarded.

About half way through the dinner, bowls filled with plain boiled rice, are brought on.  This rice is eaten plain, no food or sauce being poured over it.  Almost at the end of the meal small tea bowls filled with steaming tea are brought on along with the teapot.  Several bowls of tea are usually sipped to conclude the meal, corresponding to the demi tasse.  The practice of serving tea in the beginning is a a western innovation.

The guests take their places at the tables, frequently the men being all together and the women likewise.  The sweets and water-melon seeds and other things on the table are nibbled until the first course appears.

The dinner is usually described as “nine course,” although this is not strictly adhered to.  Each main dish is counted as one course, although there may be special sauces or other accompaniments to increase the actual number of dishes served.  The large dishes are placed one by one in the middle of the table, at intervals so that there is time for each one to be sampled before the next one appears.  One can return for a second or third helping of any of the dishes which one particularly likes.

About the time the first dish is put on the table some one, acting as host if the host is elsewhere, pours wine from an earthen wine pot into tiny wine bowls, each holding about a large tablespoonful. All the guests drink together and thereafter the bowls are kept filled and sips are taken as desired.  Seldom are more than three or four of these tiny bowls emptied by an individual in the course of a meal.

The dinner reverse the western order, running from sweets to soup instead of the reverse.  The first course, served after the appetizers, is usually bird’s nest soup, which is more like a stew than a soup.  The courses that follow can be anything desired provided they have variety and contrast.  The final course is a thin soup and this is not accounted one of the nine.

(source: Chinese Cookery, Compiled by M. Sing Au – 1932 – Creart Publications, Honolulu, U.S.A.)

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