"Chinese quinine is divided into eight general cuisine or eight styles: Shandong food, Cantonese food, Jiangsu food, Fujian food, Zhejiang food, Hunan food and Anhui food. However, we can mention Chinese cuisine without mentioning Manchu Han Imperial Feast.
"When the Manchus conquered China and founded the Qing dynasty, the Manchu and Han people struggled for power. Kangxi emperor wanted to resolve the disputes and held a banquet on his 66th birthday. The banquet consisted of Manchu and Han dishes and both groups attended the banquet together.
"The meal was prepared comprising six banquets over three days with over 300 dishes. Altogether there are said to have been 196 main dishes and 124 snack dishes for a total of 320 dishes. Depending on how the dishes are counted with the sample, at the absolute minimum there were 108 dishes. Moreover, it is said that there were "thirty-Two Delicacies" referring to the more exotic ingredients used for the banquet.
"The 'Eight Mountain Delicacies" include such dishes as camel hump, bear paws, monkey brains, leopard fetuses, ape's lips, rhinoceros tails and deer tendons. The eight Fowl Delicacies" include quail, swan, and peacock. The "Eight Grass Delicacies" include tremella and donkey nest fungus. And the "Eight Sea Delicacies" include dried sea cucumbers, shark fin, bird's next among others.
The Manchu Han Imperial Feast was more than just a lavish buffet of food, it was the pinnacle of culinary art and aesthetics. Dishes were laid out with great fanfare and even given poetic names such as water lily crisp and golden thread porridge.
"For the ceremonious occasion, music, fireworks and saluting were needed in receiving the distinguished guests. When all the guests arrived, the emperor invited them to take seats at the banquet. The order of seating at the table depended on their social status. After seated, the guests would be served the pastry first and then the Three-course Tea, and finally the main course. What's more, the officers ranking lower must toast to the hight-powered ones.
Nowadays, it is believed that many of the actual recipes for dishes at the first Manchu Han Imperial Feast failed to be handed down and have been lost; while other recipes used ingredients such as exotic plants and animals which are now protected. Even though some five-star hotels claim that they served a re-creation of the Manchu Han Imperial Feast, many of the recipes and dishes are modified from their predecessors. Despite the modifications to the ancient styles of Manchu and Han culinary expertise, these modern interpretations are certainly worth of a try. So, come to China to try a modern re-creation of the legendary Manchu Han Imperial Banquet and feast like an emperor!"