The pine tree witnessed it all. From the top, it was able to see the activities that took place on both sides of wall. It knew that the Gods would be angry for the holy men could not resist the luring temptation. The tree was helpless and only wished that when lighting strikes, it would hit the neighbouring tree instead.
Two days earlier, the maiden was already hard at work; cutting, sun-drying and frying the pieces of fish maw. When her father announced that a matchmaking session was going to be held in their humble abode, she was sexcited beyond belief. The man was the youngest son of a farmer who lived in the mountain of Hern Bai, which was perpetually snowcapped.
She was definitely not the fairest of them all and her hands were coarse. But these were the same hands that had mesmerized guests from all over the province with dishes that could only be described as exquisite. The maiden was a miserable soul, one who was always waiting for her knight in shining armour to save her from the depressing state of solitude. Cooking saved her life for it was the only distraction she had. Come dawn, she would start to prepare the meals for the day. The evenings always ended with her deciding the menu for the next day.
The plan was to please her potential partner with a stew. One that was full of exotic ingredients like dried scallops, fish maw, chicken feet, abalone, pork ribs, fresh shitake mushrooms and sea cucumber. She sang as she cooked, for she was happy. She imagined how her prince charming would look like and fantasized about the amazing things that they would discover together.
Her voice transcended to the other side of the wall but did not catch the attention of the hardworking monks for it resembled neither Norah Jones nor A-Mei.
The monastery next to the house was known for having the strictest of rules when it came to acceptance of disciples. The candidates had to endure multiple rounds of rigorous physical tests and written examinations before they were allowed to meet the grandmaster whom would then decide on the admission.
They would begin their day meditating, followed by hours of martial arts training which had been incorporated with daily chores like chopping trunks for fuel and transporting water. Qi-style, of course. Come evening, they would meditate again before calling it a day. In between, there were vegetarian meals. And of course, being a monastery (or any sanctuary for that matter), talks and acts of indulgences were forbidden.
But soon, their faith would be tested.
Many would fall.
As the maiden put the finishing touches to the stew, the rich and briny scent of the combination of dried seafood had already penetrated through the walls of her house. She was most satisfied with the result and began fantasizing about her future husband again.
She kept stirring and the aroma travelled further.
Until it reached the monastery.
As if climaxing, the monks stoned for a good second.
What is this strange, almost enlightening scent?
Moments went by and the aroma had now infused into their bloodstream. Tranced, they began searching for the source of that smell of happiness. It did not take long before they discovered that it actually came from the other side of the wall. Yes, the same place that housed that terrible voice!
The days of martial arts training paid off. With a deep breath to absorb in the surrounding qi, they were able to jump over the wall with just one leap.
Suddenly, it began to rain heavily.
Then, lighting struck.
The huge pine tree fell on the maiden’s house.
This stew is called Buddha Jumps Over The Wall or 佛跳墙. The above fiction is an exaggerated, self-indulging depiction of how the name of the dish was derived. Personally, I thought the more accurate name should be Monks Jump Over The Wall as Lord Buddha himself is not in anyway related to this story.
For a more accurate description, click here.
The somehow dry stew in the photos was prepared by my momma a few weeks back. The ingredients in the cabinet were calling out our names since the Chinese New Year period but we were too busy to attempt this sinful dish. She opted for the dry version as the thick, (naturally) gelatinous gravy would complement the white rice well.
The result, delicious!