May 17 • 38M

XO Soused S2 E2 - bear paws and other exotic banquet dishes

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A fortnightly chat about techniques and dishes from a professional Chinese kitchen, their history and their cultural setting
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What are braised bear paws doing on a (likely) imperial banqueting menu from the 1700s? What does the appearance of this exotic meat, and other dishes like steamed camel hump, tell us about the changing categories of ‘wildlife’ and ‘livestock’ in global food history, and about how Chinese heartland foods and peripheral cuisines are constructed?

Are there more to the names of these dishes than straightforward description, or can these names signal less about the central ingredient and more about the look of the dish?

As the skills and knowledge to cook such dishes remain accessible to Andrew and his chef network, how can he bring such complex ideas of edibility to his diners without crossing certain lines? What cross-cultural encounters about edibility and etiquette does his banqueting menu already contain and where else will he push out the envelope?

A front-on view of a large 18th century painting on silk of a large imperial victory banquet
A painting on silk of an Qing Dynasty imperial victory banquet for army officers and army officials, by Giuseppe Castiglione. Although the Qing Imperial family were Manchu, at the height of their power, they were well-versed in Han Chinese banqueting etiquette and dishes, and in banqueting cultures and foods from across their large and expanding empire. Source:

Further reading: Yue, Isaac, 2018. The Comprehensive Manchu–Han Banquet: History, Myth, and Development. Ming Qing Yanjiu 22(1):93-111

Intro and outro music: 遊子 [wanderer] by

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