Luoyang Water Banquet

Luoyang Water Banquet

The Luoyang Water Banquet (洛阳水席) is a traditional specialty banquet from Luoyang, Henan Province, belonging to the Henan cuisine. Originating in the Tang Dynasty, it boasts a history of over 1000 years, making it one of the oldest preserved banquets in China’s history. The name “Water Banquet” has two main meanings: first, all hot dishes are served with soup, giving it a “watery” characteristic; second, dishes are served continuously, one after another, resembling the flow of water. Its distinguishing features include a combination of meat and vegetarian dishes, a wide selection of ingredients, flexibility in preparation, and a variety of flavors, encompassing sour, spicy, sweet, and salty tastes, offering a delightful and satisfying dining experience.

The origin of the Luoyang Water Banquet is closely related to its geographical climate. Surrounded by mountains, Luoyang has little rainfall and a dry climate, with few fruits grown in ancient times. As a result, soups were commonly consumed to combat the cold and dry weather. The locals preferred sour and spicy flavors to counteract the harsh conditions. Over time, they developed the Luoyang Water Banquet using locally sourced ingredients such as starch, lotus roots, yams, radishes, and cabbage, creating an economically viable and abundant feast with rich, local flavors.

The Luoyang Water Banquet consists of 24 dishes in total, including 8 cold dishes (such as spiced beef, smoked fish, marinated chicken, shredded pork ears, pickled lotus root, cold noodles, celery salad, and cucumber salad), 4 main dishes (peony shredded radish, spicy fish, whole chicken with assorted ingredients, honey-glazed eight-treasure rice), 8 medium dishes (Luoyang sliced ​​pork, Luoyang stewed goods, boiled meatballs, special taro, milk stewed crucian, fried meatballs, honey-glazed sweet potatoes, and rice wine-colored eggs), and 4 table-setting dishes (crispy pork, braised pork slices, Luoyang sea cucumber, and wishful egg soup). The serving order is meticulously arranged, with cold dishes served first as appetizers, followed by main, medium, and table-setting dishes, with each main dish accompanied by two medium dishes.

Legend has it that the astronomer Yuan Tiangang, while observing the celestial phenomena, predicted that Wu Zetian would become the empress in the future. However, he could not reveal this secret. Therefore, he designed this grand banquet, symbolizing the future prosperity of Wu Zetian for 24 years. Each dish with its soup symbolized the prosperity of Wu Zetian, while the variations in consistency represented the fluctuations during the 24 years of her reign.

As a unique traditional delicacy of Luoyang, the Water Banquet is not only beloved by locals but also attracts numerous visitors from other regions. Its distinctive preparation techniques and flavors have made it one of Luoyang’s representative culinary delights, earning it a place as one of the three unique features of the ancient capital. In the “Chinese Cuisine” list released on September 10, 2018, the Luoyang Water Banquet was named one of the “Top Ten Themed Banquets in Henan” in the “Chinese Cuisine” category.

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