Mudan Yancai (Peony Shredded Radish)

Mudan Yancai (Peony Shredded Radish)

Mudan Yancai (牡丹燕菜), originally known as Luoyang Yancai or Fake Yancai, is a traditional famous dish unique to Luoyang, Henan Province, belonging to the Henan cuisine system. This dish has a long history, originating from the Tang Dynasty, with rich cultural backgrounds and legends.

Preparation and Ingredients

The preparation of Mudan Yancai is extremely meticulous, with white radish as the main ingredient. First, the white radish is finely shredded, soaked, drained, mixed with mung bean powder, steamed slightly in a steamer, and then scattered in cold water, seasoned with salt, and steamed again to resemble the silk of a bird’s nest. Then, it is paired with ingredients such as crab meat, sea cucumber, ham, and shredded bamboo shoots, steamed again until thoroughly cooked. Finally, clear soup is added with salt, MSG, pepper, and sesame oil poured in, and the dish is ready to serve.

Characteristics and Flavor

The hallmark of Mudan Yancai lies in its unique cooking method and ingredient combination. The carefully prepared Yancai soup noodles paired with peony flowers make the dish even more delicious, leaving a profound taste impression. This dish has a tangy and spicy flavor, with a refreshing and palatable texture. The meat slices maintain a tender texture while carrying a subtle sour taste.

Historical and Cultural Background

There is a historical legend related to the origin of Mudan Yancai, involving the Empress Wu Zetian. It is said that during Wu Zetian’s reign, a particularly large radish grew in the vegetable garden outside the East Gate of Luoyang. The farmers regarded it as a marvel and presented it to the court. The imperial chefs pondered over it and cooked it with rare delicacies from the mountains and seas, presenting it as a soup to the Empress. Delighted by its resemblance to bird’s nest silk, the Empress named it “Fake Yancai”. From then on, “Fake Yancai” became a delicacy at both royal banquets and among the common people.

Origin of the Name

In 1973, during a visit to Luoyang with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Zhou Enlai tasted this dish. When Premier Zhou saw peony flowers made of egg yolk steamed cake adorned on top of the Yancai, he humorously remarked, “Luoyang’s peonies are the best in the world, and now they bloom in dishes.” Since then, “Luoyang Yancai” has also been called “Mudan Yancai”.

Honors and Status

As the head dish of Luoyang water banquets, Mudan Yancai has always been loved and praised by people. In March 2000, Luoyang’s “Mudan Yancai” was designated as a “Chinese famous dish promotion variety” by the Domestic Trade Bureau. On September 10, 2018, “Chinese Cuisine” was officially released, and “Mudan Yancai” was named one of the “Top Ten Classic Henan Dishes”.

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