Malaysian Tourists in China (MTC): So, what food is special in Xian that we should try?
Chinese Tour Guide about to migrate to New Zealand (CTG): Well, perhaps you would like to try a Dumpling Banquet
MTC: Dumpling Banquet?? (visions of numerous types of pau came floating to head)
CTG: We have many types of dumpling here, steamed, fried .. maybe over 80 varieties.
MTC: And what happens in a Dumpling Banquet
CTG: Maybe you will get served a variety of dumpling, perhaps over 20 or 30 types. They will serve normally one dumpling of each type for you to try.

After concurring with the family, we thought "What the heck! We have nothing to lose, food in Beijing was bad anyway!"

So, after spending the day viewing the Terracotta Warriors, we took the very bumpy ride back towards Xian City. We made a stop at the Orient Hotel and proceeded to their Chinese restaurant.

After the cold dishes of various type of pickles we started on our Dumpling Banquet. I can' t remember exact details of how many (though I will upload some of the photos soon!) but I do remember that the first one we had was fried plain flower dumpling served with condensed milk. After that there were ones that looked like walnut and tasted like baked walnuts but was actually a dumpling. We also had steamed ones, of course, that came in various shapes - chinese cabbage shaped for the vegetarian one, animal shapes like ducks and chickens, monkey faces, flowers, etc - the list is just endless and everytime the waitress would bring another basket or plate out we would ooh and aah and between CL and I, we would keep telling everyone, " don't take it yet, let us get some photos!"

Apart from the special dumplings, we were also given plates of normal dumplings - the gyoza looking ones which was all quite yummy. We were very stuffed when the waitress came out with a big pot of soup and lighted the fire underneath. She attempted to explain what it was all about but her English was really difficult to understand but here goes:

The last dish was called the "chrysanthemum chafing dish", where the waitress boiled pearl-sized dumplings in the pot of "soup". It seems it was prepared for the Dowager Cixi when she visited Xian and she wanted something very simple. Her request and visit were also very last minute so the best they could do was prepare this dish.

There's a story behind this dish (courtesy of Xian Travel website)
When guest taste the pearl dumpling (more or less), they will get blessing related with number of dumpling they get:

When you eat one dumpling, the blessing is to plain sailing
two dumplings -- a double blessing has descended upon the house
three dumplings -- to go up three grades in a row
four dumplings -- to get rich in four seasons
five dumplings -- an abundant harvest of all food crops
six dumplings -- everything goes well
seven dumplings -- seven stars shine upon you(good luck)
eight dumplings -- the Eight Immortals crossing the sea (each one showing his or her special prowess)
nine dumplings--the highest above all
ten dumplings--be perfect in every way.

If you are the one do not have one to eat, don't be disappointed, you will get the blessing that "worry nothing and have good health and a long life".

All in all, it was one of the better culinary moments in my trip to China. It was also something very different to experience.

The Banquet cost us around RM80 per person (including some local chinese wine) and advance booking is required.

Dumpling Banquets can be experienced in some of the hotels around Xian and Shaanxi province.

Orient Hotel
Address: 393 Zhuque Road, Xi'an
Phone: 86-29-5262211, 5262242

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