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Instant-boiled Mutton

Updated: 2013-01-09 09:28
Source:China Culture


Instant-boiled Mutton has a history of more than 800 years and is one of Beijing’s most popular delicacies.

Genghis Khan (1162–1227) became the Great Khan in 1206 after unifying various nomadic Mongol and Turkic tribes. His ascent marked an onslaught of invasions that expanded the newly created Mongol empire as far as the Black Sea in Central Europe. This founder of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) is regarded in world history as both an outstanding politician and military strategist.

Legend has it that during one particularly arduous military campaign the Khan’s cooks needed to devise a rapid method of preparing food for him and the troops. They came up with the idea of slaughtering a sheep and simply boiling the flesh – a tasty dish that both nourished the troops and boosted their morale.

The dish originally consisted of small, thick slices of mutton. By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), dip-boiled mutton had become popular both in the imperial court and among the common people. The year 1854 saw establishment of the Zhengyanglou, the first Han-owned restaurant in central Beijing to specialize in instant-boiled mutton. The dish was served in paper-thin slices – an innovation that heightened its popularity. At the beginning of the Republic of China (1912-1949) period the Beijing Donglaishun Restaurant enticed the chef in charge of slicing mutton away from the Zhengyanglou by tripling his pay. It thereafter specialized in instant-boiled mutton. Donglaishun proprietors went to great pains to ensure excellence by selecting only the best mutton, slicing it as finely as possible and compiling seasonings that most enhanced its flavor. The Donglaishun thus gained an unassailable reputation.

In spite of its apparent simplicity, boiled mutton entails elaborate preparation and cooking.

Method: slice 500g of mutton into 80-100 pieces, each 20cm by 5cm, and place on a plate.

Seasoning: Place separate quantities of sesame paste, minced fermented bean curd, pickled leek flower, soy sauce, chili oil, shrimp sauce and vinegar into small bowls. Diners select and mix these seasonings in their personal bowls according to taste.

Heat soup in a wok to boiling, adding dried shrimp and mushroom depending on diners’ taste. Add mutton slices to the boiling soup. When the meat changes color, take out of the wok and dip into seasoning. Also add to the hot pot bean vermicelli, sliced bean curd, Chinese cabbage and other vegetables. Baked sesame-coated pancakes and vinegar-pickled garlic are popular accompaniments.

Well-mixed seasoning and a good selection of vegetables make boiled thin-sliced mutton a tasty and nourishing culinary treat.

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