Royal roll call
Updated: 2011-06-05 08:07
By Li Yao (China Daily)
Panlong - or dragon - rolls, once served on royal tables of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) under the Jiajing emperor (1522-1566), form a traditional dish in Central China's Hubei province.
The rolls are known for their bright color, subtle fragrance, delectable taste and imperial appearance.
Legend has it that when the Zhengde emperor Zhu Houzhao died heirless in 1521, his cousin Zhu Houcong, son of the late governor of Chengtianfu, today's Zhongxiang city in Hubei, was named as the successor.
To guard against the eventuality that his uncles or brothers would steal the throne by arriving earlier in Beijing, Zhu Houcong traveled day and night disguised as a prisoner sent to Beijing under guard.
Loathe to eat food for prisoners, he demanded that his cooks create a meat dish that did not look like it was made of meat. So he ended up with a steamed roll made of mashed egg with fish meat and pork inside. The dainty dish was convenient to carry and not greasy.
Zhu Houcong succeeded to the throne and became the Jiajing emperor. In the second year of his reign, the cook who had created the dish became a royal chef and modified the recipe to give it a more elegant and ceremonial appearance in the shape of dragon. The Jiajing emperor was pleased with the change and named it the Panlong royal dish.
The Panlong spread far and wide as a tradition in Hubei. Served as the first and most-expected dish when treating guests during the Spring Festival in many households, it can also be seen on dinner tables all the year round. It is now offered in many ways - steamed, fried, braised or stewed.
As most of the dish's ingredients are minced fish, it offers a delicious, tender taste and is a great source of nutrients including proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Recipe | Panlong Rolls
1. Puree lean pork and soak it in water for half an hour. Drain the water and season the puree with salt, chopped green onions, bruised ginger, dry starch and egg white.
2. Mash fish meat, add salt and dry starch to make the fish paste. Mix in the pork well.
3. Make egg crepes in a pan. Put mixed pork and fish paste on a crepe and roll it into desired length and round size.
4. Put the rolls in a steamer for half an hour over a hot fire and boiling water. After the steamed rolls cool, slice them into 3-mm thick pieces.
5. Lay the slices upside down in a bowl and form a tight circle along the bowl's rim.
6. Put the bowl in a steamer for 15 minutes, and use a larger plate to hold the reversed bowl.
Remove the bowl and the dish stands ready to be served on table for a typical household. Optional and decorative seasoning can be put on top of the steaming dish.
In restaurants, the dish usually appears in its ceremonial dragon shape to become Panlong rolls.
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