Peony Cubilose

Luoyang Cubilose, or Peony Cubilose, is a famous traditional dish with unique features among Han Chinese in Luoyang, Henan. It falls into the Henan cuisine category. The major ingredients include white turnips, sea cucumbers, squids and chicken. When served, Luoyang Cubilose as a finished product turns out to be a splendid peony flower as white as polished jade floating on the broth. With an appetizing smell and a refreshing flower scent, it has won the applause of distinguished guests.
“Luoyang Cubilose" is also called "Fake Cubilose” or "Peony Cubilose". It is a delicacy characteristic of Western Henan, and has been listed as the first dish at Luoyang Water Banquets ("Luoyang Water Banquet" originated in the Tang Dynasty. It has over 1,000 years of history. The whole banquet comprises 24 dishes, of which 8 are cold dishes that go with wine, 4 are main courses, 8 are middle courses, 4 are final courses). It is said that water banquet sends two messages: all hot dishes are served in broth; dishes flush the dinner table like flowing water. Peony Cubilose is definitely a dish that will show up. Like a lady in gorgeous attire in the prime of the Tang Dynasty who attracted everyone's attention upon arrival, a dazzling tender yellow peony flower floats on the broth. The beauty of the flower, the fragrance of the meal, the refreshing flavor of the broth, the sour, spicy taste, and the smooth mouth feel sweep everyone away.
Cultural Links
1. We all know that Luoyang Peony flourished in the Tang Dynasty. According to legend, Luoyang Water Banquet began in the Wuzhou regnal period under the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. How "Luoyang Cubilose” came along can be seen in the following legend. During the Wuzhou regnal period, Empress Wu Zetian, on her inspection tour of the statue of Vairocana Buddha (patterned on the appearance of Wu Zetian herself), arrived at Xianju Palace, Luoyang. It so happened that a giant three-chi-long white turnip was found in Guanxiayuan Village, east of the city. The white turnip was green in its upper part and white in its lower part, and weighed more than 30 jin. Local farmers considered it a miracle and an auspicious sign. They presented it to the royal palace as a tribute. The royal chefs knew it was hard to make a good dish out of a white turnip but they, fearing the power of Wu Zetian, obeyed the orders. They thought hard for ideas and finally came up with a soup dish concocted from the white turnip and all kinds of costly foods, thinking it would have the royal flavor. After Wu Zetian tasted it, she praised the dish for its plain, mellow, and refreshing flavor. Noticing that it looked like a bird’s nest, she immediately named the dish "Fake Cubilose". Wu Zetian’s preferences affected a large number of aristocrats and officials, who strived to catch the trend when holding banquets and served "Fake Cubilose” as the first course, even in seasons when white turnip was not available. They made other vegetables into "Fake Cubilose” to avoid loss of face. What a dignitary practices necessarily has an impact on his followers. The preferences of the royal palace and government officials were felt on the dinner tables of ordinary households. Whether it be a wedding, a funeral, or a gathering of friends, "Fake Cubilose” was always the first dish at banquets. White turnip fit into a variety of raw materials during preparation. Valuable foods as well as familiar shredded meat and eggs can be used as ingredients. The taste was hot, sour, and very delicious. Therefore, restaurants rushed to follow the example. Later, the word “fake” was deleted from the name and it was simply referred to as "cubilose". With the development of history and the hard creative work of generations of chefs, "cubilose” is becoming increasingly perfect. Hot, sour, refreshing, smooth, unique and nutritious, it survived through the ages and has become a famous traditional dish in Luoyang, hence the name “Luoyang Cubilose”.
2. On October 14, 1973, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, accompanied by Premier Zhou, visited Luoyang. He stayed at the Youyi Hotel. According to "Annals of Youyi Hotel", Premier Zhou entertained the Canadian guests at the noon banquet. A few courses typical of the Luoyang Water Banquet, including the millennium-old “Luoyang Cubilose”, were served. When Premier Zhou saw “Luoyang Cubilose” and the carving of a gorgeous, graceful peony flower meticulously made out of steamed pudding with yolk by chefs of the Youyi Hotel to highlight the features of Luoyang, he said humorously: "How did Luoyang Peony find its way to the table?” After waiters introduced the name "Luoyang Cubilose", Premier Zhou smiled and said: "‘Luoyang Peony is famed far and wide’ and even shows up in a dish. It is better to call it ‘Peony Cubilose’". Guests present in the banquet hall gave him a round of applause. At that moment, a change in the menu of the Luoyang Water Banquet occurred—"Luoyang Cubilose" was renamed "Peony Cubilose". “A dish earned its fame and popularity all because of a flower”. This is especially the case with "Peony Cubilose". Premier Zhou changed the name of the dish. As a result, the Luoyang Water Banquet skyrocketed to fame.
A Different Name
“In the morning, the national flower soaks herself in wine; during night, her sweet scent infiltrates dresses”. Luoyang is a famous city of peony flowers. Combing legendary, gorgeous and graceful peony flowers with cubilose highlights the features of Luoyang. On October 14, 1973, Premier Zhou Enlai accompanied Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau on his visiting tour to Luoyang. Luoyang’s master chefs Wang Changsheng and Li Daxiong made a chic dish with a faint scent for them: Luoyang Cubilose. A gorgeous peony flower as white as polished jade was seen floating on the broth. An appetizing smell and a refreshing scent filled the banquet hall and immediately won the applause of the distinguished guests present. Premier Zhou said humorously: “Luoyang Peony is famed far and wide and even shows up in a dish.” Later, people called the dish “Peony Cubilose”. A dish earned its fame and popularity all because of a flower. The two complemented each other well. As a result, the dish skyrocketed to fame (In March 2000, the Department of Domestic Trade listed “Peony Cubilose” as a China's Delicacies promotion product).

Preparation steps

The Luoyang Water Banquet falls into high-end, medium-end and low-end categories. High-end water banquets include sea cucumber banquets, shark fin banquets, and fish maw banquets; medium-end water banquets include chicken banquets, fish banquets, and meat banquets; low-end water banquets are average banquets with meat, starch noodles, and vegetables as the main ingredients. Luoyang Water Banquet has a unique flavor. Each dish has a delicious taste of its own, which ranges from salty, sweet, sour to spicy. Both costly foods and starch noodles and radishes can be made into wonderful dishes on the table, catering to the tastes of consumers from all walks of life. In this way, Luoyang Water Banquet survived the test of millennia with unfailing fame. Peony Cubilose can be prepared in a variety of ways using a variety of ingredients. 5 most common Processes are introduced as follows:

Preparation Technique 1

Major ingredients: white turnip, 500 grams; mung bean pieces, 75 grams.

Minor ingredients: tremella (dried), 20 grams; spinaches, 100 grams; scallion and caraway minces, a little bit.

Condiments: sesame oil, 5 grams; cooking wine, 10 grams; salt, 4 grams; monosodium glutamate, 2 grams; vinegar, a few drops.

Preparation steps:
1. Peel and wash white turnips clean. Cut them into 10-cm-long threadlets. Soak them in water for a short moment. Take them out and let the water drain away.
2. Press mung bean pieces into fine powder and mix it with white turnip threadlets. Stir the mixture even. Cook it over a high-temperature fire for 5 minutes. Take it out and cool it in the air. Put it into cool water and scatter the stuff with hand. Steam it until it is thoroughly cooked. Keep it (the "cubilose") for future use.
3. Wash the tremella clean. Cook it in boiling water until it is done. Scoop it up. Scald spinach leaves in boiling water, then take them out and let water drain away.
4. Put steamed "cubilose" into a soup bowl. Add tremella (peony-flower shaped). Lay spinach leaves around the tremella. Sprinkle the top with scallion and caraway minces along the rim of the bowl. Heat the chicken soup (750 ml) until it boils. Put together cooking wine, monosodium glutamate and salt. Stir the mixture smooth. Pour it into the soup bowl along the rim. Finally, pour in sesame oil all the way along the rim of the bowl. The dish is ready!
Preparation Technique 2

Major ingredients: big white turnips from Dongguan, Luoyang, 500 grams; mung bean powder, 100 grams.
Minor ingredients: shredded cooked chicken, shredded cooked ham, shredded mushrooms, shredded sea cucumber, shredded squid, shredded bamboo shoots, 50 grams each; steamed pudding with yolk, 1; vegetable leaves, 3.
Condiments: refined salt, pepper powder, cooking wine, monosodium glutamate, vinegar, chicken soup, and sesame oil, each in the right amount.

Preparation steps:
1. Wash big white turnips clean. Shred them into 5-cm-long, 0.1-cm-thick threads. Put the threads in water. Soak them for about 30 minutes to get rid of the bitter taste. Then take them out and let them dry.
2. Lay the mung bean pieces on the chopping board. Grind them into powder and sieve them. Sprinkle the powder evenly over the white turnip threads. Stir them even with hand (to the extent that they are not wet or glutinous). Scatter them in the steamer. Steam them over high heat for about 6 minutes. Take them out of the steamer and cool them in the air. Put an appropriate amount of refined salt and pepper powder into cool boiled water. Put in steamed white turnip threads. Scatter them with hand. Lay them flat in the steamer. Add a little refined salt and pepper powder. Turn up the heat and steam them for about 5 minutes. Take them out. A dish of "vegetable cubilose” is ready!
3. Scald shredded cooked chicken, shredded cooked ham, shredded mushrooms, shredded sea cucumber, shredded squid, and shredded bamboo shoots in boiling water separately. Take them out. Put them into clear chicken soup. Add salt, pepper powder, and monosodium glutamate. Simmer them until the flavor gets inside them.
4. Put the prepared "vegetable cubilose” into a large soup basin. Lay shredded cooked chicken, shredded cooked ham, shredded mushrooms, shredded sea cucumber, shredded squid, and shredded bamboo shoots, which have already become tasty as a result of simmering, neatly on the "vegetable cubilose” in a radial pattern. Pour in clear chicken soup, to which refined salt, cooking wine, pepper powder, and monosodium glutamate have been added, along the rim of the basin (to the extent that the raw materials inside are submerged). Steam the stuff for about 30 minutes. Take it out. Pour in vinegar and sesame oil. Finally, put yellow cake slices on the top and arrange them to resemble a peony flower. Ornament the “flower” with 3 green vegetable leaves. The dish is ready!

Preparation Technique 3

Major ingredients: white turnip (1,000 grams), water-soaked sea cucumber (250 grams), dried squid (100 grams), chicken (300 grams), chicken breast (100 grams).
Minor ingredients: cake (200 grams), egg white (50 grams), horsebean starch (8 grams), ham (25 grams), mung bean powder (100 grams), soaked beef tendon (15 grams), dried tender bamboo shoots (8 grams), dried, shelled shrimps (15 grams), an appropriate amount of red and green cake.

Condiments: white vinegar (10 grams), refined lard (15 grams), salt (5 grams), monosodium glutamate (2 grams), rice wine (2 grams).

Preparation Steps:

1. Wash white turnips clean and peel them. Keep the middle sections. Cut them into 2-mm-thick, 6-cm-long threadlets;

2. Soak the turnip threadlets in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes. Take them out. Drain the water away. Add dry starch. Stir them even. Spread them out on the steamer cloth. Steam them for 5 minutes;

3. Take out the steamed turnip threadlets and cool them in the air. Put them into cold water. Scatter them. Take them out and let the water drain away. Sprinkle 3 grams of refined salt over them. Stir them even;

4. Steam them again for 5 minutes. The vegetable cubilose is ready. Take it out and place it into a big pot;

5. Soak dried squid in cool water until it is soft. Tear off the plasma membrane. Put it into evenly stirred water containing soda ash (sodium carbonate, 50 grams; cool water, 1,000 ml). Put a heavy object on it. Soak it for 4 to 5 hours and it will rise;

6. Scoop it up and rinse it in water many times until it becomes thick, heavy, transparent and elastic. Put it into water. Add a proper amount of natural ice. Keep it for future use;

7. Wash chicken clean. Cook it thoroughly;

8. Soak dried tender bamboo shoots, then wash them clean;

9. Shred sea cucumbers, squid, tender bamboo shoots, tendons, and cooked chicken into 5-cm-long, 2-cm-wide rectangular slices;

10. Scald the soaked slices separately in boiling water;

11. Cut the ham into rectangular slices;

12. Divide dried shrimps and shredded minor ingredients into groups according to material type. Arrange them in rows on the vegetable cubilose in the pot;

13. Chop raw chicken breast into a paste. Add egg white and a little wet starch and refined salt. Stir the stuff until it becomes tough;

14. Add clear soup (100 ml) and a little lard. Stir the mixture into a paste. Place the paste into a small shallow bowl;

15. Cut the red and green cakes into thin slices. Shred the red cake into petals and the green cake into leaves. Put them together to resemble a peony flower. Insert the flower into the chicken paste in the small shallow bowl. Steam it thoroughly. Take it out. Place it in the middle of the pot;

17. Put the stockpot over a high-temperature fire. Add clear broth (900 ml). Put in salt, white vinegar, yellow wine, and cooked lard. Stir them smooth when the soup boils. Scoop it up.

Important tips

1. The material must be the middle sections of fresh white turnips. To make threadlets, you need a knife instead of a grater. The soaking time must be long enough, or it would be difficult to get rid of foul odors.

2. Skin the chicken breast. Spread the meat on the skin (pores facing downwards) on the chopping board. Smash it with the blade of a knife until it becomes a paste. Pick out tendons in the process (sprinkle some water over the middle to prevent the paste from clinging onto the knife).

3. When stirring the chicken paste, add cooked lard to improve the flavor and ensure a tender mouth feel. Note that cooked lard, if too much, would make the chicken paste cake greasy and brittle.

4. A thin layer of sesame oil must first be applied to the interior of the small shallow bowl before putting the chicken paste into the steamer. This way, it will be easy to get it out after it is done.

Preparation Technique 4

Major ingredients: white turnips, mung bean starch.

Minor ingredients: ham, water-soaked sea cucumbers, water-soaked squid, chicken, winter bamboo shoots, mushrooms, endive sprouts.

Condiments: salt, pepper powder, white vinegar, top grade clear soup, sesame oil.

Preparation steps:

1. Opt for the middle sections of white turnips. Peel them and wash them clean. Cut them into threadlets. Shred ham, sea cucumbers, squid, chicken, winter bamboo shoots, mushrooms (water-soaked), and endive sprouts into threadlets.

2. Soak white turnip threadlets in water for 10 minutes. Drain them. Add mung bean starch and stir the mixture even. Steam it over a high-temperature fire until it is thoroughly cooked.

3. Cool the steamed white turnip threadlets. Put them in water and scatter them. Drain them. Put them back into the steamer and steam them for 5 minutes.

4. Lay ham threadlets, sea cucumber threadlets, shredded squid, shredded winter bamboo shoots, shredded mushrooms, and shredded endive sprouts neatly on the bottom of the bowl. Put white turnip threadlets on the minor ingredients. Steam them for 5 minutes. Take them out and place them into a big bowl upside down.

5. Concoct a sourish soup from top grade clear broth, salt, pepper powder, white vinegar, and sesame oil. Pour it into a big bowl. Ornament it with a peony flower made from dyed dough.

Important tips

1. Opt for fresh white turnips. Never use old white turnips with an empty space inside.

2. A good flavor depends on a high-grade clear soup.

3. This dish is refreshingly salty, and at the same time slightly sour and spicy. Be careful about the amount when adding pepper powder and white vinegar to improve the flavor.

Preparation Technique 5

Major ingredients: middle sections of big white turnips (500 grams), mung bean powder (100 grams).

Minor ingredients: dried shrimps, shredded chicken, shredded squid, shredded sea cucumber, shredded tendons, shredded Jinhua ham, shredded tender bamboo shoots, and shredded fried egg, each in the right amount; a little caraway and chive; a piece of steamed egg pudding (either yellow or white).

Condiments: refined salt, pepper powder, cooking wine, monosodium glutamate, vinegar, soup-stock, and sesame oil, each in the right amount.

Preparation steps:

1. Shred white turnips into half-inch-long threadlets. Soak them in cold water for 25 minutes. Take them out and drain them.

2. Add mung bean powder to white turnip threadlets. Stir them even. Steam them for 5 minutes. Cool them in the air and then scatter them in warm water. “Prototype Cubilose” is ready. Scoop it up. Put it into a soup bowl for future use.

3. Scald dried shrimps, shredded squid, shredded sea cucumber, shredded tendons, shredded ham, shredded tender bamboo shoots, etc. in the soup-stock. Leave the dried shrimps in the soup. Scoop the others out.

4. Lay shredded squid, shredded sea cucumber, shredded tendons, shredded tender bamboo shoots, shredded ham, shredded chicken, shredded fried egg and hotbed chives in a radial pattern on the “cubilose”. Leave a little space in the middle.

5. Add refined salt, cooking wine, pepper powder, and vinegar to the soup-stock. Heat it up until it boils. Add some monosodium glutamate to improve the flavor.

6. Scoop the soup into a soup bowl. Add sesame oil. Sprinkle caraway over it as an ornament. Cut the steamed egg pudding into petals. Arrange the petals so that they combine to resemble a peony flower. Put the “flower” in the middle. The dish is ready!

Important tips

1. This should be Luoyang’s most authentic Peony Cubilose with a complete assortment of ingredients.

2. “Prototype Cubilose” cannot stay in water for too long, or it will become brittle and lose the smooth, chewy taste.

3. The threadlets must have approximately the same length and should be laid first on the periphery of the plate. It is OK if there not enough threadlets to cover the middle part. It is covered with a peony flower.

4. Keep a close eye on the cooking time of the minor ingredients in the soup-stock. Most of them are already done. Prolonged cooking would spoil their tastes and flavors.

5. This dish is refreshingly salty, sour, spicy and smooth. Be careful about the amount when adding pepper powder and white vinegar to improve the flavor. Don’t forget the 3 key factors of the Water Banquet: pepper, monosodium glutamate and vinegar.

Nutrient value

White turnip: White turnip is the most familiar food on the tables of ordinary households. It is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, amylase, oxidase, manganese and other elements. In addition, the glucoamylase contained in the food can decompose carcinogenic nitrosamines in other foods and hence plays an anti-cancer role. It also helps to treat chest tightness, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, cough and phlegm retention.

Sea cucumber (water-soaked): Sea cucumber is low in cholesterol and fat. It is an ideal food therapy for people with high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and hepatitis and for the elderly. Eating sea cucumber regularly is beneficial to the treatment of diseases and to physical health. Sea cucumber contains chondroitin sulfate, which helps the body grow, delays muscle aging, and boosts immunity. Sea cucumber tops all foods with its vanadium (a micro element) content, which can participate in the transportation of iron in the blood system and enhances hematopoiesis. American researchers have extracted a special compound, sea cucumber toxin, from sea cucumbers that can inhibit the growth and metastasis of a variety of molds and some human cancer cells. Edible sea cucumber has good effects on aplastic anemia, diabetes, and gastric ulcer. Sea cucumber is warm, sweet and salty. It restores vitality, tonifies the kidney, renews vigor, nourishes the heart, alleviates inflammation, enriches the blood and cures ulcer.

Squid (alkaline water-soaked): Squid is rich in calcium, phosphorus and iron. It helps with skeletal development and hematopoiesis, and is effective in treating anemia. In addition to a lot of proteins and amino acids vital to the human body, squid is also rich in bezoar acids, which can stabilize cholesterol content in blood, relieve fatigue, restore vision, and improve liver functions. Squid contains antiviral and antiradiation polypeptide and selenium. According to traditional Chinese medicine, squid restores vitality, tonifies the stomach, cures deficiency, and moistens the skin. Aquatic products like squid are intrinsically cold, and people with spleen and stomach problems are advised to refrain from excessive squid. Squid is high in cholesterol, therefore people with cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, and atherosclerosis and patients with liver diseases should be cautious about eating squid. Squid is a stimulating food, so patients with eczema and urticaria are forbidden to eat it.

Chicken: Tender, delicious chicken is high in proteins. It can be easily absorbed into the human body and used. It builds up strength and improves health. It contains phospholipids, which have an important part to play in human growth. Chicken is one of the important sources of fat and phospholipids in the Chinese diet. All parts of a chicken have medicinal effects. They tonify the internal organs, make up for deficiencies, invigorate the stomach, strengthen tendons and bones, promote blood circulation, regulate menstruation, and stop leucorrhea, and apply to consumptive diseases, emaciation, asthenia, reduced appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, palpitation, irregular menstruation, scant postpartum breast milk, diabetes (among other similar symptoms), edema, frequent urination, spermatorrhea, and deafness and tinnitus. It is suitable for all, especially the elderly, patients, and the physically weak.

Ham: Ham has a bright color. The boundary between fragrant, salty and sweet lean meat and appetizing, fatty-but-not-greasy fat meat is clearly demarcated. It contains a variety of nutrients that can be easily absorbed by the human body, and nourishes the stomach, promotes the secretion of saliva, tonifies the kidney, renews vigor, strengthens tendons, bones, and the feet, cures wounds and so on.

Mung bean powder: Mung beans are rich in nutrients. They increase appetite, reduce blood fat and cholesterol, suppress allergy, detoxify the body, and protect the liver. Mung beans clear away heat and toxic material, relieve summer heat, quench thirst, invigorate the stomach, and cure urorrhagia and swelling. The major functions of mung beans include treating polydipsia caused by summer heat, diarrhea caused by damp heat, edema, abdominal distension, swelling and ulcer on the body surface, pyogenic infections, erysipelas, furuncle, mumps, pox and poisoning caused by metals, stones, grasses, trees and arsenic.

Beef tendon (water-soaked): Beef tendon is rich in collagen. Its fat content is lower than that of fat meat, and it contains no cholesterol. Beef tendon can speed up cell metabolism, make the skin more elastic and tougher, and delay skin aging. It also strengthens tendons and bones, and therefore has a very good therapeutic effect on soreness and weakness of waist and knees and on physical weakness. Beef tendon contributes to the growth of youngsters and reduces the rate of osteoporosis in middle-aged and elderly women. Beef tendon is sweet and intrinsically warm. It can infiltrate the spleen and kidney. It replenishes the vigor, minimizes weakness, warms the body, and applies to asthenia, emaciation, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, postpartum cold, abdominal pain, colic due to cold, and regurgitation.

Bamboo shoots: Bamboo shoots are rich in proteins, vitamins, crude fiber, carbohydrate, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and sugar. According to traditional Chinese medicine, bamboo shoots are sweet and intrinsically mild. They can also cure asthma and phlegm retention.

Dried, shelled shrimps: Dried, shelled shrimps are rich in proteins and minerals—especially calcium. They are also rich in magnesium, which protects the cardiovascular system and plays an important role in the prevention of arteriosclerosis, hypertension and myocardial infarction. Magnesium has a sedative effect, and commonly applies to neurasthenia, vegetative nerve functional disturbance and other symptoms. Elderly people can prevent osteoporosis due to internal calcium deficiency by including dried, shelled shrimps in their diet.

Foods Incompatible with “Peony Cubilose”

White turnip: carrot, orange, persimmon, ginseng, American ginseng.

Sea cucumber (water-soaked): vinegar, licorice.

Chicken: pheasant, soft-shelled turtle, mustard, carp, crucian, rabbit, plum, shrimp, sesame, chrysanthemum, scallion, garlic.
Poisoning would occur when it is eaten with sesame or chrysanthemum; diarrhea would occur when it is eaten with plum or rabbit; inflammation would occur when it is eaten with mustard.

Egg white cannot be eaten with sugar, soybean milk or rabbit.

Starch (broad bean) cannot be eaten with escargot.

Mung bean powder cannot be eaten with carp or dog meat.

Dried, shelled shrimps: 1. Dried, shelled shrimps cannot be eaten with a lot of vitamin C. Otherwise, trivalent arsenic would be generated and cause death. 2. Dried, shelled shrimps cannot be eaten with pork, for this way of eating would damage sperms. 3. Dried, shelled shrimps cannot be eaten with dog meat, chicken, river deer meat, venison, or pumpkin; 4. Dried, shelled shrimps cannot be eaten with sugar or fruit juice, for this would lead to diarrhea.

Copyright by Zhengzhou Municipal Tourism Administration