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Most Expensive Chinese Dinners


sheetz
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I've been reading the discussion regarding Chinese cuisine with Ruth Reichl and it was mentioned in HK it's possible to have a feast of the rarest delicacies for up to $1000 a person . What's the most expensive Chinese meals you've ever eaten? I know of a few Chinese restaurants in Southern California which gave banquet menus for over $1000 a table, but I've never had the pleasure of partaking in one.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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In london a restaurant called Hakkasan, offers a soup that goes for 120+ pounds a person you must call in advance to order. Another chinese restuarant by the same owner sells a chinese tea that is very old (over 200 years) for a small fortune.

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To give you some idea what's included in a Chinese banquet, here are a couple of links to help you.

MOE in LA: Chinese Dinner:

When I made arrangements for this member-organized event (MOE), I selected the menu instead of choosing one of the restaurant's pre-determined banquet menus. The dinner menu I created was ... uhh ... less cost-prohibitive. Of all the items I selected, the winter melon soup was the most expensive at $48 (per table, not per individual), and, by concensus, the best part of the dinner. With tax, tip and leftovers, the dinner cost about $35 per person.

Menu from Empress Pavilion:

Empress Pavilion is one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in LA's downtown Chinatown. Their dining area is huge. It can accommodate at least 600 people. An expensive Chinese banquet tends to include more seafood dishes, like shark's fin soup, abalone, sea cucumber, steamed whole fish, etc. Mind you, there are other non-seafood selections like Peking duck and whole suckling pig.

I usually attend these Chinese banquets during special occasions, like Chinese New Year, Chinese weddings, family reunions, etc. Traditionally, it's the Chinese patriarchs that take care of the cost of the banquet. Paying for dinners Chinese-style is another topic ...

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Back when I was about seventeen or eighteen, we still owned a restaurant in Philly's Chinatown.

One of the owners who was also a chef had a birthday party.

By this point, I thought I knew a decent bit about Chinese food, having eaten in Hong Kong a few times and been to tons of Chinese banquets and eaten in Philly Chinatown and at home many times.

I was wrong. I had so much more to learn. I was blown away by the food. It was somewhere around $100 a person if we had to pay for it. That's probably undercutting it though, but it's a nice round number.

Unfortunately, I don't remember very much about the dishes.

The first dish was a five pound lobster, cracked open and put back together, stuffed with its meat and honeydew melon in a sweet mayonnaise.

That's the only dish I remember with any detail.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Over in HK, people can get a little "nuts" over food. My dad still talks about a what a bargain it was to get a particular fish (less than 2lbs) for $100US. He said it would have costed more at another restaurant. There are some very expensive ingredients in Chinese cooking, so it's not hard to believe that a meal can run above $1000 per person.

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I agree.  Chinese love showing off.

Certainly some do. But Chinese people are also great believers in the restorative qualities of certain expensive foods like shark's fin, bird's nest, ginseng, etc. and that drives up the prices for these items, as well.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Well...HK$1000 = US$128 or so. Still expensive, still glamorous no?

We went hard for my mum's recent 60th birthday at the Flower Drum here in Melbourne, arguably among many critics one of the finest Cantonese restaurants outside China/HK. AUD$1288, an auspicious number. 7 diners. Click here for a review.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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I've been reading the discussion regarding Chinese cuisine with Ruth Reichl and it was mentioned in HK it's possible to have a feast of the rarest delicacies for up to $1000 a person . 

sheetz: is this $1000 a person Hong Kong Dollar, or US Dollar? HK$1000 does not seem too far out. At my first glance, I thought this was US$1000 per person (which would be something).

My cousin treated us in our 8th Moon 15th day dinner at Zen Peninsula (Millbrae, CA). The dinner was priced at something like $380. Then he added a few things here and there. I projected it was US$500+ for 10 people. That set banquet only had one "Abalone with black mushrooms" and "Shark Fin with shredded chicken soup".

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I've been reading the discussion regarding sheetz:  is this $1000 a person Hong Kong Dollar, or US Dollar?  HK$1000 does not seem too far out.  At my first glance, I thought this was US$1000 per person (which would be something).

From the context of the discussion, I assumed it was US Dollars. Maybe Irwin can clarify. I wouldn't be surprised if it were US Dollars, though, since a single serving of the finest shark's fin soup alone would probably cost $1000HK.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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I've been reading the discussion regarding sheetz:  is this $1000 a person Hong Kong Dollar, or US Dollar?  HK$1000 does not seem too far out.  At my first glance, I thought this was US$1000 per person (which would be something).

From the context of the discussion, I assumed it was US Dollars. Maybe Irwin can clarify. I wouldn't be surprised if it were US Dollars, though, since a single serving of the finest shark's fin soup alone would probably cost $1000HK.

In previous posts I have mentioned that during the 1970's there were "Shark Fin Soups' that could cost in excess of (HK$) $1500.00 per table. Remember that each so called piece of "Superior Shark Fin" is priced individually. The expensive pieces depend on the clarity of the cartilage, how it can be sliced for serving, size and species of Shark.

Often when you are arranging for a Sharks Fin Soup for a special party the Restaurant will call a pre-eminent supplier who will bring several pieces for consideration with the Host, Restaurant Manager, and special Chef assigned for it's preparation.

These types of Shark's Fin require several days of careful preparation. Allowing for inflation, scarcity of Sharks and exorbitant rents in Hong Kong and competition from all the then non-existent markets in China that same bowl of Shark's Fin Soup can cost as much as (US$) 1.500.00 to $2,000.00 in 2005 if it's available.

If you think thats expensive today I visited a Seattle dealer in top quality "American Wild Ginseng" who showed me some individual pieces that were ordered that he was packing to send to Hong Kong by Courier that he was exporting that wholesale from (US$) 11,000.00 to $46,000.00 each piece.

They will eventually most likely be made into a Herbal Soup. Imagine the cost of a Bowl of Special Ginseng Soup ?

The regular Sharks Fin or Ginseng Soups are always expensive, but generally higher then any standard soups served. My favorite Sharks Fin choice of soup is called, Sharks Fin with Crab Fat (Crab Roe) and doesn't require the high quality Sharks Fin but still cost in the 1970's about (HK$) 150.00/200.00 per bowl and now costs about (US$) 125/175 per bowl. Remember this serving size will serve a table of 10/12 diners.

It's important to always take into consideration that the 2 highest per square foot rentals in the World are Hong Kong and the Ginza in Tokyo, Japan that need to be taken into account as it reflects pricing. In Hong Kong there are little or no locations with reasonable rents anywhere.

Fish that are regularly served are often shipped Live from all over the World, ordered specifically for these Dinners. Almost anywhere else Seafood is refrigerated , packed in Ice or Seaweed is acceptable but not if it's being served for these type of dinners., this live delivery can increase costs 300/400 % for air freight.

I was a guest at a "Imperial Banquet" that lasted several days over 35 years ago that cost well in excess of US$ 1,500.00 per person just for the food. Special Teas, Beverages, Wines, Rental of Party Room, etc and Service Charges were all additional.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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It's important to always take into consideration that the 2 highest per square foot rentals in the World are Hong Kong and the Ginza in Tokyo, Japan that need to be taken into account as it reflects pricing. In Hong Kong there are little or no locations with reasonable rents anywhere.

\

I wonder how much higher rent adds to the restaurant tab. For sure, many of the best Chinese restaurants in the US tend to be located in lower rent districts compared to the top restaurants serving Western cuisine.

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For people who are curious about what HK$1000(about $130) will get you in some higher end restaurant in Honk Kong (although not the most expensive):

The famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant (the one that in the shape of a boat):

http://www.jumbo.com.hk/eng/menu.php

Under Dragon Court Menu

Jumbo Special Set Menu in HK$980.00 per person (Minimum 2 persons)

Braised Superior Shark's Fin w/ Brown Sauce

Braised Abalone

Sauteed Scallop & Prawn Ball w/ Vegetable in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Fresh Red Spotted Garoupa

Scalded Seasonal Vegetable w/ Bamboo Fungus & Chinese Ham in Stock

Deep Fried Crispy Chicken

Braised E-Fu Noodle w/ Diced Seafood

Double Boiled Harsma w/ Almond & Coconut Cream

Chinese Pastries

Fresh Fruit Platter

Under their Shark Fin menu in HK dollars per person:

"Jumbo" Supreme Shark's Fin $1,000.00

Braised Superior Shark's Fin Soup $630.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab's Cream $420.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab Meat $285.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Shredded Chicken $240.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Albumen & Bird's Nest $280.00

Double Boiled Shark's Fin w/ Cabbage, Bamboo Fungus & Chinese Ham $360.00

OR a “private/underground” restaurant:

http://www.clubqing.com/english.html

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[..]

Under Dragon Court Menu

Jumbo Special Set Menu in HK$980.00 per person (Minimum 2 persons)

[...]

Deep Fried Crispy Chicken

[...]

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab's Cream $420.00

If I order this only for the 2 of us at Jumbo, I wonder how they are going go serve us Fried Crispy Chicken. :biggrin: Do we get chicken wings and thighs and another table of 2 get breasts and drum sticks? :laugh::laugh:

Also, I wonder what "Crab's Cream" is... or perhaps we don't want to know. :raz:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Also, I wonder what "Crab's Cream" is... or perhaps we don't want to know.  :raz:

I think it's "goh", maybe from "dai jap" crabs? What are those crabs called in English, anyway?

Nobody's mentioned the "Buddha Jumps Wall" dish yet, it's also an expensive dish.

The best shark's fin I ever had was not at a restaurant, but prepared at our home by our family friends (they're both cooks) - the fins were as thick as bean sprouts! I have absolutely no idea how much it cost, but it must've cost a fortune!

Wintermelon soup can't be that hard or expensive to make, can it? My auntie makes it sometimes, usually for special occasions. Is it just time-consuming to make because it's more of a "gung" than a "tong"?

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For people who are curious about what HK$1000(about $130) will get you in some higher end restaurant in Honk Kong (although not the most expensive):

The famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant (the one that in the shape of a boat):

http://www.jumbo.com.hk/eng/menu.php

Under Dragon Court Menu

Jumbo Special Set Menu in HK$980.00 per person (Minimum 2 persons)

Braised Superior Shark's Fin w/ Brown Sauce

Braised Abalone

Sauteed Scallop & Prawn Ball w/ Vegetable in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Fresh Red Spotted Garoupa

Scalded Seasonal Vegetable w/ Bamboo Fungus & Chinese Ham in Stock

Deep Fried Crispy Chicken

Braised E-Fu Noodle w/ Diced Seafood

Double Boiled Harsma w/ Almond & Coconut Cream

Chinese Pastries

Fresh Fruit Platter

Under their Shark Fin menu in HK dollars per person:

"Jumbo" Supreme Shark's Fin $1,000.00

Braised Superior Shark's Fin Soup $630.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab's Cream $420.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Crab Meat $285.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Shredded Chicken $240.00

Braised Shark's Fin Soup w/ Albumen & Bird's Nest $280.00

Double Boiled Shark's Fin w/ Cabbage, Bamboo Fungus & Chinese Ham $360.00

OR a “private/underground” restaurant:

http://www.clubqing.com/english.html

The "Jumbo Restaurant" is part of the "HoTung Group properties. The types of "Sharks Fin" are just the ones always available on their regular menu. The "Dragon Court" menu is a set menu also available all the time.

Should you want to order a special menu prepared by yourself or host it will be much more expensive as the items would need to be ordered, prepared and arranged in advance or selected from what was Live and available that day.

There are generally live Seafood choices always available from their Live Fish and Shellfish Tanks where just a single fish can easily cost more then (HK$) 1,000.00 +, the other items added can cost quite a bit as well since none of the items included in the HK$ 980.00 menu are special or high priced but may be attractive to a visitor wanting a very nice dinner experience ordering off the menu.

The items served are not particularly exciting in the combinations offered to the majority of local Chinese customers, but certainly a experience to a visitor.

The "Private Restaurant" menus are contrived to apply to the same type of customers. If they wanted to be successful to local customers it would require much more panache and variety, but I wonder what their Chinese Menus look like, I'm sure that special menus are quite important.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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The "Private Restaurant" menus are contrived to apply to the same type of customers. If they wanted to be successful to local customers it would require much more panache and variety, but I wonder what their Chinese Menus look like, I'm sure that special menus are quite important.

Irwin:

Are these the menus you were referring to?

http://www.clubqing.com/food4.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food2.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food.shtml

I don't recognize most of these dishes, are these “private recipes" ?

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Jumbo Special Set Menu in HK$980.00 per person (Minimum 2 persons)

Braised Superior Shark's Fin w/ Brown Sauce

Braised Abalone

Sauteed Scallop & Prawn Ball w/ Vegetable in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Fresh Red Spotted Garoupa

Scalded Seasonal Vegetable w/ Bamboo Fungus & Chinese Ham in Stock

Deep Fried Crispy Chicken

Braised E-Fu Noodle w/ Diced Seafood

Double Boiled Harsma w/ Almond & Coconut Cream

Chinese Pastries

Fresh Fruit Platter

This menu sounds a little pedestrian, although it's possible the actual dishes themselves are very elaborate.

I found a few high end banquet menus from a few Southern California banquets. Prices are per table.

Mission 261, San Gabriel $1088

Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig

Deep-Fried & Stir-Fried Twins Flavour Prawns

Sitr-Fried Boneless Pigeon & Spike Cucumber w/ Black Fungus

Braised Superior Shark's Fin w/ Supreme Stock

Stir-Fried Fresh Lobster Balls w/ Egg White & Creme

Braised Whole Abalone & Fish Maw w/ Seasonal Green Vegetable

Steamed Fresh Live Fish

Steamed Boneless Chicken w/ Cured Ham & Black Mushroom

Steamed Rice w/ Fresh Crab Meat Wrapped w/ Lotus Leaf

Double Boiled Sweetened Harsmar w/ Red Dates & Lotus Seeds

Fresh Seasonal Fruit Platter

Empress Harbor, Monterey Park $1088

Special Sashimi Platter

Extra Fancy Superior Shark's Fin Soup

Braised Whole Abalone with Fish Maw

Sauteed Fresh Lobster Meat w/ Supreme Sauce

Seasonal Pea Shoots with Crab Roe

Steamed Fresh Live Fish

Clay Pot Rice with Assortted Meat

Double Boiled Bird's Nest w/ Coconut Milk

Assorted Sweet Dim Sum

Empress Pavilion, Los Angeles $988

Baked Avocado Stuffed w/ Crab Meat and Bird's Nest

Double Boiled Shark's Fin w/ Lobster Sashimi

Empress Pavilion Seafood Hot Pot (Whole Abalone, Fish Maw and Sea Cucumber)

Boiled Geo Duck Clams in Special Broth

Braised Pea Shoots w/ Enoki Mushrooms and Dried Scallops

Imperial Style Steamed Live Fish

Shrimp Dumpling in Supreme Soup

Double Boiled Papaya in Coconut Juice

Chinese Pastries

Anyone know of any other fancy menus?

P.S. For anyone unfamiliar with 'harsmar' , it's apparently frog's ovaries.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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Are these the menus you were referring to?

http://www.clubqing.com/food4.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food2.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food.shtml

I don't recognize most of these dishes, are these “private recipes" ?

There's an English menu, too. Don't know if it's the same.

http://www.clubqing.com/english.html

Edited by sheetz (log)
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In previous posts I have mentioned that during the 1970's there were "Shark Fin Soups' that could cost in excess of (HK$) $1500.00 per table. Remember that each so called piece of "Superior Shark Fin" is priced individually. The expensive pieces depend on the clarity of the cartilage, how it can be sliced for serving, size and species of Shark.

I remember that back in the early 70's, the Hong Kong stock market went way bullish. Many Hong Kong stock players ordered shark fin soup while having dim sum at lunch! Just to show off, they used shark fin soup to mix with rice and ate them as if they were casual everyday meal. And the drink, of course, could only be XO no less.

After the market crashed (in 73 was it?)... those diners suddenly all disappeared.

But of course this get-rich-quick&spend-quicker behavior repeats with every stock market bull/bear cycle. You could see that before 87 and lately 99.

I suppose when people have disposable income attained extremely rapidly, price would never be too high for a bragging right.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Are these the menus you were referring to?

http://www.clubqing.com/food4.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food2.shtml

http://www.clubqing.com/food.shtml

I don't recognize most of these dishes, are these “private recipes" ?

I have read those menus. They are quite interesting.

Most of the dishes on the menu have 2 titles. The main title is some kind of poetic names. It is usually some pretty names or phases but somehow are tied in to the food in that dish. The subtitle is the actual description of what the dish is. Without subtitles, it's just anybody's guess. This dish naming practice is very typical of Chinese banquet meals. I have played that little naming game too with my pictorial recipe on Stir-Fried Lotus Roots with Dry Conpoy and Hairy Moss Fungi (連年發財: 瑤柱發菜炒蓮藕)

The dishes do seem uncommon compared to what's offered at other restaurants. Being that it is a private kitchen, it's up to the chef what dishes to offer.

One thing that I always wonder about these private kitchens is: would there be nights that nobody eats there at all?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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[...] If you think thats expensive today I visited a Seattle dealer in top quality "American Wild Ginseng" who showed me some individual pieces that were ordered that he was packing to send to Hong Kong by Courier that he was exporting that wholesale from (US$) 11,000.00 to $46,000.00 each piece.[...]

I think I can understand and appreciate the difference between a US$1.50 bottle of ShaoHsing cooking wine and a US$6.00 bottle one. And a $5.00 fish from a $20.00 fish. But when the price scale goes exponentially higher, I really don't comprehend: (1) why the price is set so high (just because of scarcity?)? And (2) what is the incremental benefit for paying this exponential increase? For example, what would one gain in taking the US$46000 piece of Wild Ginseng versus taking a US $100 one.

But... people's believes are their believes. If one believes that taking this piece of Wild Ginseng would make him/her live forever, or increases (for him) his manhood for the next 10 years, then I suppose no price is too high. Especially to the Rich (and may or may not need to be famous)... This is the way of life in their realm and money is never in considerations.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
       
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
       
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
       
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.
       

       
      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.
       

       
      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”
       

       
      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.
       

       
      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.
       

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.
       

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken
       

      Lamb Kebabs
       

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG
       

      Kebab stall
       

      Crab
       

      Different crab
       

      Sweet sticky rice balls
       

      Things on sticks
       

      Grilled scorpions
       

      Pig bones and bits
       

      Snails
       
      And much more.
       
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
       
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