China is a country that attaches great importance to names, honor, and prestige. The set phrase, to “achieve both fame and wealth,” gives the true meaning of the word “fame.” Only when people are famous worldwide have they laid the foundation to achieve great wealth.
The owners of many famous restaurants throughout the dynasties won praise from their customers for their good service and became famous. This, in turn, brought them more customers and still better business. Among them are the Donglaishun, Quanjude, and Hongbinlou restaurants in Beijng, the Songhelou Restaurant in Suzhou, the laozhengxing Restaurant in Shanghai, the Goubuli Restaurant in Tianjin, and the Juchunyuan Restaurant in Fuzhou. Of course, the pre-requisites for the restaurants being well known were their delicious food, fair prices, and honesty, or they would not have been famous.
During the period of the Qin and Han Dynasties dishes were named for their major ingredients and cooking methods, During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, some dishes received fancy names.
When ordinary dishes were given beautiful names, it raised the attractiveness of the dishes and made diners happy. For example, sliced fish mixed with orange was called “powdered gold and minced jade,” camels’ foot simmered with hearts of rape was called “desert boat sails on green,” quail and its eggs cooked together was called “mother and children get together,” chicken cooked with bear’s paw was called “palm controls the land,” a dish of shrimp, sliced tender bamboo shoots and mushrooms was called “leaves of wind, frost and snow,” a dish of sea cucumber, prawns, chicken breast, white fungus, and water chestnuts was called “butterflies swarm the peonies,” and a dish of chicken and soft-shelled turtle was called “Xiang Yu the Conqueror says goodbye to his concubine.” Fancy names reminded people of other things during the banquets and created a pleasant dining atmosphere.