Here are some more interesting stories about the origins of Chinese dishes:
Most sources state that the name "mu shu" refers to the flowers of either the cassia blossom or the olive tree. (Like cinnamon, cassia comes from a type of laurel plant). There is no doubt that Mu Shu pork is meant to be a "foresty" dish, with its bits of tree ears, lily buds, and shaved pork. Most versions contain pieces of scrambled egg, meant to represent flower blossoms.
In "The Chinese Kitchen", Eileen Yin Fei-Lo provides a different explanation for how this famous dish came to be named. She points out that the Cantonese call this dish "muk see yuk" or "shaved wood pork."
This festive dish is worthy of its unusual name. Buddha Jumps Over the Wall has been compared to a large pot-au-feu, or stockpot soup. However, it is a much more complex dish, with its combination of chicken, ham, pork, shark's fin, scallops, abalone, and vegetables and seasonings. It can contain as many as thirty different ingredients.
The story behind the dish is that Buddha, the philosopher and founder of Buddhism, was meditating one day near a large wall. All at once he smelled an aroma so unusual and distinctive that he jumped over the wall to find out what dish was being prepared. Most versions of the story have Buddha breaking with his vegetarian beliefs to partake in the meal.
(Note* - Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is an extremely complex dish, requiring ingredients such as shark's fin and taking two days to make. If you do make it, please feel free to email4 me to let me know how it turns out.
Like Kung Pao chicken, this dish demonstrates the Chinese custom of naming a special dish after an important figure. However, there is some confusion over who was meant to be the recipient of this special honor. In restaurant menus, you'll find the dish called everything from General Tsao to General Chung's chicken. In "The Chinese Kitchen," cookbook author Eileen Yin Fei-Lo points out that there is even a General Ciao's chicken, possibly named after a visiting Italian diplomat. In any event, a General Tso did exist, serving in Hunan province during the nineteenth century.
There are two versions of how this dish came to be named. In the first (my favorite) a scholar chose to live apart from his wife for a certain period of time, in order to study for an important examination. In those days "crossing the bridge" was another expression for being apart. His wife visited him daily with a soup dish containing noodles, and thus the dish came to be known as "crossing the bridge noodles."
The second version is based on how the dish is made. The noodles are boiled and then poured into a hot chicken broth. The action of transferring the noodles is likened to crossing a bridge.