If you've listened to football broadcaster John Madden around Thanksgiving, or even if you haven't, you may know about "turducken." That's a mashup of the words "turkey," "duck," and "chicken" and the name of an over-the top Thanksgiving specialty. The turducken consists of a turkey stuffed with a duck, which is in turn stuffed with a chicken, all of the creatures having been first deboned. The chicken, in its turn is also stuffed with some form of conventional stuffing. According to the Wikipedia entry for turducken, this delicacy was apparently invented in Louisiana, possibly even by the legendary Paul Prudhomme. One shop in Louisiana prepares around 5,000 turduckens per week around Thanksgiving, and they are even available by mail order.
Surely such a monument to meat could only be born in America, or some other Western nation prone to fresser excess, right? Well not exactly. As every wise person knows everything originated in China, and could turducken be any exception?
While searching recently for information on the eats in Zhengzhou, Henan Province (where a friend has invited me to visit), I came across references to "taosibao" (套四宝), or "four treasures wrap." This was not some kind of Chinese burrito but, according to an introduction to the food of Henan I found on the web, a dish that existed at least as long ago as the Qing Dynasty:
The dish is famous for integrating chicken, duck, dove and quail that represent strong, fragrant, fresh and wild flavor respectively. The four birds are combined with the bigger containing the small ones, which are as a whole without any bone. Being placed in a fine pottery soup bowl with blue patterns, the dinners can only see a whole duck floating in the soup. After eating up the delicious duck, they will find a fragrant whole chicken. Eating up the chicken, they will again find a delicious whole dove in front of them. Finally, they will find a quail which is also as a whole and stuffed with sea cucumber puddings, shredded fragrant mushroom, and water － soaked bamboo slice.Well, it's not exactly a turducken, as no turkeys were apparently to be had, but the dish outdoes a turducken by having four birds telescoped into one instead of three. If a turkey had been available, you can rest assured that it would have formed a fifth layer of a "套五宝."
How does a taosibao go down? According to the same article, "The dish contains several tastes, is neither fatty nor greasy and is tasty and refreshing. The customers praise that the course is strong, delicious, and nutritious so that the aftertaste is continuous." In other words, it's a gift that keeps on giving.