Mao Zedong at a banquet in 1956, and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1957. Contributor/Bettmann via Getty Images, and J. Wilds/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
- A menu signed by Mao Zedong and other officials was sold for $275,000 on Wednesday.
- It was from 1956, and for the first state banquet hosting Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister.
- Here’s what was served at the historic banquet that heralded warmer ties between both nations.
A banquet menu from 1956 signed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong sold on Wednesday for $275,000, per auction house RR Auction.
The menu itself marked a historic occasion — the first Pakistani state visit to China at the height of the Cold War, as a young Beijing government sought to establish diplomatic ties with other nations.
Then-Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy arrived on October 19 that year just after taking office, and dined with Mao, China’s then-Premier Zhou Enlai, and other officials.
A total of seven officials, including the two heads of state, signed the menu, per RR Auction.
Apart from appetizers and dessert, the menu mentions six specific dishes of note:
1. Consommé of Swallow Nest and White Agaric
A sample of bird’s nest that has been cleaned, soaked, and ready for preparation. Jerry Redfern/LightRocket via Getty Images
Swallow Nest is a delicacy still eaten in China, and its ingredients are harvested from the solidified saliva of swiftlets, which is a wispy, jelly-like, and translucent substance.
White Agaric is often called snow fungus in China, and is known to taste bland and to thicken in soups. The mushroom features seaweed-like fronds that spread out.
Dried snow fungus features on the top left of the plate. Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Both are often combined in soups and served with sugar, and remain a delicacy or dessert today.
2. Shark’s Fin in Brown Sauce
Shark’s fin is a luxury dish that dates back to the Ming Dynasty of 1368 to 1644, and was regarded as an item that only the imperial family or upper classmen could eat.
The dish, however, spread in society in the 20th century as people standards of living rose.
It’s typically served shredded in a soup, or braised in a thick and slightly sweet sauce.
A bowl of shark’s fin soup at Luk Yu Tea House in Hong Kong. Stefan Irvine/LightRocket via Getty Images
The shark’s fin trade is controversial today for its often inhumane harvesting practices, and import of shark’s fin is banned in the US, Canada, and other countries.
3. Vegetable Rolls in Three Colors
Spring rolls are often wrapped in batter and deep-fried or pan-fried in China, and served with a dipping sauce. They are typically savory and treated as an appetizer.
4. Fried Spiced Chicken
Chicken that’s fried and spiced. No further details were given.
5. Vegetarian Macedoine
A dish of diced vegetables that is native to neither China nor Pakistan, but France, a vegetarian macedoine often features corn, carrots, green beans, and potatoes tossed in a light dressing.
6. Roast Peking Duck
Roast Peking Duck is perhaps the most famous of all Chinese dishes in the modern day. Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
The pride of a typical Chinese state banquet, the famed Peking roast duck is served with its skin separated and arranged in thin, crispy slices meant to melt in the mouth.
The duck meat, meanwhile, is served with thin pancakes, scallions, and a sweet sauce.
Close relations between China and Pakistan
Pakistan was one of the first nations to recognize the Chinese Communist Party’s rule after the latter took power in 1949.
Hoping to seek ties with a large nation that could rival India, Pakistan forged closer ties with the Chinese, and Suhrawardy would go on to sign a friendship treaty with Zhou on his 1956 visit.
China eventually played a key role in Pakistan’s nuclear armament program, giving its government enough weapons-grade uranium for two atomic bombs.News Related