Most people have heard of Beijing’s Peking Duck, and Shanghai’s soup dumplings, but what takes the cake in China’s mountainous southwestern province of Guizhou? We sat down with WildChina Manager, and Guizhou native, Sherril Sui, to get an insider’s look at the province’s signature dish:
Sherril explained to us that one simply cannot discuss Guizhou cuisine without first understanding the peppery heat that permeates the region’s flavors. While many areas of China have dishes that are spicy for a thrill, in the case of Guizhou, chili’s are frequently added to dishes for their health benefits.
According to traditional Chinese Medicine, spice rids the body of “dampness”, the feeling of heaviness or over-fullness that can sometimes follow a big meal.
As such, it is no surprise that spice is a key piece of Guizhou’s most famous dish: Suantangyu.
Suantangyu (or “Spicy Fish Soup”) is Guizhou’s crown jewel. It can come in either a sour or spicy flavor and neither version of the soup is as hot as its fireball orange color would have you believe. When the steaming bowl is placed in the middle of the table, with a beautiful handful of fresh greens tossed on top of the fish, the meal has officially begun.
Traditionally just before the soup is served, each person at the table will receive an individual bowl of delicate seasoned tofu. Covered with a collection of regional herbs, crushed peanuts, and diced green leaks, the cool bean curd acts as a foil for the heat of the soup. In addition to each person’s bowl of tofu, the soup is also served with a collection of sauces which one may dip the fish into for an additional burst of flavor. After all the meat in the soup is consumed, raw vegetables are snuck into the steaming broth and eaten as a light finish to this scrumptious treat.
In our opinion, Suantangyu is one of the best dishes around, try it out next time you are in Guizhou, and after one bite we are sure you will agree.
Photos by Dr. Magnus Breidne and WildChina