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Yunnan spicy fish 酸菜鱼片


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They have similar recipes in Hunan, but with Hunan-style chopped semi-dry salted red peppers - a bit different to Sichuan spices but still pretty strong. If you pick out the peppers you can still taste the fish & pickled veggies.

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I always think its great that you share what you cook. I did give you a green arrow, but didn't comment because personally I don't like fish and the pickled greens look unappetising to me.

 

This is my personal opinion only, just because I don't like it doesn't mean others won't find it delicious.

 

Please don't let the lack of interest put you off sharing, maybe it just was not to people's taste.

 

I am sure your next dish will be excellent.

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酸菜 for some reason has become less and less easy for me to stomach over time :( It's not that it tastes bad but it kind of makes it not so yummy anymore haha, but I love the whole rest of this. Love your food episodes.

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I didn't reply because I haven't done anything with lotus root yet. But what struck me about the recipe was that I now know I can make pickled mustard greens. That is not necessary for you, and maybe I can get them in London too, but above all, when I get Chinese vegetables, I always get too many, and it's so easy to pickle things. I have been making sauerkraut and kimchi, but other things are even easier. So I started reading around about the various kinds of Chinese vegetables that might be pickled. Obviously I would make the dish then, in the long run.

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Great looking recipe and wonderful market experience, abcd! I agree with you on the smaller markets. My local grocery store here in the states consists mostly of local, organic produce from local farms, but I still end up at the farmer's market more for the experience of talking to people and asking them about how to cook something, or what's in season. There was a market near 四川大学that had a family of 4 that made handmade noodles, next to an auntie who made her tofu. There were about a dozen different kinds of noodles and I really wasn't sure which to buy, so the 老板 asked the auntie for some tofu and threw some noodles in soup, along with the tofu. No charge! Who does that!? Just a totally different experience than 好又多 or grocery stores. (but it was also good business as I ended up buying way more noodles than I had intended...)

 

I'm a vegetarian here but intend on lapsing back into the world of fish upon getting to China. I've actually had something very similar to this on several occasions in Chengdu and gotta say - 酸菜 is something that should be in everybody's pantry. I lived in a dorm and our "kitchen" consisted of a rice cooker, but we would buy a bunch of different kinds of 酸菜 from a guy outside a large temple in 成都,make rice and that was a midnight snack! I also love 花椒 (which I use often in my own cooking). Agree it can be hard to share cooking with others when using 酸菜和花椒, I made 麻婆豆腐 for a group of people and only one thought the numbing spice was good. The rest ran the gamut from "is this poison?" to "it's weird!!!" Shame as I was quite proud of it. 

 

There was a restaurant in Chengdu where they had a giant flat fish on a cast iron skillet, covered in ten million 辣椒和花椒and stuffed with 酸菜. It was crunchy on the bottom, burnt, and tender on the top. It was mind boggling. Why am I going to Zhejiang instead of Sichuan or Yunnan!?  :wall

 

One thing I always found amusing is how quickly we grow accustomed to new prices/currencies (referring to your "princely price"). When I first got to Sichuan, I couldn't believe a bowl of 担担面 was only 7 RMB. It was easy to buy anything! 25 RMB fish? That's only $4!? Let's eat it every night! After a month, it was "oh wow, 25 RMB? :shock: 不要不要,我们去吃一碗牛肉面,好不好?“

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889 --

Just reading the recipe, my gut's reaction is that with the Sichuan pepper and dry red peppers, the seasoning would overpower the delicacy of the fish.

 

You know, that's exactly what I thought when I first looked at this recipe on line, and that was even after eating it in real life and thinking it was delicious! The first time I tried making it, I toned everything down; used less of the various spices. But that made it kind of boring. I'm guessing that this dish works well in its original form partly because 草鱼 isn't a delicate fish. It's not Dover sole by a long shot. It has a distinctive flavor that is complimented by the various seasonings. 

 

What results is a hearty "peasant/farmer" dish; not "haute cuisine" for the urban elite, but food for the hard working 老百姓。Still, after all is said and done, I would have to admit that this is probably one of those "love it or hate it" meals, not something that could ever be considered "safe" to make for people you don't know without asking them first or without having plenty of alternative options available on the table.

 

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Onebir -- I like some of those red-hot Hunan lake fish recipes too. One thing that can be difficult to grasp is that different peppers impart more than just raw Scoville-heat-unit fire to a dish. They impart subtle flavors as well. As 湖南人,this is something you know.

 

In the US, I live in Texas, and grew up not far from the Mexico border. So I had plenty of spicy Mexican food early on. Later I came to love the lively flavors of Indian food too. But the spicy tastes of Sichuan, Hunan, and Yunnan are distinctive from Mexico and India. And even the cuisine of these three different regions in China is not all the same; it's not interchangeable; it's subtly different.

 

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Shelley -- Thanks for your encouragement. 

 

"I don't like fish and the pickled greens look unappetising to me."

 

I agree about the pickled greens not being pretty. Wish they were more attractive. Yesterday for lunch I had a big bowl of red beans with chopped pickled greens 酸菜红豆 beside a bowl of steamed rice. Even the picture on the wall of the street stall was not appetizing, but the end result tasted good. Made for a filling lunch and cost 8 Yuan.

 

Sometimes I come across tips and tricks for "getting rid of the fishy taste" when cooking fish. I generally don't follow those methods, preferring to let the taste of the fish remain fully intact and shine through. If I have guests who don't like fish, I make a chicken dish, tofu or something else for them instead.

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And, Alex_Hart, you have hit the nail on the head!

 

There was a market near 四川大学that had a family of 4 that made handmade noodles, next to an auntie who made her tofu. There were about a dozen different kinds of noodles and I really wasn't sure which to buy, so the 老板 asked the auntie for some tofu and threw some noodles in soup, along with the tofu. No charge! Who does that!?

 

This is something I associate with living in China and it will always be among my fondest memories of life here on the Maniland. I like your comparison to a good farmer's market in the US. That's about as close as one can come. And being able to chat with the vendors, who have an affinity for their wares, is invaluable. I learn so much from them and always have a good time doing it.

 

There was a restaurant in Chengdu where they had a giant flat fish on a cast iron skillet, covered in ten million 辣椒和花椒and stuffed with 酸菜. It was crunchy on the bottom, burnt, and tender on the top. It was mind boggling.

 

That sounds amazing and glorious! One of those things that has to be experienced to be believed. An authentic and exotic discovery. Probably not reproducible elsewhere. National Geographic heaven!

 

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Zeppa --

I didn't reply because I haven't done anything with lotus root yet.

 

It's Sunday here and I have some time. Planning to go to the market in a few minutes and buy some more lotus root. Want to have another go at making stuffed lotus root. It's one of those dishes I love to eat in a restaurant, but can only cobble together about half as well as it should be done despite several attempts.

 

Have posted about previous attempts which were not totally successful. What I come up with usually tastes good, but doesn't look very good. So I'll keep trying until I get it right, then come back and share what tricks finally made it possible. Wish me luck!

 

---------------------------------------------------

 

And thank you for your kind words 陈德聪。

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Great posts and stories. I could taste the dish just by reading the post and looking at the pictures.

The best experiences I have had of Hunnan and Sichuan food were at small out of the way restaurants that few non-locals visit.

I personally do not find the grass carp being overpowered, no matter how spicy the dish is, because the spices do not get *inside* the firm flesh. With pork, the spices would completely get into the meat and all I can taste are the spices and the texture of the meat.

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The best experiences I have had of Hunnan and Sichuan food were at small out of the way restaurants that few non-locals visit.

 

That's a good point, Lips. The other thing that always surprises me is how widespread these restaurants are throughout all of China and even throughout other parts of East Asia. I haven't seen any hard figures, but it seems that wherever I travel in this part of the world, some Sichuan and Hunnan people have gone there before and opened small restaurants. And 酸菜鱼 seems to usually be on the menu.

 

In particular, I ran into it over and over while traveling in Malaysia and Indonesia. Sometimes the Chinese people living there were originally from Fujian or Guangdong, but if not you could pretty well bet they had roots in Sichuan or Hunan.

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Sometimes I come across tips and tricks for "getting rid of the fishy taste" when cooking fish.

 

I have been told "the fishy taste" is an indication of it not being very fresh fish. And very fresh fish tastes more of the sea or lake etc.

 

I do like a bit of cod or a nice steamed piece of salmon and I have also enjoyed in a restaurant a very tasty dish of monk fish. So I suppose I don't dislike fish I just am very fussy :)

 

It is one thing about Chinese food that is usually excellent, fish so fresh they are still swimming :)  It was explained to me it was easier to keep them alive than to try and keep them from going off when dead, and this applies to most fish and meat. You catch your chicken and then it is expertly butchered and prepared for you to take home and eat that very day.

 

 

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@Shelley: I don't think that's necessarily true. A lot of fish have a fishier taste, especially oily fishy. A lot of people associate the blue fish native to my parts with "very fishy" even when it comes right off the boat! Part of this is preparation as the blue fish has a coating of oiliness that you need to avoid serving, but the flesh itself just has a "fishy" taste. My mother is definitely not a fan of fish and essentially limits her consumption to filet of sole and similar "un-fishy" fish. 

There is a difference, sadly discernible to the taste, of older fish. So we really have (I think) two categories of fishiness: natural fishiness (or oiliness, or gaminess) versus aged fishiness. The former is a matter of taste, the latter a sign to be wary!

 

I've always been skeptical about the live fish. Sometimes, they look lovely. But some of the Chinese markets near me often have absolutely grotesque looking tanks that are so packed with fish that you can't help but feel pity for them. My friend from the mainland tries very hard to convince me that these pathetic creatures are better than the nearby fish store (run by Koreans with a predominantly Italian clientele) where everything is sitting on ice. I'm unconvinced. It would be interesting to compare well kept live fish versus well kept frozen fish, however. 

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I lived part of two years in Zhuhai 珠海 on the coast of Guangdong and admit to being spoiled by having so much fresh-caught ocean fish available. For a long time I wanted no part of Kunming's fresh water catch, which comes from nearby lakes and rivers. But eventually my local friends convinced me that it was worth sampling.

 

Supermarket fish here float like driftwood in their small glass tanks, lethargic or half dead. I refuse to buy them. They have three of this and four of that; many different kinds. By contrast, the vendors in the wet market offer less variety, but the fish look lively and healthy. They do a brisk business and have lots of turnover.

 

When the fishmonger plucks out a specimen for my approval, it looks clean and vigorous, wiggling and shiny. He kills and cleans it on the spot, so when I get it home and start to work with it in my kitchen, it's only minutes old.

 

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I must confess to sometimes having second thoughts about "farmed" inland fish in China across the board because of China's abysmal record on water pollution. Will I glow in the dark after eating it? What type of cancer should I expect?

 

The best compromise I've been able to reach is to always buy from one trusted vendor. I don't get sick when I eat his fish, so I return over and again, realizing full well that I might still grow a third ear or an extra couple fingers ten years down the road.

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@abcdefg: Apart from the fact that your recipes always wet my appetite and make me want to cook, I'd like to tell you that you write so well, with humour, style, lively dialogues, a rich and detailed vocabulary... Your English is a joy to read.

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