Shui Zhu Yu (Water Boiled Fish 水煮鱼)
What is it?
Shui zhu yu is a Sichuan dish, with a name with the literal meaning of “water-cooked fish“. It’s actually cooked mostly in boiling chilli oil. Fish slices (usually grass carp), a large amount of chilli pepper and special Sichuan bean sauce, vegetables (bean sprouts and napa cabbage) and a lot of chilli oil is required.
Why is it famous?
It is believed that the origin of the dish came from Chongqing around the 1980s. A chef in the municipality won a prestigious culinary competition with a dish that featured the aforementioned cooking method but only to cook other meats like pork and beef. Soon, he became so famous for the dish he was frequently asked by family and friends to make it. One day, a friend brought over a few river grass carp. Without other protein on hand, the chef decided to filet the carp before poaching it in boiling broth for flavour. To his surprise, the tender flaky meat of the fish complemented perfectly the spicy and numbing sauce.
Traditionally, it is served during the Lunar New Year. That’s because the Chinese pinyin for “fish” is “yu“, which sounds a lot like the character for “plenty left over”. The phrase “Nian Nian You Yu,” which is usually said around Lunar New Year, means you will have plenty of fortune and money left over for the whole year.
Where to eat it?
Hidden in an alleyway just north of the Bright Chang’an Building, Chuan Ban is always packed. The restaurant, next door to Sichuan’s provincial office in Beijing, is deemed to serve the best Sichuanese food in the city. Gongyuan Tou Tiao 5, Jianguomennei Dajie, Dongcheng district, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-6512-2277 ext. 6101). Another good choice is Yi Restaurant, Shuiduizi Dong Li, 22 Chaoyang Bei Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-8596-8995).
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