Hui cuisine is one of the lesser known of the Eight Great Cuisines of China but it has a famous dish – stinky mandarin fish – and when a restaurant used the dish in the name, it must be very proud of its preparation or very courageous.
Anhui Province is a poorer inland province west of Shanghai, so its food is basically a hearty mountain peasant food.
豆腐双拼 Two types of tofu included two versions of the stinky tofu – 黄山毛豆腐 Huangshan “hairy” tofu (the light one) and 老巷臭豆腐 Old Street stinky tofu (the dark one). Huangshan or Yellow Mountain is one of four famous mountains of China, and tofu is a major product from Huangshan. And due to the misty, humid weather, tofu grows a hairy mould after a couple of days that happens to a beneficial probiotics. The whole “hairy” tofu is pan-fried and forms a nice golden crust. The texture is like cream cheese.
The old street stinky tofu is made using a different method. The tofu is aged in a fermenting liquid and after some time, the tofu turned bad due to the microorganisms in the liquid. It is deep-fried and turns black. The texture is like bean curd. If you ask me which is nice, I still prefer the old street tofu as it has the satisfying flavour of deep frying. Which is stinkier? Neither. just like what Mao said, “闻着臭，吃着香。”
糍粑 Ciba is a glutinous roll that can be cut to shape for different purposes. The most common application is in desserts, where it is wrapped in sweet jam or fruit preserves. Another famous variation was 驴打滚 “Donkey rolls in the mud”, which is glutinous roll with caramel in between and dusted with peanut powder. 薄麻糍粑 Sesame glutinous dumpling uses the same roll and dusted with a mixture of sugar, black and white sesame and rice crackers. Eaten as a main course.
腰果虾仁 Cashew prawns would be one of the most common Chinese dish around the world, after Choysuey. This would also be one of the few to be found in China as well.
I used to have an Anhui helper when I was staying in Shanghai, and she once cooked this dish for me. 现烫鸡毛菜 Vegetable in stock was really simple – take chicken stock and boil the vegetable in the stock with dried mushrooms, goji and other aromatics. 鸡毛菜 literally means “chicken feather greens” because it is very lightweight. It is basically the sprouts of bakchoy or Shanghai greens and you can get a really big bag for almost nothing. These days, it’s almost impossible to see this dish in restaurants.
铁板锅巴 Rice crackers on sizzling plates were presented on sizzling plate and the sauce was poured onto the rice crackers producing a satisfying sizzle and crackle. The sauce was made from bean paste and minced vegetables and beef.
According to legend, when the famous Ming dynasty general Hu Zongxian 胡宗宪 returned after a successful campaign, he passed through the county and asked for a visit to his teacher. The wife of the teacher used salted pork belly, sliced them and steamed the salted belly on the chopping board. The whole board was presented to Hu and he was amazed how fragrant it was. Since then, 徽州刀板香 Hui prosciutto has been prepared the same way and called “fragrant chopping board”.
I decided to translate this as prosciutto as it has the same saltiness and texture as prosciutto ham, only that Chinese ham cannot be eaten raw.
The piece de resistance is the 杨记兴臭鳜鱼 Signature stinky mandarin fish. The mandarin fish used for marination in brine was caught from local rivers and streams. The fish fed on fallen flowers of the osmanthus tree and grew to be fatty and had a light fragrant. After salting, it was left to ferment and then braised in soy sauce with bamboo shoots, and other vegetables as ingredients.
The restaurant was recently in the news for being the wrong reasons. Some disgruntled employee posted a video online of staff washing the table cloth in the same preparation area as the drinks. Anyway, they are also used as the successful case study of how to turn an ailing restaurant business into a national brand. In a short period of 2 years, they have opened 19 branches in Beijing alone.
And they continued to be very successful as they were able to dispense quality food at a reasonable price, coupled with good service and a clean and pleasant environment.
Yang’s Stinky Mandarin Fish 杨记兴·臭鳜鱼(王府井店)
Tel： 010 65250010
Date Visited : Mar 2019