The freshwater fish is tightly packed into a barrel and left to ferment for eight days. (Photo/CGTN)
Stinky Mandarin Fish may not be a name to make the mouth water, but don't be put off: This unique delicacy from Anhui Province is sure to appeal to the taste buds.
The dish, made with freshwater fish, is stinky for good reason – it is traditionally marinated with salt, crammed tight under heavy stones in a barrel and left to ferment for eight days. Why? Traveling merchants 300 years ago loved the fish so much they wanted to take it back to their families, and were desperate to prevent it from rotting.
The texture and flavor of the meat are transformed by the process, the flesh firm and packed with unusual tastes. The merchants discovered that when fried with garlic, ginger, soy, and chili, the fish was fit for an emperor – even with the curious smell.
Stinky Mandarin Fish (Photo/CGTN)
Chef Zhong prepares a Stinky Mandarin Fish, his signature dish. (Photo？/CGTN)
The Emperor Qianlong, who ruled over China from 1735 to 1796, is said to have been obsessed by Stinky Mandarin Fish – indeed the food was jokingly known as Anhui's route into the palace.
In contemporary Anhui, an ancestor to the cook who prepared the emperor's Stinky Mandarin Fish is keeping the tradition alive. At Chef Zhong's restaurant in Huangshan, stinky tofu and black mushrooms are also on the menu – but smelly fish is the star attraction.
CGTN Digital filmed the recipe step-by-step, as the heir to the intangible cultural heritage packed the fresh fish with salt in a barrel before frying and stewing the eight-day preserved meat to create a distinctive culinary delight.
Anhui's signature dishes are a calling card, unique flavors that draw visitors from across China and beyond to experience the province's traditions, natural beauty, and cultural marvels.
Chef Zhong's Stinky Mandarin Fish. (Photo/CGTN)