Hot-sour fish: special dish of sourness


Editor’s note: The hot and sour fish is a traditional dish of the Bai ethnic group in west Yunnan’s Dali prefecture. Sourness comes from papaya, tomato or pepper. The fish is fresh carp processed in a moment, with its belly evenly scratched for a better taste.

Hot-sour fish: special dish of fine sourness

Yunnan cuisine is rich in taste, and sourness comes from fruits like papaya. The dishes cooked out of papaya fully manifest the taste of “sourness”.

In Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, the hot and sour fish is a representative dish of sourness in Yunnan. The fish is fresh carp processed in a moment, with its belly evenly scratched for a better taste. The sourness for the dish comes from plum vinegar and papaya, mixed with tomato and pepper. The freshly red soup looks appealing. Put tender fish into the dipping soup, and you’ll get the engaging sourness and be encouraged to eat more.

“The hot-sour fish with papaya is a typical dish of the Bai people in Dali.” Lin Zhi, a local chef in Yunnan, said he was deeply impressed at his first taste of the sour fish. Born in 1974, Lin picked up cooking at the age of eighteen. Back to the 1990s, when he had a holiday in Dali, Lin took a boat trip on the Erhai lake with his friends. It was noon when they almost arrived at Xizhou wharf, and the boatmen cooked for everyone.

“That meal involved the hot-sour fish cooked in Erhai water. With pawpaw and pepper in it and blue sky overhead, we had a good meal in the lake-side breeze. Locals said it’s fresh fish boiled in fresh water. Still young at that time, I had five or six bowls of rice, coupled with fish soup.” Lin recalled the papaya sour fish featured fragrance of fruit, different from the fish cooked with vinegar.

Lin Zhi noted that papaya does not need to be specially processed. It is simply sliced and cooked with fish. Later, the papaya slices are put away, so you can’t see the slices when the fish is served onto the table.

During the tour in Dali, Lin also tasted another dish related to papaya — chicken with ham and papaya. Try the soup while it’s hot, and he was greeted with sourness and fragrance. Lin said the chicken was especially chewy, featuring a hint of fruit fragrance.

Reporting by Wang Shan; CFP photos; Trans-editing by Wang Shixue