West Lake Vinegar Fish is a traditional delicacy of Hangzhou with sweet and sour flavor. It is said that the fish was originally cooked by Song's sister-in-law. She wanted to inspire Song the essence of the true life by the sweet - sour flavor. Along your China tour of Hangzhou, you should never miss West Lake Vinegar Fish there.
“West Lake Vinegar Fish” is also called “Sister Song’s Treasure”. You might well guess that a name like that would have a story behind it. Long ago, there were two brothers by the name of Song. Though they were wise, they chose to live not in the city but in the countryside, catching fish in nearby West Lake. One day, evil Mr. Zhao was passing by the lake and happened to see a beautiful woman washing in its waters. When Mr. Zhou discovered the woman was Elder Brother Song’s wife, he murdered Elder Song. Many students like to eat the West Lake Vinegar Fish when their educational tours in China come to Hangzhou area.
Younger Song and Elder Song’s widow were infuriated by Mr. Zhao’s audacity and sought justice through a local magistrate. Little did they know that the magistrate was a friend of Mr. Zhou’s. Younger Song and Elder Song’s widow were beaten and thrown out of the court. When the two returned to their West Lake home, defeated, Sister Song demanded that her brother-in-law flee to avoid Zhou’s retaliation. “Make your fortune and come back for me,” she said. No China travel deals of Hangzhou is complete if tasting the West Lake Vinegar Fish is missed.
Before Younger Song departed, Sister Song cooked him a special meal of fish with sugar and vinegar. As he sat down to eat it, she said, “This fish is sweet and sour, just as life is sweet and sour. When you have achieved the sweetness of a good life, remember the sour oppression of us commoners and your grieving sister-in-law.” Younger Song was greatly moved. He finished the fish and left, her words ringing in his ears. Later, Younger Song succeeded in garnering fame and fortune and eventually returned to Hangzhou. He avenged his elder brother and found his sister-in-law safe and well. Many China travel agencies have arranged the West Lake Vinegar Fish in the dishes scheduled for their travelers.
We have no way of knowing if the Vinegar Fish we eat today tastes the same as the fish Sister Song served her brother-in-law, but we like to think so. Prepared with fresh grass carp from West Lake, the method used to cook the fish renders it fresh and tender, with a distinct flavor of crab meat. The sweet and sour sauce used to flavor it further is a thick, black paste of vinegar and sugar. Why not take a China travel to Hangzhou and taste the savory West Lake Vinegar Fish there?
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