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Suíjiāng 绥江, Yunnan, China — It must be great to have a food expert in the family. The Zhāng (张) family is fortunate to have the talents of husband and father, Zhāng Shīfu (张师傅, Master Zhang). Who wouldn’t want to dine daily at the table of a chef? Located in central Suíjiāng Xiàn (绥江县), the family business is their restaurant Yǒuyú Shānzhuāng (有渔山庄) – a place where parties can not only eat, but play Mahjong, card games, and gather for any occasion.
Jiācháng Dòufu (家常豆腐, Home-style Tofu) — 12 pieces of tofu cut into two inch squares half an inch thick are deep fried until golden. I have a weakness for crispy tofu or crispy anything, so I have a hunch this dish will be one of my favorites.
Zhang shifu’s home-style tofu is fried then simmered in a savory concoction of chillies, fermented bean paste, garlic, and stock, allowing the flavors to seep into the tofu. Home-style is one of Sichuan’s many distinct styles.
This favorite has traveled many years, far distances, and arrived at our palettes in many variations. Gōngbào Jīdīng (宫保鸡丁, Kung Pao Chicken or Spicy Diced Chicken) is named after a Gōngbào (palatial guardian) from the Qing Dynasty named Ding Baozhen who invented the dish in Sichuan. Using the numbing huājiāo (花椒, Sichuan peppercorn), sliced scallions, peanuts, dried Sichuan chili peppers, and a chicken, Ding managed to impress his house guests despite his limited resources after having been ousted as an official from Shandong province. Gōngbào Jīdīng fits within húlà wèixíng (糊辣味型), a style that is spicy, numbing, sweet, and sour. Get the recipe! »
Suāncài Huáng Là Yú (酸菜黄辣鱼, Pickled Chinese Cabbage Spicy Yellow Fish) meets our taste buds with spice and tang. The fish is practically at home in a stock accompanied by other regional ingredients, huājiāo (花椒, Sichuan Peppercorn) and pàocài (泡菜, pickled vegetable). Though full of flavor, like tying a knot with a cherry stem, I spent a significant amount of time separating the meat from the fine bones.
Fresh, simple, and stir-fried with a handful of Sichuan chilies, Chǎo Báicài (炒白菜, Stir-fried Chinese Cabbage) is as straightforward as its name. It doesn’t attempt to steal the show of its co-stars.
Zhāng Lìdān 张力丹, the family darling might be one of the luckiest children in Suijiang having an entire menu of dishes to choose from. I tried to ask her which of her father’s foods were her favorite, but she would only look at me with coy suspicion until directed by her mother to smile for the camera. Obedient yet with the gift of quickly summoned charm, she melts the lens of my camera.
It’s off the beaten path and soon to be underwater. Should you venture to the town of Suijiang without a family to cook a few meals for you, ask around for the whereabouts of Yǒuyú Shānzhuāng (有渔山庄). It’s located downtown. If you have a meal outside, pause for a moment and look towards the hills. You will witness the construction of Suijiang’s future.
Yǒuyú Shānzhuāng (有渔山庄)
Yúnnán, Suíjiāng CHINA
Tel: 139 0870 2077