The dish, which is also called Sōngshǔ guì yú [松鼠桂鱼] or Squirrel Mandarin Fish, belongs to Huaiyang cuisine and can be traced back to the times of Emperor Qianlong in the mid 1700s.
Huaiyang cuisine, also referred to as Jiangsu or Su cuisine for short, originates from the native cooking styles of East China’s Jiangsu Province. Huaiyang cuisine, is popular throughout history as one of the four traditional Chinese cuisines, together with Lu [Shandong], Yue [Guangdong] and Chuan [Sichuan] cuisines.
Huaiyang cuisine was once the second largest cuisine among ancient China’s royal cuisines, and it remains a major part of the state banquet in China. Indeed, Sōngshǔ yú is one of the most famous dishes from Jiangsu Province.
The dish is named Squirrel Fish because of the way the dish is presented and resembles the fluffy tail of a squirrel.
Meanwhile a bunch of rice noodles are deep fried and the resulting crispy noodles are placed on a dish.
The fish is then coated in cornflour and the body is folded so that the skin is placed together and the tail pokes through. This is then carefully placed into the hot oil and deep fried along with the head.
The fried fish is then placed on the bed of fried noodles.
Next the sauce is prepared. A finely chopped clove of garlic is fried and tomato ketchup is added. Then some stock or water mixed with cornflour is added and the sauce is stirred.
Red rice vinegar, traditionally coloured with red yeast rice, is added along with a dash of dark soy. Next a diced tomato is added. Finally some clear rice vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt is added. The sauce is then brought to the boil to thicken before being poured over the fish.
And that’s Squirrel Fish, a Jiangsu dish which can be traced back hundreds of years.
Many thanks to Ms Jiang for allowing us to film at her restaurant, the Zhuliguan [竹里馆] in Kunming, Yunnan, China.