Zhanxiang Fish Slices
(Zhanxiang Yupian)


Liu Bao, Emperor Shundi of the Han Dynasty (reigned 126-145), loved horseriding and hunting. One day he decided to go on a solo hunting trip out in the countryside. After an hour or so the sky clouded over and he was caught in a full-scale thunderstorm. A flash of lightning frightened his horse and made it bolt. As he galloped, Liu Bao saw through the driving rain a dim light besides a river. On coming closer he saw that it came from a thatched cottage. He hastily dismounted and knocked on the door.


An elderly man came to the door. Liu Bao bowed politely and asked him for shelter for the night. Upon noting that Liu was well dressed but soaked to the skin, the householder invited him in.



The man asked his daughter Hu Zhanxiang to bring dry clothes and prepare a meal. Before long she served them a bowl of steaming fish and homemade rice wine. Hungry and cold, Liu ate the meal with relish, praising its flavor and texture.


After going to bed, Liu woke at midnight with a fever. Concerned, the father and daughter prepared some herbs and made Liu a bowl of medicinal soup.


By dawn, Liu was feeling better, but still weak. He stayed at the cottage for three days, and the householder and his daughter Hu Zhanxiang fed him the sliced fish dish each day.


On the fourth day, a team of cavalrymen came to the house, looking for a hunter. Upon seeing Liu Bao, they dismounted and kneeled before him, crying, “Long live the Emperor!” to the astonishment of the father and daughter.


“You have rendered me meritorious service and shall be rewarded. I now regard you as my adoptive-father and your daughter as my sister,” Liu Bao said. “The dish shall henceforth be called Zhanxiang Fish Slices in her honor.” This dish has since been popular throughout China.


Ingredients: mandarin fish, dried mini shiitake mushrooms, Cantonese flowering cabbage, mandarin oranges, lard, tapioca flour, Shaoxing rice wine, vinegar, salt, eggwhite, chopped green onion, garlic slices, MSG.


1. Clean, skin and slice a mandarin fish. Fill a big bowl with cold water and add a little soda ash. Place the fish slices in the bowl, soak for 10 minutes and drain off the water. Coat the fish slices in a paste made from eggwhite and tapioca flour.


2. Trim the flowering cabbage and cut into slices. Soak mini shiitake mushrooms in hot water and also steam them.


3. Heat a large wok and melt some lard in it. Make sure it covers the entire surface and pour off the excess. Heat the wok once more and add more lard. Add the fish slices and cook till golden brown, then add enough lard to deep fry the fish.


4. Put some oil in a pan and stir-fry the chopped green onion, garlic slices and flowering cabbage. Add water, salt, vinegar, Shaoxing rice wine and MSG. Place the mandarin orange segments into the wok and then the fish slices. Cook on a low heat for two minutes and turn up the heat. Add mushrooms, fry, and add a little paste made from cornstarch and water. Serve.