Famous, time-honored fish soup dish popular in wintertime
It's a winter's soothing treat to gulp down a bowl of Sisai bass soup for Songjiang gourmet lovers. The Songjiang native fish, often 17 centimeters long and about 100 grams in weight, is famous for its succulent, oily meat and lack of excess bones.
The orange branchial arches near its breathing gills give it the appearance of having an extra set of gills – hence the name sisai, which translates as "four gills" in Chinese.
It has been regarded as one of China's "famous four freshwater fish" since the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-420). Different dynasties recorded the fish delicacy and how it was served to emperors. Poets wrote tributes to the fish.
As a migratory fish, the life cycle of the Sisai bass involves both seawater and fresh water. Every year, the fish migrated from the East China Sea into the rivers and canals of Songjiang. Then, in the mid-1980s, the fish seemed to disappear.
In 2003, researchers successfully developed a system for large-scale farming of the fish, and two years later the technique was patented.
In 2006, Sisai Bass Aquatic Co was set up in Songjiang, becoming China's largest research and cultivation center for the species.
Local chefs today have come up with some basic recipes, and bass soup is the most popular among them.
The cooking method is simple and easy to do at home. Blend clean water and chicken soup, one to one, and boil with ginger slices, bamboo shoots and shredded pickles. Put the fish in. Add salt and rice wine to broil for a while.
When the water is boiled again, put in ham, lean pork and a little lard oil. Simmer for minutes. When cooked, the fish meat tastes tender, and the ham and pork add a salty flavor to the soup.