West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy 西湖醋鱼

West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, commonly known as West Lake Fish with Vinegar Sauce, is one of the famous traditional Hangzhou dishes.

The history of the West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy dates from more than 800 years ago when there was “Mrs. Song’s Fish Soup” in Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty. It is said Emperor Kang called Zhao Gou escaped to the south when the soldiers of Jin Dynasty invaded, and made Lin’an the capital city. At that time, there was a woman called Song Wusao (who was the wife of a Mr. Song’s fifth son) who was not reconciled to the invader’s reign and escaped to Lin’an with her brother-in-law. She made a living by fishing besides the West Lake and lived from hand to mouth. Once, her brother-in-law was caught in a heavy rain, got terribly ill and could not rise from his sickbed. Wusao was cooking fish and eggs for her brother-in-law to nourish him. Unexpectedly, the officers and soldiers came to press-gang able-bodied men to build the imperial palace. When Mrs. Song interceded with the officers and soldiers not to take her bedridden brother-in-law, the wine vinegar bottle on the cooking range was accidentally overturned. After the officers and soldiers left, the fish and eggs in the saucepan had been cooked into thick soup, but the brother-in-law found it was extremely delicious and his appetite was greatly whetted. As a result, he got well soon. After that, the neighbors imitated the dish, which therefore became known as a delicious home cooked fish soup. Afterwards, Emperor Xiaozong of the Southern Song Dynasty called on Song Wusao when he visited the West Lake. After tasting the fish soup, he spoke highly of it and presented a large sum of money and a wine shop flag to serve as a shop sign to Song Wusao. With constant improvement, Mrs. Song’s Fish Soup became the most famous dish of all fish dishes. Founded in the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty, the restaurant Lou Wai Lou inherited this famous dish and innovated it into the fresh, tender, sour and sweet “West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy” with the flavor of crab meat, and publicized it as “originating from Mrs. Song from the capital city and the best delicacy of West Lake”. Thus, it has become the best of Hangzhou’s famous dishes.

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