Brief of Fish Head with Bean Curd
Fish Head with Bean Curd is one of the most renowned dishes in Hangzhou. Its ingredients include silver carp (a special sort of fish), bean curd, winter bamboo shoots, mushrooms and garlic sprouts. This dish is smooth, tender, tasty, and fragrant. It is the traditional cuisine of Hangzhou in the winter time.
About the origin of the dish, there lies an interesting story related with Emperor Qianlong. (乾隆1711-1799 ), the fifth emperor of the Qing Dynasty). At the time, Emperor Qianlong was on his incognito visit to Wu Hill (吴山) in Hangzhou. Unfortunately, halfway up the hill, he got caught by a heavy rain and was wet to the skin. He was so cold and hungry that he walked into a nearby house. The owner of the shabby house called Wang Runxing (王润兴) happened to be a pedlar running a small food business. He was poor but compassionate. Having nothing in the house but a fish head and a piece of bean curd which he didn’t manage to sell, he stewed them together with some seasonings in a casserole and offered it to Emperor Qianlong. At the time, Emperor Qianlong was quite impressed by the dish and felt that it was much more toothsome than any dishes cooked by his imperial cooks.
The second time when Emperor Qianlong came to Wu Hill, he went again to Wang Runxing’s house. Wang Runxing was still living in his shabby house and ran his small food business. Seeing this, Emperor Qianlong was very curious and asked: You are a talented cook. Why don’t you open a restaurant of your own? Learning that Wang Runxing had no money to run his own restaurant, Emperor Qianlong bestowed Wang 500 tael of silver (tale is a unit of weight used in east Asia approximately equal to 1.3 ounces) and a plaque with the three Chinese characters “Huang Fan Er (皇饭儿: The Imperial Cuisine). On the plaque, Emperor Qianlong signed his real name. It was until that moment that Wang Runxing realized that he had met the emperor. He was so surprised and excited that he kneeled down for a long time.
From that time on, Wang Runxing hang the plaque with Qian Long’s inscription on the central scroll of his newly-opened restaurant, and the dish “fish head with bean curd” has became the noted specialty of the restaurant.