By Elaine Dunn
Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province in southwestern China, is not only famous for its beautiful landscape but also its delicately made, hot and numbing cuisine, a legacy of its Miao residents (苗族), one of the 55 officially recognized minority tribes in China. Yes, numbing. The main ingredients of Guiyang cuisine are red hot peppers and dried chili powder, believed to be ideal for the cold, wet weather in winter.
One just cannot visit Guiyang without trying its famous fish in sour soup! This delectable soup is so common and in high demand that it can be had from street stalls. It is THE traditional Maio soup and each Miao family has its own special recipe! But all comes in a large pot and rumour is that Miao girls who don’t know how to make it won’t be able to find a husband.
The story behind the soup is that there once was a pretty brew master in the Miaoling Mountains whose wine was sweet as honey and clear as spring water. She had many suitors and she used to sing, “with love, water can become sweet wine; without love, sweet wine will turn sour.” If she didn’t like her suitors, she would serve them sour wine.
The soup can come in a red or white soup base. The red base is from fermented wild tomatoes and the white, fermented rice. The fish is boiled in the soup base with garlic, ginger, salt, chili, wine and special fragrant spices. Tofu and vegetables are usually added to the pot just before serving.
Aside from the fish in sour soup, Guiyang is also known for:
A form of Guizhou tapas! Soft tofu are shaped into balls and deep fried to golden color. They are crispy on the outside, but tender inside. They are eaten with a sour dipping sauce.
Sliced vegetables in rice wrappers Think vegetable spring rolls. Fresh seasonal vegetables such as bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots and deep-fried beans are placed in rice wrappers, eaten with a sour (what else!) and chili sauce.
Chopped squid is skewered and grilled on a metal plate containing an enormous amount of sizzling chili sauce. These are served hot from street carts.