Fish 5: Dark Sleeper (土步魚)

In Hangzhou, dark sleepers1 are highly prized. Yet people in Jinling2 consider them worthless, and look upon them as tiger-headed snakes: with grotesque amusement. Its flesh is very tender and soft, and it can be pan-fried, boiled, or steamed. It can also be cooked with picked mustard3 as a remarkable delicate and delicious geng.


1Known in Chinese as “walking-on-ground fish”, the dark sleeper (Odontobutis obscura) is from the suborder containing gobies, many of which have an affinity to shallow river and lake shores. In fact, the mudskippers belong to it.  This rather large species of goby-like fish is known by its rather sinister sounding dormant monster/undercover spy name because of its ability to camouflage itself, changing its colour to a blackish blue hue to avoid predation.

2Jinling is the old name for Nanjing.

3Yanjie (醃芥) translates to marinated mustard, but considering the way it’s used in other recipes of the Suiyuan Shidan this is most likely the fermented and pickled mustards, known as suan cai (酸菜, “sour vegetable”). As such, it is better translated as pickled mustard. Suancai Yu (酸菜魚), is actually a relatively common method for preparing fish hroughout China.

Pork 16: Sun-Dried Pork (曬乾肉)


Modern Chinese grilled pork jerky. Tasty, but otherwise unrelated in substance, preparation, and presentation to Yuan Mei’s sun-dried pork. (Credit: Alpha)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::Sun-Dried Pork
Thinly slice some lean pork and lay them under strong sunlight until sufficiently dry. Stir-fry the pork with thinly sliced preserved kohlrabi. [1][2]

Random notes:
[1]: The literal translation here is “old/preserved big-headed vegetable” (陳大頭菜). I know of two vegetables are called “big-headed” due to their swollen stems, one is the kohlrabi the other is Brassica juncea var. tatsai. I’m not sure which one is being referred to here, so I’ll just go out on a limb to say it’s the former.

[2]: In modern Chinese cuisine grilling sun-dried pork/pork jerky before eating is quite common, but this is the first time I have heard of stir-frying pork jerky with anything. That said, this dish does sound like an interesting drinking snack (下酒菜).