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Home Hangzhou Travel Cuisines & Restaurants Xihu Cuyu

Hangzhou Xihu Cuyu Dish


West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy or Xihu Cuyu(西湖醋鱼) is one of the classical cuisines in Hangzhou. This dish origin can be traced back to Song Dynasty. It has a diversity of legends related to several historical souls of China.

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.

Less known as "A treasure from a man and his sister-in-law", West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy has another origin actually. It’s said that a fisherman living near the West Lake in Hangzhou, because of poor family situations, got sick, his sister-in-law caught a fish in the lake and cooked with vinegar and sugar. The fish meat is tender, sour and sweet. After eating, the young fisherman was recovery. Later, the dish became to be a famous cuisine in Hangzhou restaurant. Even, a poet wrote a poem on the wall of a building in Gushan, and this dish attracted lots of people come to Hangzhou. It’s said that Kangxi, an Emperor of Qing Dynasty, has tasted this dish also and gave a high appraisal.

The Dish of Xihu Cuyu, West Lake Fish Vinegar Gravy


Live grass carp 1 (weighing about 700 grams), Shao wine 25 grams, 1.5 grams of ginger, soy sauce 75 grams, 60 grams of sugar, vinegar 50 grams, wet starch 50 grams, a little sesame oil.

Cooking steps:

1. First put live grass carp into a large basin filled with water to be hungry for a couple of days, so that the fish meat will be firm and can eliminate soil odor.
2. The fish back is outwards, cutting from the tail and along the backbone to the submandibular, splitting the head, chopping off fish teeth.
3. Cooking in the pot placed 1,000 grams of water, stir to boil, and then spread out the fish, back down, put into pot to boil again, then turn to simmer about 3 minutes, until fish paddle fins erecting and eyes sticking out. then, take out with a colander, drain soup, put into a bowl with skin side up and being flat.
4. Heat up pot and pour the original fish soup 250 grams, Shao wine, soy sauce, sugar, ginger to boil. Add marinade of vinegar, starch and sesame oil, pouring in to serve.


1. This dish must be cooked with live grass carp.
2. Fish cannot be in boiled water for long time, then the meat can be kept as a whole but not broken, meat is tender but not rotten.
3. The marinade for fish must be thick but not much.

Nutritive Value

Grass carp: grass carp are rich in unsaturated fatty acids which is beneficial for cardiovascular in a good food; grass carp are rich in selenium, which has anti-aging and good for beauty, meanwhile, also has a certain role for prevention and treatment of cancer.
Ginger: Ginger is helpful for detoxification.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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