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Fei Teng Yu vs Shui Zhu Yu? [Moved from China board]

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Had dinner recently at a tiny Sichuan dive here in Shanghai, and got something very different to usual oil and chili bath I'm used to when I ordered shui zhu yu. It was much more a thick soup/stew with a very thin layer of oil on top. Seemed like a tomato base with Sichuan peppercorns, chili, and garlic, and the slices of fish. I asked the owner about it, and he told us that there are two ways to make shui zhu yu: the one most people are used to (including me, and everyone I know), which involves a ton of hot oil being poured over sliced fish, and then this one. He claimed the former is actually fei teng yu, not shui zhu yu. Can anyone clear up= this confusion? And what of shui zhu niu rou, and its pot of oil?

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  1. The owner was correct..

    Shui Zhu Yu (or beef or whatever) does not come in a bath of oil. It should be a stew. Shui Zhu means 'water cooked' or 'boiled'.

    It's one of my favourite dishes and in over a decade of living in China I've never been given any 'oil baths' when ordering shui zhu.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LIuzhou Laowai

      Thanks.

      I know the Mandarin refers to boiling, hence the confusion.
      But I've ordered shui zhu yu or niu rou plenty of times, and it's come out as thinly sliced fish or beef in hot oil.

      According to the same owner, it's a Beijing adaptation of the original shui zhu style dishes, although now, as I mentioned, when I've ordered "shui zhu X" I've gotten the oily version. I don't think I'm alone in this - poking around Chowhound led me to another thread about it - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/388532

      Wondering about how it came to be.

      1. re: st cavish

        I don't know the answer to your question, but I agree that shui zhu yu (or beef) refers to the fish or meat being poached in highly spiced oil. Delicious but filling. I've had this version of shui zhu yu in Beijing and Chengdu.

    2. A picture is worth 10,000 words. Or is 10,000 pictures worth a word? Here's what a baidu.com image search brings u for shui zhu yu (水煮鱼):

      http://image.baidu.com/i?tn=baiduimag...

      1. Fuchsia Dunlop in her acclaimed book, "Sichuan Cookery" ("Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking" is the title in the US) gives a recipe. It is in soup not oil.

        2 Replies
        1. re: LIuzhou Laowai

          Well, what can I say? Hundreds, if not thousands, of Sichuan restaurants in China must be wrong!

          Though maybe there are two versions. I'd love to try the non-oily version and my cardiologist agrees!

          1. re: LIuzhou Laowai

            oooo, i love that book! And her "new" Hunan one is pretty awesome too.