Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 130 – Hunan Dried Minnows

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time we are going north for a bit of fishing.

If you head north from Liuzhou city, all the way to the top of Liuzhou prefecture and Guangxi, you come to our northern neighbour, Hunan. I lived in Western Hunan (湘西) for two years in the mid-1990s and loved the place. I was really out in the sticks in a Miao and Tujia ethnic minority area and the only foreigner for hundreds of miles. For a great description of the place (and a beautiful story)  find Shen Congwen‘s Border Town. Although it was written in the early 1930s, the place hasn’t changed much.

Of course, one of the things I loved most was the food. Smoked and cured meats, fermented tofu, pickles and the searing heat of chilli peppers. Sichuan is often thought to be China’s chilli loving province – I think Hunan is more so. So I’m a sucker for anything edible from Hunan and am often to be found in Liuzhou’s Hunan restaurants, especially the Chairman Mao theme restaurant, Shaoshan Restaurant (韶山饭馆) on at 40 Gongyuan Lu (公园路), near Soho Bar. Shaoshan in Hunan was Mao’s home town.

Shaoshan Restaurant

Shaoshan Restaurant, 40 Gongyuan Lu, Liuzhou

So, it was no surprise that when I cam across a bag of these, clearly from Hunan, I grabbed them.


Hunan is landlocked but full of rivers and lakes. Hunan (湖南) literally means south of the lake, referring to Dongting Lake. So there are lots of fish and in true Hunan style, they often smoked or dry it. These are the smallest version. The packaging nowhere mentions what species of fish they are, so I’m referring to them as ‘minnows’, a sort of catch all term for small fish. These are about 2 inches long. I have seen them referred to as “Peasant Family Dried Freshwater Fish” (农家淡水鱼干).

Hunan Little Fish inches

The fish have been baked with salt, rice wine, MSG and unspecified spices.

Rather helpfully, they provide a ‘consumption method’ in English.

Hunan Little Fish4

I have no idea how Canada joined the conversation. There is no mention of Canada in the Chinese.. B should read “According to taste these can be prepared with chilli pepper, MSG, fermented black beans. plain water or vegetable oil.

I tend to fry them with just salt and chilli (and sometimes Sichuan peppercorn) and eat them with beer.

Warning: They are highly addictive.

Hunan Little Fish2

This 200g bag cost me ¥9.80 from here.


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