West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy

West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy Chinese name: 西湖醋鱼 (xī hú cù yú)
Style: Zhejiang Cuisine
Characteristics: Due to the special soup sauce with different seasonings, the dish is sweet and sour, and even has a slight smell of crab. It tastes tender and fresh, without using a drop of cooking oil.

As a very popular Hangzhou dish, West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy can be dated back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279). It's said that a woman nick-named Sister Song operated a restaurant outside the ancient Qiantang Gate near the West Lake, Hangzhou, serving delicious fish soups. One day, Zhao Gou, Emperor Gaozong of the dynasty visited the lake and happened to have the fish soup. He spoke highly of the soup and awarded Sister Song. After that, Sister Song Fish Soup became renowned. Later, Sister Song developed her cooking skills and invented another dish - West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy. Currently, at Lou Wai Lou Restaurant (Tower Beyond Tower) in Hangzhou, people can enjoy delicious and authentic West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy.

Grass carp is the major ingredient of the dish. Before cooking with the recipe below, the fish should be stopped being fed for two days so that all excretions can be released. Then the earthy taste shall vanish. With such a process and a special cooking method, the fish would taste fairly fresh.


a grass carp, 750g
Grass Carp


ginger; green onions; cooking wine; white granulated sugar;
white pepper ground; soy sauce; vinegar; starch

Note: the amount of the ingredients especially the seasonings above can be appropriately used according to one's personal taste.
Seasonings of West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy


1. Gut the fish and clean it. Remove its gill. Horizontally cut/split the fish into two pieces. Place them on a large plate.
2. Peel the ginger. Clean and cut it into small slices.
3. Clean and cut the green onions into 4-5cm sections.
4. Pour some starch into a bowl. Add some water and whisk to mix them. Then the starchy sauce is ready.
Preparation for West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy



Place a wok over high heat and add around 600ml water. Add in ginger and green onions. Then pour in about 15ml cooking wine. Stir and mix them. Heat the mixture until water boils.

Making Soup Sauce

Put the fish into the boiling water. Switch the heat to low fire. In order to avoid the water boiling, add a proper amount of cold water for several times and just soak the fish in water. Maintain the process for 10 minutes. Pick out the fish.

Soaking the Grass Carp

Leave around 250ml fish soup in the wok. Pick out the ginger and green onions. After that, add in 30-50g white granulated sugar, 2-3 spoonful of soy sauce and vinegar, 5g white pepper ground, and 10-15ml cooking wine. Stir to mix them well. Heat the mixture with low fire until the soup boils. Then add in the starchy sauce. Fully mix them all and turn off the heat. Now, the soup sauce is ready.

Adding Seasonings and Starchy Sauce

Pour the glutinous soup sauce on the cooked fish. The West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy is finished.

West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy

Nutrition Value of Grass Carp

Grass carp promotes blood circulation, being a good choice for people with angiocardiopathy. The abundant selenium contained inside benefits anti-aging and skin care so that grass carp is a favorite of many females. The selenium is also effective on preventing tumour. In addition, the fish can nourish stomach to develop the appetite.

Legend of the West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy

In the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), a rich ruffian surnamed Zhao salivated over a beautiful woman often washing clothes at the West Lake, who was the wife of a scholar surnamed Song. To occupy the woman, Zhao murdered Song. Song’s brother and wife filed a lawsuit wishing a fair justice, but their request was denied, because Zhao colluded with the local government. After getting back home, Song’s wife (nick-named Sister Song) packed up for her brother-in-law immediately and urged him to run away, avoiding Zhao’s revenge. She cooked a fish with sugar and vinegar added, enjoining her brother-in-law to remember the bitter and sad life of her and the folks if he would live a happy life someday. Later, the Brother Song passed the official examination and obtained an official position. He returned home to avenge his brother by sentencing Zhao into prison; however, he failed to find Sister Song. One day, he ate a sweet and sour dish on a banquet and remembered the special fish his sister-in-law cooked for him. As expected, he found Sister Song in the kitchen. Afterwards, they returned home and lived a happy life. The special fish later was called West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, also Dining Treasure of Brother-in-law and Sister due to the story.

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- Last updated on Apr. 14, 2021 -
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