In spite of its provocative name, Smelly Mandarin Fish, the 200-yr-old world-famous-in-China Hui Cuisine dish (Hui Cuisine, of Anhui Province in the southeastern part of the country, is one of the eight major cuisines of China), isn't smelly at all – in fact, it is very tasty, with a mouth-watering, slightly sweet aroma.
The dish is made of preserved (in salt) mandarin fish, a fresh-water fish which, instead of scales, is equipped with a covering of thick mucus which exudes a pungent odor, protecting the fish in its natural habitat from predators. In the kitchen, the mucus layer is scraped away, the fish is rinsed and dried, then preserved in salt. Once cured in salt, the fish is then prepared according to an age-old recipe, resulting in a delicious dish that is crisp yet tender.
It cannot be denied, however, that its provocative name, which belies the true nature of the finished product, has helped to reinforce the venerable reputation of Smelly Mandarin Fish as one of the classic dishes of Hui Cuisine.