March 8, 2014

Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean 豆豉鯪魚


pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designerPublished: 2014-03-08

Do you know of this iconic Chinese canned fish Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean, or 豆豉鯪魚?  I'm pretty sure that if you're Chinese you will have grown up eating this delicious and unique canned fish at one point or the other.  I'm also pretty sure that even if you're not Chinese you've probably seen this can of fish somewhere before.  It has been a staple (a star even!) of Chinese canned food for many, many decades.  We have an interesting little story about Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean that comes from my 老公's father who grew up in Guangzhou, China in a time when culture and food culture was flourishing there.

pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designer

My 老公's father's brother 潘洪光was one of the top graphic designers in Guangzhou, China in the early twentieth century when modern graphic design was just finding its feet in China.  He was a really gifted artist/designer and designed many iconic Chinese packaging designs for medicines, foods, etc that are even today still in use.  Unfortunately being one of the firsts in the field has also meant that many of these graphic designers were largely uncredited even to this day.  Sometimes I have found great books that gather and present the amazing graphic designs of those long ago days.  But there are almost never credits to the designers, only credits to the companies that paid for the graphic design jobs.  That is surely a real shame!

pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designer

Our little story has to do with the label design for Pearl River Bridge Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean for which my 老公's father's brother was commissioned.  While working on it, the designer was stuck on the design for the fish and called for his little brother's help.  So my 老公's father went off to the market and found the freshest, most beautiful dace (mud carp 鯪魚) fish that he could find and brought it back to the studio where his brother immediately used the fish as a live model for the fish painting on this now famous, iconic canned fish label.  Isn't it beautiful?  Can you imagine the feeling of being so closely connected with an image on a such a ubiquitous commercial product label and seeing it everywhere?  I think it was especially poignant for my 老公's father as his brother, with whom he was extremely close, passed away a long time ago.

pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designer, recipe

This is the lovely Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean right out of the can.  You can eat it straight out of the can as one dish of a Chinese style family meal or you can warm it up or cook it with some vegetables (see our easy and yummilicious recipe for Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean Stir Fried with Indian Lettuce 豆豉鯪魚炒油麥菜).  Or a modern street classic is instant noodles with a bit of Fried Dace with Black Beans on top.  (Yum, yum!  My 老公 swears that this is the best way to eat 豆豉鯪魚!)  

Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean definitely tastes way better than it looks, so if you're curious, do give it a try.  It can be a bit addictive.  The fish meat is no longer soft but sorta "jerkied", creating a nice slightly chewy texture.  The bones are still in the fish but have softened to the point where you can eat them with just a bit of extra crunch.  (Great way to get some extra calcium!)  The dace is flavored already with savory spices and there is also the distinctive but mellow depth added by the black beans.  When I was little I used to love to pick out the black beans one by one and pretend that I was chomping on insects.  (Weird!  But what can I say?  I confess I still do that sometimes.)

pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designer, recipe

A last word on Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean.  You must buy the Pearl River Bridge brand!  This is the original!  All the other canned dace on the market are copycats brands that appeared after the monumental success of Pearl River Bridge Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean.  We once bought a copycat can by accident (they try to make the copycat label look as close as possible to the original, of course) and the taste and texture just didn't cut it.  Here's the logo below so you can know what you're looking for.  Oh, and also there are two kinds, one with and one without black beans.  Make sure to check carefully before buying and hope you enjoy your delicious Fried Dace with Salted Black Bean!

pearl river bridge, fried dace, black bean, graphic designer, recipe

More delicious fishy stuff at The Hong Kong Cookery:

Steamed Salted Sun Dried Fish, salted fish, sun dried fish, 蒸南倉鹽鮮魚Steamed Salted Sun Dried Fish 蒸南倉鹽鮮魚

fried Dace, black bean, stir fry, indian lettuceFried Dace with Salted Black Bean Stir Fried with Indian Lettuce 豆豉鯪魚炒油麥菜

Rabbit Fish Steamed with Tangerine Peel 果皮蒸泥鯭Rabbit Fish Steamed with Tangerine Peel 果皮蒸泥鯭
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21 comments:

  1. What is the name of the company that manufactures the Pearl River Bridge Fried Dace?

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    1. The company is Pearl River Bridge. They also manufacture a lot of chinese seasonings like soy sauce, sauce, vinegar etc. ~ellen

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  2. I love your story behind this canned novelty. My mom is from Hong Kong and she loves eating fried dace especially the Pearl River Bridge brand. Thank you for sharing :).

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    1. Hi Cake Girl - Glad you liked out story. Your mom's right, Pearl River is the best Fried Dace. ~ellen

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  3. This was and still is my favorite fried dace with black beans. I am glad that after all these years, they are still around. It must be great to know that your family is a part of such an iconic brand.

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    1. I'm glad it still around too! And yes, it's pretty cool to find out these stories from the past and have a connection to them. ~ellen

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  4. Awesome little piece of history. How famous his design has become and more copycatted than a gucci handbag! lol

    Shame about the safety aspect of the fried dace. Love it but it seems there are always recalls etc due to product safety.

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    1. Hi Kenny - Agree with you, this design is very famous no! I think that the major recalls were connected with the copycat brands of Pearl River Fried Dace. You have to be careful when buying cuz the copycat brands look really similar to the original Pearl River brand. ~ellen

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  5. I love this product and have eaten it for over 20 years. I couldn't find my last tin recently and found out that as we were out of cat food my wife had given it to them, thinking it was a cheap generic tin of sardines!
    I had Chinese sausage and pickled radish with my rice instead.

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    1. That's a great cat/fried dace story!! I don't think my cat would eat it though. I have eaten this canned dace for a long time too, ever since I was a kid. ~ ellen

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  6. Hello! Do you know any store where I would be able to buy these online or place an order and have them shipped to me?? Im in Mexico, and I have not been able to find these goodies in a very long time ( a few years actually). If you do, Id much appreciate the tip. Thank you!

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    1. Hi In Mexico - It's hard to ship food stuffs over borders, however, I did find some links for oriental type groceries stores in Mexico, you can try your luck with these:
      http://superoriental.com/
      http://mikasamex.web.fc2.com/hp_super_mikasa_roma.html

      Hope that you can find your dace! ~ellen

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  7. I grew up eating this with congee and I live in Malaysia. The taste and flavour is undeniably Chinese :-) and a taste of nostalgia just like luncheon meat. Interesting story about the design of the can.

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    1. Hi Krista - I didn't know that it was popular in Malaysia as well. But I should have guessed, the traditional Chinese food scene in Malaysia seems to be really amazing! ~ellen

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    2. Hi I love this fish I Grew up on it my farther is Chinese and cooked it regularly, hard to find it now here in England! Good memories now I need to find a can 😊

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  8. Love this fish my dad used to cook it regularly when we were young good memories, cant find it in the Chinese supermarket's here in England anymore.

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    1. I used to eat this when I was little as well, so yummy and still exactly the same! Hope that you can find some! ~ellen

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    2. You can get the pearl river brand one online from starry asian market. Costs 5.90 a can though and there is delivery if you don't live nearby. I live in Glasgow and there various chinese supermarkets like See Woo or a couple small local ones such as Lims (has website) sell a cheap thai brand that uses mackerel. It is not quite as tasty but still not bad.

      I've seen the pearl river brand locally too but people often stockpile them and clear the shelves when they come in and then it takes months for it to come back in stock again.

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    3. Kenny - Super duper thanks for that most useful info! ~ellen

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  9. [my 老公's father's brother]

    Don't you mean his 'UNCLE'? 🤦‍♀️🤔😂

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