Huangpi Sanhe (Steamed Three Fresh Ingredients)

huangpi sanhe

Huangpi Sanhe (黄陂三合), also known as Huangpi Sanxian or “Huangpi Steamed Three Ingredients,” is a traditional delicacy hailing from Huangpi, a district in Wuhan, with a culinary heritage spanning several centuries. The term “Sanhe” refers to a combination of three dishes: fish balls, meatballs, and meat cakes, merged into a single culinary delight.

A popular saying goes: “With fat and flavorful fish, and fragrant vegetables, Huangpi Sanhe brings auspiciousness.” This dish carries auspicious connotations, as reflected in its name: the homophony between “fish (鱼)” and “surplus” symbolizes the desire for abundance year after year; the homophony between “cake (糕)” and “height” signifies continuous prosperity; and the simplicity of the word “round (圆)” embodies notions of completeness and harmony.

The crafting process of “Huangpi Sanhe” is intricate and meticulous. For the fish balls, fresh grass carp is typically selected, cleaned, deboned, and minced into a paste. This paste is then mixed with egg whites, ginger juice, chopped scallions, salt, lard, starch, monosodium glutamate, and water. The mixture is stirred until smooth, and then shaped into round balls using the thumb and index finger, boiled until they float, and set aside.

Meatballs are made from minced pork leg meat, mixed with a little fish paste and various seasonings, shaped into rounds using a spoon, and deep-fried until golden brown. Meat cakes share the same ingredients as meatballs but involve a more complex process. A layer of fried tofu skin is first laid in a steaming basket, followed by spreading the fish and meat paste mixture on top. After steaming until cooked, it is sliced into large pieces, brushed with egg yolk, and steamed for another half an hour before serving. Once cooled, it is sliced into long strips.

When these three dishes are combined and steamed together, the result is a harmonious medley where the flavors of the meat and fish complement each other, creating a dish that is not only visually appealing but also tantalizing to the taste buds.

Legend has it that during the Chongzhen era, Li Zicheng led a rebellion that captured the city of Huangpi, capturing local officials. In a gesture of hospitality, the locals served the rebel army with their special delicacy, Huangpi Sanhe, made from fish balls, meatballs, and meat cakes, which delighted the soldiers with its exquisite taste. From then on, the fame of Huangpi Sanhe spread far and wide.

Huangpi Sanhe is not just a culinary delight but also a symbol of resilience, ingenuity, and the rich cultural heritage of Huangpi, embodying the spirit of hospitality and celebration that has endured for generations.

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