Taihu Water Shield – A Special Vegetable in Suzhou

taihu water shield

Taihu Water Shield (太湖莼菜) is a distinctive local specialty of Suzhou City in Jiangsu Province, China, recognized as a Geographical Indication (GI) product. This aquatic plant thrives in the waters of Taihu Lake, and its tender leaves and stems contain a viscous gel-like substance. When consumed, Taihu Water Shield imparts a delicate, smooth, refreshing, and flavorful experience, accompanied by a captivating fragrance. Its unique texture and taste make it a sought-after ingredient in various culinary preparations.

The culinary versatility of Taihu Water Shield makes it a convenient choice for different dishes. It can be stir-fried with meat, used in vegetarian dishes, added to soups for a nutritious touch, or even used as a stuffing for various recipes.

Legend has it that during the Western Jin Dynasty, a nobleman named Zhang Han from the Wu region (present-day Suzhou) was appointed to a government position in Luoyang. However, one day, as autumn winds stirred memories of his hometown’s delicacies—Water Shield, Water Shield soup, and perch—he couldn’t ignore the call of his true passions. Reflecting on the value of following one’s aspirations in life, he abandoned his official post and returned home, leaving behind the famous anecdote known as the “Yearning for Water Shield and Perch.”

As early as the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, residents along the shores of Taihu Lake were already cultivating Taihu Water Shield through artificial means. The harvesting season typically spans from Qingming Festival to the arrival of the first frost each year, showcasing the long-standing tradition and connection between the locals and this aquatic gem.

The cultivation and consumption of Taihu Water Shield have become integral to the cultural and culinary heritage of the region, symbolizing a commitment to traditional practices and the celebration of local flavors that have endured through generations. Today, Taihu Water Shield continues to captivate palates with its unique qualities, embodying a rich history and a distinct sense of place.

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