If we haven’t already made it clear: getting ripped off in Yangshuo is very, very easy. It’s practically a miracle if you manage to walk from your accommodation to shitty tourist mecca of West Street without somehow finding yourself with a couple of poorly-made sea-shell collages and a wallet 500 RMB lighter.
As someone who lives here I try to avoid this happening to me as much as possible, but sometimes it is necessary to take out-of-town friends for dinner, and sometimes they want to try the great local delicacy of ‘beer fish’. This, friends and neighbours, is how I got well and truly fucked. Not in the good way.
Yangshuo has around three ‘delicacies’: Guilin rice noodles (nothing to write home about), dog meat (not tried and I’m not sure my mother would forgive me if I did) and beer fish. It is this latter that brings us to this tale of woe.
Beer fish is – this is gonna blow your mind – fish cooked in beer. They even have a couple of local beers designed with this dish in mind – LiQuan and LiJiang– and according to more discriminating palates than mine, they’re kinda shit. I personally will drink anything and have no issues with said beverages, however.
Only the very best
I had already resigned myself to spending all the money, so when the waitress in our upscale fancy beer-fish restaurant suggested the ‘best fish’ and my friend nodded enthusiastically, I just went with it and steeled myself for the bill. The ‘best’ fish, in this instance, was 158 RMB per half-kilo. When you consider that they don’t make beer-fish fish in the half-kilo range, this was going to translate to a small fucking fortune.
Fish cooked in beer sounds kinda shit, right? Even in Yangshuo they’re not gonna pass this off as food for which they can rip you off, so they throw some tomatoes, herbs and peppers in there. It’s actually pretty good, but be forewarned that even if you go with the ‘best’ fish with the ‘fewest’ bones, it’s gonna be like any other fish dish in China – more boned than Jenna Jameson.
Nevertheless, it was a decent enough feed – tangy and spicy in equal measure, with pretty tender fish (bones notwithstanding). We also ordered a vegetable dish, which consisted of a bunch of random Chinese greens and ‘century eggs’ (eggs aged until they turn black).
Now you might be wondering precisely how big this fish was, given the already-extortionate cost of a mere half-kilo. The fish’s weight came in at 1.9 jin, or roughly .9 kilos. The mathematically adept amongst you might have already done some quick maths and figured out the final cost – that’s right, 300 kuai. For one fucking dish.
Factor in the vegetable dish and a single beer (my friend wasn’t drinking) and we were looking at a 341-kuai bill for two goddamn dishes. To give those of you unfamiliar with Chinese prices an idea: it’s fucking extortionate. High-end hotels wouldn’t charge you that. Mafia loan sharks would balk at gouging people so hard.
I like to think that I sacrificed myself on the altar of Yangshuo’s naked avarice, ladies and gents, in the name of bringing you the truth. Much like any Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist, I leap into the trenches and take grenades so that you, the reader, might be better informed. If the conclusion wasn’t already self-evident, allow me to spell it out for you: do not bother eating beer fish in Yangshuo. Go and have a curry or just go full hillbilly and have a Big Mac instead.