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Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans


Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans (called Dau Si Laing Yiu in Chinese)

Those of you who grew up in a Chinese household or who have friends that are Chinese, likely remember eating Fried Dace, or remember parents or grandparents eating it. If so, you’ll quickly recognize the distinctive oval-shaped tin its packed in, with the red and yellow label, including a picture of the Dace on it.  Classic!

While my family isn’t Chinese, I remember my grandmother and mother eating Fried Dace on occasion when I was growing up. They of course learned about it from their Chinese friends back in Kohala where they grew up.

Like most kids, back then at a young age I was put off by the pungent smell and appearance of this preserved fish and wouldn’t go near it.

Yet now well into my adulthood, I really enjoy delicacies like this. Being a preserved fish in a can with black beans and oil, it has an intense, penetrating smell and flavor profile that, obviously just by the sound of it, you know Fried Dace is going to be an acquired taste. If you’re not convinced about that yet, just wait until you see how it looks.

Come to find out Diner AC, who is part Chinese, grew up eating Fried Dace, which I found out recently when we were talking about “hana-baddah dayz” (childhood) grindz. That conversation must have kindled enough interest for her to go on a Chinatown “quest” recently to look for Fried Dace, to which she found some from a store she didn’t get the name of  (you know how those hole-in-wall shops in Chinatown often don’t have names on them!).

Which led me on my own Chinatown “quest” to find some too. And I did! But let me tell you, it was far and few between.  In fact only one little hole-in-the-wall Chinese grocery shop had it out of more shops than I can remember counting where I browsed through intently looking for it. Whew, at least I found some.

Come to find out, as Diner AC brought to my attention after scouring the net for information on it, back in 2005, the Chinese press created a mass scare over Fried Dace when they revealed that the Chinese Mud Carp (Dace) were treated with Malachite Green – an industrial dye used to prevent the fish from parasites – which was said to cause cancer in humans if enough of it is ingested.

The brands accused of containing traces of Malachite Green were Pearl River Bridge, Yu Pin Mei Cai and Gulong, which the Chinese government apparently stepped in and asked retailers to remove those brands from the shelf back at the time of the hysteria.

What the Chinese press failed to include in their report is that according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, a person must ingest more than 290kg of fish with Malachite Green in it EACH DAY in order for any adverse health effects to take place. That calculates to 1,576 cans of fried dace a day. I highly doubt I can eat more than 1,576 cans of Fried Dace in an entire life time, let alone in one day! Just from the amount of SALT in it, you’d probably suffer cardiac arrest due to extremely high blood pressure before you get cancer if you ate THAT MUCH Fried Dace.

Perhaps the Malachite Green issue falls right along with the Mercury scare in Tuna.

I’m not sure what the status is today (2009) on any given brand of Fried Dace in China, but apparently it’s still affecting distribution of Fried Dace right here in Hawaii, as even in Chinatown it’s presently very hard to come by. Before, you could get Fried Dace at just about every supermarket on the island in the Asian section. It was also very cheap “back then”, but now the price is considerably higher. I paid $3.99 each for the cans shown above. When I told my mother that, she was sticker-shocked.

Now let’s take a closer look at the can of Fried Dace we have here. Thankfully it’s written on one side in English…

Notice this one is FRIED DACE with SALTED BLACK BEANS. Very, very important you get the one with BLACK BEANS, called ‘Dau Si’  in Chinese. That’s the tastiest and most popular version. Other flavors of Fried Dace include plain, chili, curry, tofu and Chinese Olives.

and on the other side in Chinese…

On the bottom left of this side of the label it states the ingredients (at least I THINK that’s what it is!): SAUCE, PLANT OIL, REFINED CANE SUGAR, SAUCE, TABLE SALT, EDIBILITY SPICES. Ha! You just gotta’ love them Chinese-translated labels.  Good gosh, I sure HOPE the spices in here are EDIBLE! “Edibility Spices”. lol! Apparently they forgot to list the most important ingredient of all, the DACE. Perhaps they figure you can figure that part out by the picture on the label.

‘Dace’ is  a trade name given to this fish from Hong Kong. It’s also known scientifically as Cirrhinus Chinensis, or in lay terms, Chinese Mud Carp. They’re fresh water fish that inhabit rivers, feeding on worms, shrimp and detritus.

As long as it’s not from a canal, I think I’m OK with it. lol

Well waddaya’ know, I got the same brand that was removed from store shelves in Hong Kong back in 2005…

PRB BRAND, a.k.a. PEARL RIVER BRIDGE BRAND. This brand is supposedly the original and best Fried Dace, while there are many knock-off brands out there now; some with very similar looking label designs and oval-shaped can. Malachite Green be damned, I’m glad I got the original.

Oh, in case you’re wondering whether a ‘Pearl River Bridge’ actually exists, it does! Click here for more information about the Humen Pearl River Bridge.

Here’s the importing company…

I’m not sure whether or not these nutritional facts are based on US FDA standards, but hey, FWIW, at least it’s there…

Finally we have the top of the can, which as you see they provide a handy-dandy pull-tab…

You can also see the manufacturing date stamped on: MFD: 2008.12.28; EXP: 2011.12.28. It also states on the side of the can that the shelf life is three years. Three year old edible fish kept shelf-stable at room temp’? You KNOW that’s gotta’ be packin’ a PUNCH! lol

Talking with my mother about Fried Dace, she said it’s known in China as “Hokka”. That spelling is probably incorrect, but “Hokka” is known there as “Peasants Food” or “Poor Man’s Food”. I suppose in the US you can call that “College Grub”. Fried Dace is to Chinese what Luncheon Meat, Vienna Sausage, Pork ‘n Beans and Corned Beef are to Americans. Basically very tasty (salty) meat (fish) in a can (lasts a long time) on a budget. Just add starch and you’re set.

In the case of starch to accompany Fried Dace, that would be none other than a steaming hot bowl of rice, or for many Chinese, they put the Fried Dace in or on their Congee, a.k.a. Jook, a.k.a. Rice Porridge.

My mother heats up her Fried Dace by opening the lid of the can and placing the can DIRECTLY on the stove burner. No pans and no pots to mess with; the can is the “pan”. She heats it up until the oil the Dace is packed in is hot enough to literally deep-fry it right in the can. Once the Dace is sizzlin’ and a little crispy, she turns off the heat, let’s it cool down a bit, then digs right in. Put some FRIED Fried Dace on the hot rice and enjoy. If she has it, she also likes to add Duck Egg and Lup Cheong with the Fried Dace which gives the palate a powerhouse of flavor combinations in one bowl.  Some Coleman’s Mustard and Shoyu Dipping sauce on the side and it’s a done deal.

So with all the aformentioned hype, am I scared now to eat Fried Dace? Absolutely NOT! Let’s open a can and have some!…

Ha. I kinda’ figured that handy-dandy pull-tab wasn’t going to work, which it didn’t, so I ended up using a can opener.

I suppose now that I look it, you could think of Fried Dace as the Chinese equivalent of Sardines, albeit much saltier thanks to the black beans.

Here’s the entire contents of that can transferred into a bowl…

That may look pretty gross, but believe me, it TASTES really, really GOOD!

So in this can (we’re taking inventory here) there’s 2 full Dace, sans the head and fins, and 1 half piece, plus a generous serving of salted black beans and enough vegetable oil to fill the can about 1/3 full.

Here’s one of the Dace split in half where you can see, just like canned sardines, the spine and rib bones are semi-soft and entirely edible…

Like mom does it, I put the dace in the can directly on the cooktop…

In just a short time the oil was boiling and the fish began to sizzle in the can. The aroma wafting out as it heats up is captivating. Believe it or not, it smells so good!

Once it’s a little crispy and sizzlin’ hot, simply serve over a bowl of rice and enjoy!….


Fried Dace and Salted Black Beans served over white rice with green onion garnish

Oh yeah. Sooooooooooo goooooooood. Solid 5 SPAM Musubi rating for Fried Dace with Black Beans over white rice. The salted black beans are what really make this work. It gives the fish this robust, meaty flavor that would be amiss without it. The dace is hardly  “fishy” at all, and the flesh of it is completely soaked through with the flavors of the black beans and various Chinese spices. It’s very flaky, while also being a little tough at the same time, in a good way. Good, good stuff!

Now let’s try it with Jook….


Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans with chicken stock Jook, green onion and sliced cabbage garnish

Not bad. I like how the black beans sort of melt their flavor into the jook. I give it 3 SPAM Musubi with Jook.

Fried Dace with white rice is still the best. Broke da’ mout’!

Well there you have it. Another trip down memory lane, this time in honor of Fried Dace!

What? Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans
Who makes it? PRB Brand (China)
Where did you buy it and how much did it cost? A small shop in Honolulu Chinatown, $3.99 each
Big Shaka to: Very, very, very delicious. Everything in the can is edible. Easy-to-heat, ready-to-serve meal, just add rice. Brings back childhood memories.
No shaka to: Pull-tab didn’t work. Limited availability, even in Chinatown. Considerable price increase. Malachite Green issues unclear (although this website says this fish is safe).
SPAM Musubi rating: 5

P.S. While I walked around Honolulu Chinatown looking for Fried Dace this past week, I snapped a few photos to share with you. Here they are….

It always amazes me at how many little Chinese things these shop keepers pack into these stores. Things I wouldn’t have a CLUE as to what it’s used for, either in cooking or overall domestically…

Hum Nyee – in those green and red labeled bags; another type of preserved, salted Chinese fish that’s very good with Pork Hash

Woot-woot! There it is!….

Fruits and vegetables GALORE in Chinatown at incredibly CHEAP prices (way below supermarket)…

Only in Chinatown would you find Durian (stinky fruit)…

There’s more types and sheer VOLUME of Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Choy Sum, etc.) here than I’ve seen ANYWHERE, again, at ROCK-BOTTOM PRICES….

Those oh-so-distinctive Golden Dragon red pillars…

A delivery truck bringing in a fresh catch of Ahi and Mahimahi….

Ulua…

Kumu…

Ooh, Menpachi, one of my favorite pan-fried fish!….

Singing the song “Taking Care of Business… Every Day”…

The friendly neighborhood Chinese butcher choppin’ up some of that good ‘ole “Shee-Shau-Poh” (sweet sour pork) lol…

If you’re a photographer either by hobby or profession, you MUST make it to the nearest Chinatown. It’s a shutterbug’s paradise. Oh, and a foodie’s paradise as well.

83 thoughts on “Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans

  • November 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm
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    greetings to all. I developed a serious jones for fried dace recently at Wok&Roll restaurant. Friday night my wife told me, go and get the takeout I ordered 1hr.ago. I was reading the sign which said “Fried Fish,” memory came back, and I asked the owner does he have any. He says no,but will get me some next trip to Mott st.[NYC] Ok, so he gets me some about a month later,I had to bust his chops several times to get his @#%S moving. But finally, back for more takout[Friday evening treat] he laid it on me,one can of Fried Dace w/salted Black Beans. Eagle Coin…?? Pearl River??? I’m ripped. I am sad.This is not PRB! He charged me $2.00. I have not eaten this yet, and 4 months have passed. I also suffer from Gout, and this tempting fish is on my mind, and I’m not supposed to eat it ,but I could’nt resist looking in here for a side dish to go with it . I read the comments,which are more enjoyable than a good book. Allow me to go back in time. 1979. My buddy was back from Alaska for a vist and brought some cans back with him. It has been that long since I had some. I just never could get that delicious flavor out of my mind. Sooooo, sone I will open that can, eat it with some steam rice and vegetable. thanks , may your house be safe from Tigers. tom.

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  • November 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm
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    I appreciate your appreciation for this unappreciated food. Fried Dace is my absolute favorite canned fish!

    Can’t believe no one has commented on this.

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  • November 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm
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    I guess I was wrong, you do have a lot of comments. May I use your pictures for my Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans Facebook Fan page?

    Reply
  • March 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm
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    Live in Florida and cannot find any…do you hace a link where I can order fried dace with black bean sauce…love it with steamed dried bean curd.

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  • March 13, 2011 at 7:44 am
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    Barbara, sorry to say, no I don’t, nor do I see Fried Dace back on the shelves at Honolulu grocery retailers, as it was so prevalent in the past.

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  • April 3, 2011 at 8:14 am
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    Hi! I am not chinese nor have chinese relations but I am an asian living in California. I was scouring our neighborhood asian grocery and found boxes of this Whole Fried Dace in Black Beans on sale. I’m very adventurous when it comes to food and since I love Chinese food that have black beans, I decided to try it. I searched the internet and thank goodness I found your site. At least now I know I just have to heat it up. What I have is the Eagle Coin brand so I’m hoping this isn’t one of those that was banned by China. Thanks for the post!

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  • April 3, 2011 at 11:58 am
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    Aloha Ella, Eagle Coin wasn’t included in that article I read, and since you found it on the store shelf out there on the mainland, we should be confident it’s passed USDA regulations and considered “safe” for consumption.

    As for heating the Fried Dace up, go “rustic” and simply remove the lid and put the can right on your stove burner, turn it to medium-high and heat it up unitl the oil sort of boils. Then simply serve over hot steamed rice, pouring some of the oil over the rice. Absolutely delicious! The black beans are really what makes it taste great.

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  • May 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm
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    I am a Filipino-American and the first time I tried Fried Dace was with my Thai co-worker in L.A. and I love it and hooked with it. Whenever I go to Chinatown (in NY or DC) or a Chinese grocery store, first thing I look at the store is Fried Dace. I always eat it with rice. I have 5 cans in my cupboard. For me it’s like a comfort food.

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  • March 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm
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    All kinds of Chinese goods & foodstuffs poured into the US after Nixon and Kissenger went to China.The first time I heard about canned fried dace was back in 1977. I bought some on the advice of my Chinese American co-workers at Raytheon in Mountain View, California. The price was only 69 cents! You could buy all you wanted for 69 cents. The can contents was a full 8 ounces too-more fish. Not the 6 ounces or less you get now? Hihi.

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  • May 21, 2012 at 2:32 am
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    This is awesome! My mom just served me a large dish of fried Mee Poh with a slab of Dace steaming atop it, and I decided for the first time after years of eating it to figure out just what it was.

    It was a nostalgic read, and your pictures and comments are all fantastic. Thanks!

    Reply
  • May 17, 2014 at 12:14 am
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    I love Dace with black beans and I am having it tonight with boiled rice but little scared now after knowing that it is tainted with industrial dye.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm
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    Hi,

    Wow! What an interesting story about this Dace Fish in Black Beans. Now I have learned about it. Recently I had bought a can, cut some bird’s eye chilli, added garlic and stir fry them and ate it with plain porridge.

    It’s really delicious. I’ve got the inspiration to eat this when I was in Corus Hotel, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and ate it during breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Its so delicious! .So when I was back in Singapore, I searched it at my nearest supermarket. I found it! :):)

    Thank you very much for this valuable information.

    Regards,

    Jeffery
    (Singapore)

    Reply
  • November 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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    Hi All,

    got here googling for this fried dace with salted black beans. It’s hard to get nowadays in the local chinese stores in Amsterdam. I miss it a lot and would buy a few dozen instantly when available.

    Wondering if there’s still a bann on it ?

    Cheers,

    Steven

    (Amsterdam)

    Reply
  • December 16, 2014 at 10:26 pm
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    Are the dace from fish farms along the Pearl River? The Pearl River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Rather than checking for malachite green, perhaps the fish should be examined for industrial contaminants including mercury and other heavy metals found in Pearl River water. I remember the contamination scare back then and the canned dace were removed from all the local chinese food stores and have never been restocked since then.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fried_dace_with_salted_black_beans

    Reply
    • December 18, 2014 at 5:24 am
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      Naeko,

      I don’t have the answer to your question about specifically where dace are farmed, except what was pointed out that Pearl River Bridge is the BRAND. However mahalo for that Wikipedia link. I did not know there was an entry for Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans. Interestingly, the 2nd reference to that Wikipedia entry is from here:

      References:

      2. Pomai [1] “Fried Dace with Salted Black Beans”, The Tasty Island Honolulu Food Blog, 25 September 2009. Retrieved on 26 October 2014.

      If you walk around downtown Chinatown in Honolulu today, you’ll find only certain stores carry Fried Dace. Before (back in the 70s and 80s), you could find it commonly sold in the local supermarkets in the oriental foods canned goods aisle.

      Reply
  • June 8, 2015 at 10:56 am
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    Just read you stories of fried dace. Very nice! I thought it was a chinese Jamaican thing. We in Jamaica also grew up on fried dace and rice.  Haven’t eaten it in a very long time. But when we first moved to Toronto could get it in Chinatown for $0.69 a tin.  Will have to ask my 95yrs old mother if she still eats it.

    Reply
  • June 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm
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    Thanks for another excellent post. Where else may anyone get
    that type of information in such an ideal manner of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such information.

    Reply
  • September 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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    Darn you. I thought about this stuff and looked it up after not having had it for over 30 years. You made it sound so good that I had to hit up the local Asian grocers and find a can. All I found was Eagle Coin brand. I’m guessing they’re all made by the same company in the same factory, because all the cans look the same size online and the labels are virtually identical. It was pretty much the way I remembered. A little tough. Not as much oil or beans as I thought. Still, pretty good. I’m going to start eating these every once in a while.

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    • September 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm
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      Lo Fu Gee,

      I was just in a tiny shop in Honolulu Chinatown the other week and found their shelf well-stocked with Fried Dace, which also was the Eagle Coin brand, not Pearl River Bridge. I’ll pick-up a can next time and see if it tastes identical to the Pearl River Bridge brand. I always get the Black Bean in Oil flavor. That one’s the best.

      What’s funny is, when I told the owner about the Malachite Green issue (now no longer an issue), he was unaware of it, and then he gave me suspicious looks like I was an undercover health inspector. lol

      Reply
  • April 24, 2016 at 9:22 pm
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    Here in San Francisco we have lots of the Eagle Coin brand. On the top it states that this is a hundred-year brand, and is the original producer. Comparing the nutrition tables, the biggest difference from your photo is Calcium content as percentage of daily values. Yours was 2% per serving, the Eagle coin cans show 90%, per serving. With the amount of bones in the cans, It seems obvious which one is ridiculously wrong.

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    • April 25, 2016 at 10:14 am
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      CP Chang,

      LOL! I would NEVER have thought to look at the nutritional information on a can of Fried Dace. Now that you mention the can I have indicates only 2% calcium, that does sound totally RIDICULOUSLY WRONG. The sodium amount @ 750mg sounds about right. This stuff is VERY salty, and that number is similar to the high sodium amount in instant ramen (broth packets).

      Notice the expiration date also indicates 12/28/20, which at the time of purchase was in 2009.Now how accurate is that? Scary! I actually recently ate part of a can of Salmon that was near its expiration date, and it was, should I say, “ripe” (intense). Was still “OK” though on a bed of hot rice. I didn’t get sick, main thing. If I ate the whole can, probably different story.

      Reply
  • April 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm
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    In markets here there are several varieties of fired dace cans, all from same supplier, all Eagle Brand. These include the salted soy bean, plain fried, hot fried, toufu skin, etc. All cans look the same. The strange thing is that while the soy bean type shows calcium 90% per serving (would be 3-4 servings a can), a special soybean type (produced for Muslim countries) show 2% as in your case, the plain fried type shows 27%, and other types may show some other values. There is no way the calcium contents can vary much among these different types. Based on much smaller cans of sardines with bones, I would guess the total content for an entire can should be in the 100%-270% range. Thus I guess the ones show the 90% or 27% may be genuine or with better quality control, the others not so. I wish USDA could raise the question to the importers on the truth of nutrition label.

    My guess is that someone put a 2% label on the cans they produce, then others just copy the whole appearance including the shape, color, and label of the cans.

    Reply
    • April 26, 2016 at 12:47 pm
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      CP Chang,

      That would be an interesting US FDA case study: taking lab analysis’ of random imported food products and comparing that to what the manufacturer has supplied the FDA on their own nutritional facts as labeled. I’m willing to bet there’s TONS of mislabeled information and/or lack there of. Any “Google Warriors”, if you got a great link on the subject, share ’em.

      Reply
  • April 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm
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    About time the FDA sampled all Chinese food products and report. In China food processing scandles happen once a month. Around here our government doesn’t seem to care to test.

    Reply

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