Are you craving a dish that can truly whet your appetite? Sauerkraut Fish, also known as Suan Cai Yu, can satisfy this desire, and you can have authentic variations of this mouthwatering dish at these new Chinese cuisine-focused restaurants that mushroomed in Singapore over the past few years.
There’s no stopping the demand for authentic Chinese cuisine in Singapore. For instance, endless snaking queues can be spotted outside famed brand restaurants during peak meal hours like Tai Er and YAO YAO. These restaurants have common dishes that continue to draw in hungry customers, and one of them is the sour and spicy Sauerkraut Fish (Suan Cai Yu).
What is Chinese Sauerkraut Fish, or Suan Cai Yu?
The Chinese version of sauerkraut, or suan cai, is similar to its variant in Central and Eastern Europe. Instead of fermented cabbage, suan cai is typically made from Chinese mustard (Southern and Western China) or Chinese Napa Cabbage (Northern China), which is then pickled.
According to a New York Times article, “[Chinese] fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut, was first made during the building of the Great Wall of China, when, by summer, the wall builders lived on cabbage and rice. In winter, rice wine was added to preserve the vegetable, which in turn fermented, or soured, into what is known today as sauerkraut.” This ingredient made it over to Europe from China by the Tartars, who created an improved version by fermenting salt instead of rice wine.
Making sauerkraut requires chopped cabbage that’s sprinkled with salt and stored in standing barrels or containers. The salt draws out the cabbage’s moisture or ‘juice’, which will naturally ferment to form lactic acid and eventually produce a sour taste.
Suan Cai Yu is said to originate in Chongqing, Sichuan where fishermen add sauerkraut to mask fish’s putrid smell in the dishes they eat. It eventually evolved into a golden-looking soup dish, which includes soy sauce and peppercorns for a spicy kick. In Singapore, Chinese brands that have opened outposts in Singapore also offer the same authentic Sauerkraut Fish to locals here, giving us a taste of the addictive dish.
(Feature and hero image credit: YAO YAO Sauerkraut Fish)
7 best places for Sauerkraut Fish (Suan Cai Yu) in Singapore today:
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Named one of the top 10 brands that offer Sauerkraut Fish in China, YAO YAO Sauerkraut Fish has opened their first Singapore outpost recently in Singapore at the bustling Vivocity. This popular Sauerkraut Fish specialty restaurant boasts over 60 stores in China alone, and have brought their signature YAO YAO Sauerkraut Fish to a wider audience with their expansion.
The dish features tender sliced California White Seabass cooked with sauerkraut that has been fermented for 24 days. The two ingredients are doused in a broth that takes eight hours to simmer, with fragrant and tongue-numbing spices sourced from Sichuan, China.
(Image credit: YAO YAO Sauerkraut Fish)
Opening hours: 11:30am – 2pm, 5pm to 9pm (Monday to Sunday)
Diners have continuously flock to Tai Er for their signature Chinese Sauerkraut Fish since its opening in Singapore – and it’s easy to see why. The brand, established in 2015, has a reputation for serving one of the best versions of the dish around, with over 400 outlets in China that reflect its popularity.
Although made for sharing, solo diners can enjoy Tai Er’s signature Chinese Sauerkraut Fish too with its varied sizing options. The appetising soupy dish features meaty tilapia slices accompanied by aromatic dried chillies, peppercorns, and chrysanthemum under a bed of shredded sauerkraut.
(Image credit: Tai Er Singapore/Instagram)
Opening hours: 11:30am – 9pm (Monday to Sunday)
Cooked on the spot at the table, diners can have Chinese Sauerkraut Fish fresh and a la minute at YUN NANS Stonepot Fish. The brand is the first to feature the stonepot fish concept in Singapore, and specialises in cooking live fish using high-pressure steam that is completely smokeless to extract the most natural flavours of the fish while retaining its tenderness. This results in a hearty pot of fresh, naturally sweet, and collagen-rich fish soup.
The granite stone pot, imported from Yunnan and specially handcrafted for YUN NANS, is then covered with a handcrafted tightly woven straw hat that doubles as the pot’s lid, the straw keeping the steam in at a controlled temperature of 160 degrees. YUN NANS’ Chinese Sauerkraut Fish promises to excite tastebuds with its spicy-sour broth, which seeps into the tender whole fish for a truly appetising meal.
(Image credit: YUN NANS)
Opening hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Monday to Sunday)
Formerly a grab-and-go concept, Chengdu Bowl now has a sit-down space for diners to enjoy a nutritional and hearty meal. Their innovative concept combines a Sichuan-style main dish with six side dishes, one base, and one secret sauce.
Savour one of their popular classics, the Chengdu Classic Sour Fish Bowl, which features soft and tender white seabass laced with chilli.
(Image credit: Chengdu Bowl)
Opening hours: 10am – 3pm, 5pm to 10pm (Monday to Saturday). Closed on Sundays.
For lovers of Sichuan-style poached fish, Numb Restaurant brings to the table authentic Sichuanese cuisine derived from age-old recipes but with modern twists to cater to the changing palates of today.
One of the highlights of its expansive menu is the Classic Chengdu Seabass in Sour Pickled Soup. Numb Restaurant harmoniously brings together fresh seabass cooked in a zesty flavourful soup with spicy and sour notes derived from Sichuan pickled cabbage, dried chilli, and fresh vegetables.
(Image credit: Numb Restaurant)
Opening hours: 11am – 3pm, 5pm to 10pm (Monday to Saturday). Closed on Sundays.
Known for their farm-to-table concept, 鱼众不同 Yu Zhong Bu Tong serves fresh fish that’s harvested daily from a local fish farm and cooked in various Sichuan-style broths. One of their four signature soup flavours is the Chinese Sauerkraut.
Each portion of the soup comes with two add-ons of one’s choice like black fungus, tofu skin, enoki mushroom, tofu skin, and more. The tender poached sliced seabass compliments well with the refreshingly tart spicy and sour broth. Yu Zhong Bu Tong uses a six-month-old, naturally-fermented pickled mustard sauerkraut that adds a bright and punchy taste to the dish.
(Image credit: Yu Zhong Bu Tong/Instagram)
Opening hours: 11am – 9pm (Monday to Sunday)
Already a go-to establishment among Singaporeans for authentic Sichuan cuisine like grilled fish, TANYU offers a variety of tantalising dishes that can satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. One of their popular favourites is the Grilled Fish with Sauerkraut which features generous chunks of premium Chinese sauerkraut made from Yunnan’s pickled mustard greens.
The fresh tender fish is grilled masterfully and accompanied with ingredients like pickled peppers, potato slices, diced onions, pickled radish, and lemon slices for a hearty meal.
(Image credit: TANYU)
Opening hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Monday to Sunday)