Tradition has it that once stopping at the Crane House during his south Yangtze tour, Emperor Qian Long saw a carp frisking on the holy table and ordered it cooked for him. The chef, knowing it was the emperor ' s order, spared no effort in flavoring and seasoning. In order to be exempted from the sin of killing the “holy fish”, he made the carp into the shape of a squirrel with its head and tail soaring high. The dark reddish brown fish, crisp outside and tender amid, was sour and sweet enough to the taste of emperor, whose appreciation raised the name of Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish to the world.
Being the raw material, the mandarin fish is characterized by its tenderness of the flesh and sparseness of the bones as well. After scaling and frying, the head of the fish looks big with its mouth wide open, the tail bends upwards, and the flesh imitates the erecting hair of a squirrel. It would be sqeaking like a squirrel if it is sprinkled with shrimp meat, dried bamboo shoots and tomato ketchup. Thus the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish is complete in color, smell, flavour and sound, and it is to arouse the appetite of whoever sees it.