Do You Know About The World's 'Hardest' Dish, Chinese Suodui?
Image Credit: X/@EricZalen

The world of food is ever-evolving and there’s always something new to learn about. Whether it’s new trends that are being created like cloud eggs or green goddess salads, or things that date back centuries that are just now finding their way back into the limelight. Social media has opened up a gateway for us to truly become a global food community and share information and insights into different cultural oddities from cuisines around the world. 

One such dish from China is currently amazing people with its unique past and unusual format. Suodui is challenging culinary norms and is being lauded as the “world’s hardest dish”. But it’s not because it’s a terribly difficult recipe to recreate – ‘hard’ in this case is quite literal – because the main ingredient, is stones.

At first glance, it’s hard to believe that it’s a real meal, but Suodui, which translates to “suck and dispose of” is a Chinese delicacy which is made by stir-frying small pebbles in a mixture of spices, vegetables and aromatics. The stones are then plated and diners suck on the pebbles to extract all the delicious flavours before discarding the stones. The stones themselves are primarily a conduit for the flavours of the stir fry rather than a pivotal ingredient, but many claim that since they are usually gathered from rivers, they impart a unique almost fishy taste of their own.

Suodui is thought to have originated in the Chinese province of Hubei many centuries ago. Since the area is landlocked the people of this region often found themselves facing food shortages when agricultural seasons were hard. They did however have access to the Yangtze River and fishermen would often go on extended trips to find fish, and if they couldn’t find any, they found that the river rocks would be an interesting substitute. 

Video Credits: Curious Facts/YouTube

Over time, these pebbles took on the flavours of the marine life so when cooked and sucked on, they gave their dishes some much-needed substance as well as additional mineral content. The dish is also associated with the groups living near the Wuling mountain range, called the Tujia people. But as connectivity increased and people were able to find more consistent sources of food, the popularity of the dish faded and Suodui lapsed into obscurity. 

The preparation of Suodiu is fairly straightforward. It’s recommended that stones are used fresh from the riverbed to capitalise on the strong flavour which fades the longer the rocks are left out. The rocks are then fried in lard or some type of fat which in turn flavours the oil. In terms of vegetables and aromatics, garlic, chillies and ginger were the bare minimum, but people often used spring onions, onions, shredded cabbage, peppers, or carrots when they were available. The way it’s eaten is to suck on the rocks first to extract the most flavour from them, and then put them aside. After which the remaining broth can be eaten like any other soup and you’ll find that it still retains a slight seafood essence from the rocks. 

For culinary adventurers, Suodui offers a unique opportunity to delve into an ancient and forgotten dish which paying respect to the ingenuity that created it. With its newfound ‘viral’ status, it offers a glimpse into the past and how our ancestors faced challenging times and still managed to create a dish that celebrated the best food at their disposal.