Pickled Sour Dish
The evening breeze brushed against their faces, the remnants of the setting sun cast a warm glow, and the sky transformed into a brilliant rose hue. As the group walked along the village path, a faint and delightful fragrance wafted in the air. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that the mangoes planted in the villagers’ yards had ripened. They hung on the trees in a golden hue, emitting a fragrant aroma that spread far and wide.
Everyone couldn’t help but be drawn to its aroma. They gazed at the mango tree—short and not very tall. Some of the fruits dangled near the ground, not large in size, resembling little golden fists, incredibly attractive.
Seeing the desire in everyone’s eyes for the mangoes, Su Chen took a few steps forward and called out, “Grandpa Huang, are you home?”
After a while, despite the open door, there was no response. Su Chen raised his voice and called out a couple more times.
Su Mu explained to everyone, “Grandpa Huang is old; his hearing isn’t very good.”
A few more minutes passed, and a spirited elderly gentleman walked out of the house, his steps steady. Frowning, he said, “Isn’t this little Su Chen and little Mu Mu? What’s the matter? Are you looking for Grandpa Huang for something?”
Su Chen and Su Mu approached him and greeted him. The others also offered their greetings.
“Well, Grandpa Huang, you see, we passed by your house and saw these ripe mangoes. We were wondering if we could buy a few from you?”
The old man didn’t care about urban ways. He deftly walked to the mango tree, plucked several mangoes in a matter of seconds, and handed them to them. He kept saying, “I’m an old man living alone, and there are so many fruits. I can’t eat them all. You can come and pick them whenever you want, free of charge.”
He had two mango trees in his yard. One was of the Tainong No. 1 variety—fleshy, small pits, high sugar content, very fragrant and sweet. The other was the Qingpi mango, with delicate flesh. When it wasn’t fully ripe, it was crisp and sweet, with a hint of sourness. Su Mu liked this kind of mango the most.
“Grandpa Huang, I’ll pick two Qingpi mangoes.”
Grandpa Huang chuckled, “The skin of Qingpi mangoes is thick and tough. My old teeth can’t handle it. Mu Mu, you should pick more. Are you planning to take them home to pickle them in sour sauce again?”
In the past, people didn’t have so many ways to eat fruit. Generally, they just ate them when they were ripe. Later, when Su Mu left her hometown for school and travel, she discovered the diverse ways to enjoy fruit, opening her eyes to possibilities like fruit yogurt, fruit tea, and fruit salad. What left a deep impression on her was the way Guì Province treated fruit.
Guì Province had a long history of eating sour foods. Due to its location in the southern regions, the climate was humid and hot year-round. Locals quenched their thirst, refreshed themselves, and dispelled dampness by consuming sour dishes. Over time, eating sour foods became a local dietary habit.
There’s even a popular saying: “Heroes find it hard to pass through the beauty’s door, but the beauty finds it hard to pass by the sour food stall.”
This showed how wonderful the taste of sour food was.
When Su Mu first heard about it, she thought it was some kind of dark cuisine, adding salt, sugar, vinegar, and sometimes even soy sauce to fruits. However, when she actually tasted the sour dishes, she realized how wrong she had been.
For instance, fresh white radish, cut into thin slices and marinated in secret sour sauce for half an hour. The sauce would permeate the radish, creating a sour and sweet taste with a strong hint of spiciness. It could quench thirst and stimulate the appetite in the summer.
She especially loved the pickled radish peel, crispy, tender, and irresistibly delicious.
In Guì Province, almost all fruits and vegetables could be pickled into sour dishes.
Su Mu had experimented with this at home a few times. Mother Su liked the taste, so she shared it with familiar villagers, and this method of pickling sour foods began to spread.
Therefore, the villagers knew that Su Mu liked to use fruits for pickling.
Su Mu was not shy about it and nodded openly, saying, “When I finish pickling, I’ll bring some over for Grandpa Huang.”
Grandpa Huang waved his hand, “I don’t eat these sour things, they give me stomachaches.”
The two mango trees were laden with plenty of fruits. Everyone picked a small pile, and the trees still had numerous fruits hanging.
Seeing them handling the fruits with bare hands, Grandpa Huang went back into the house and came out with a small bamboo basket, their baskets on the verge of overflowing.
“Then we’ll be on our way, thank you for your generosity, Grandpa Huang.”
Grandpa Huang watched the young people as they left, waving his hand, “If you want to eat, just come and pick them at my place.”
Once they were a bit further away, He Fu exclaimed, “The villagers here are kind and welcoming.”
Wei Liu, already munching on a golden mango, nodded in agreement at his words.
“Grandpa Huang is a good man. Hey, these mangoes are really sweet.”
Su Mu held a small mango in her hand but didn’t eat it. Eating this type of ripe mango without a knife, using only your mouth, would be quite uncouth. She didn’t want to reveal her carefree side in front of Gu Shi again.
“As the saying goes, wherever there are people, there’s politics. Even in the countryside, there are conflicts. But it’s not as scheming as city folk; it’s more straightforward.”
Su Chen also agreed, “Exactly.” The narrowing paths between fields illustrated the point – one family quietly claimed a bit of path during plowing, another family thought nobody knew and took a few millimeters. Over time, the paths became narrower! People who weren’t from the village didn’t have a say in this matter.
Wei Liu finished his mango and tossed the pit aside, his curiosity piqued again. He moved closer to Su Mu and asked, “Mu Mu, what does Grandpa Huang mean by ‘pickled sour’?”
Su Mu didn’t want to explain the process all over again, so she just smiled mysteriously and said, “You’ll find out tonight.”
Everyone’s appetite was piqued, but Su Mu kept her lips sealed, refusing to reveal anything.
The only one among them who had tried pickled sour before, Su Chen, didn’t dare to reveal his sister’s secret, not even when his wife Chen Mengzhi asked.
With cheerful chatter, they quickly arrived at their destination.
It was still the small river at the village entrance. Due to two recent heavy rains, the water level had risen significantly, and the river had widened.
Beside the bank was a sloping area. Everyone put down their things and began to prepare for fishing.
As the host, Su Chen naturally took on the task of digging for earthworms.
Translated on ho lo lo novels dot com.
He swung the hoe skillfully, and the soil near the riverbank was always moist, making it relatively easy to dig for earthworms.
He cut the wriggling invertebrates into small pieces and collected them in a plastic cup for later use.
The three men, who had grown up in the city, had never seen such a ‘grand’ scene. They found a spot a bit further away, disgustedly.
Wei Liu, laughing and yelling, said, “This is so disgusting! Using these to fish? Can you even eat the fish afterward?”
He Fu rubbed the goosebumps on his arm, disgusted, and said, “Really? Are we actually going to use this stuff to fish?”
It’s important to note that for fishing, they usually used special bait made from ingredients like flour or bean cake. Using earthworms was a very old-fashioned bait.
Just then, Su Mu returned with some leaves. Hearing the discussion, she explained, “This is the only bait we have in the village. And besides, don’t let the appearance fool you – even though earthworms might not look great, they are valuable medicinal ingredients and can improve soil quality and protect the ecological environment.”
“So, you guys should embrace it.”
She divided the leaves she had collected into equal parts and arranged them on the bank. This would serve as everyone’s simple seating.
Even if they were reluctant, the village conditions were what they were, so Wei Liu reluctantly accepted everything.
Of course, they weren’t asked to handle the bait themselves. Su Chen diligently put the earthworms onto the hooks one by one. As someone who had grown up in the countryside, he wasn’t afraid of earthworms.
This stretch of the river was located at a bend, where the water was deeper and the current was gentler, making it conducive to the accumulation of natural food. As a result, fish were more abundant here, making it an ideal fishing spot.
Several big men held homemade fishing rods made by Father Su, quietly fishing after casting their bait.
Su Mu and Chen Mengzhi went to a shallow area of the riverbank, planning to see if there were any snails and river clams. Su Mu’s photos on social media had made Chen Mengzhi quite envious.
“Sister-in-law, you can look for snails, and I’ll use the bamboo basket to try to catch some river shrimp.”
Chen Mengzhi nodded, “Okay, just be careful and don’t go to the deeper parts.”
River shrimps like to hide under rocks and dense plant roots. Coincidentally, the wild grass on this riverbank was thick. Su Mu carefully placed the bamboo basket into the water and quickly moved it along the bottom.
After about ten minutes, she lifted the bamboo basket. Inside, there were mostly small shrimps, occasionally interspersed with larger river shrimps. What surprised her even more was that there were quite a few small crayfish with their pincers waving about.
Now, Su Mu carefully examined the wild grass. Sure enough, when she flipped it open, there were several crayfish hiding underneath. Perhaps startled by her presence, they extended their claws and waved them in the water.
She shouted to Chen Mengzhi, “Sister-in-law, be careful! There are crayfish in the water, don’t get caught by them!”