By Sean Zucker –
Strange food trends are nothing new, especially for Americans. This country, after all, created fried Oreos, rainbow bagels and bacon-flavored everything. But one new craze is proving the most absurd options may be yet to come. This outmoded Chinese dish featuring stir-fried stones raised some intrigue and a few eyebrows in the U.S. after its apparent resurgence as street food in its country of origin.
Commonly known as suodiu, the dish began gaining attention after a video depicting a chef was posted to Xiaohongshu, China’s alternative to Instagram. Specifically, the video showed a man behind his street cart sautéing a plate of round pebbles across a hibachi-type grill. He mixed spices and a few vegetables before serving the stones in a small white tray. The Guardian reports that the standard price of suodiu in China is around 16 yuan or roughly two dollars. The outlet adds that the video has amassed close to one million views on Xiaohongshu.
“A portion of spice brings the passion alive,” the chef said in the video. He then noted that the dish is as popular as alcohol in China.
Despite his enthusiasm, this item is not meant to be eaten—at least not in the traditional sense. CNN reports that a suodiu meal involves simply sucking the flavor off the stones before discarding them. It is thankfully opposed to chewing and shallowing. Fittingly, suodiu translates to “suck and dispose” in Mandarin. The vendor recipe of choice involves pouring chili oil onto the sizzling stones in addition to a healthy dollop of garlic sauce. The stir-fry can also include a mix of garlic cloves and diced peppers in its recipe.
While the dish may appear more absurd than appetizing, The Guardian suggests it has a storied history in Chinese culture. The site explains that suodiu first surfaced hundreds of years ago as a response to boatmen in the province of Hubei dealing with a food shortage. Hubei is landlocked in Central China, so while these boatmen would travel along the Yangtze River, they’d often get stuck and run low on animals and vegetables to eat.
Eventually, these men began utilizing minerals, like stones, to temper their appetites. However, suodiu’s popularity quickly faded following the country’s economic development, which saw the increased availability of automobiles and reduced the likelihood of boatmen being stranded without food.
One obvious benefit of a suodiu dish is that it is way low in calories. They might even be tasty to some. It, however, is where the good news stops. The Economic Times, not surprisingly, warns that the dish, which is full of stones, can present a choking hazard. Beyond this, it has no real nutritional value.
The outlet also reports that some bystanders were so taken aback by the sight of rock-centric meals that they suggested the next food trend out of China might be mud. Of course, these drawbacks might not discourage adventurous foodies from literally digging into the novelty of suodiu for its unique dining eating experience as long as they realize they’ll probably leave the table feeling empty if not hungry.
Okay, chances are suodiu isn’t likely to be a raging food sensation in the U.S. Bottomline: if someone is looking for genuine food or even a small snack, suodiu might be one stone best left unturned.