Street-food vendors in China are serving the “world's hardest dish”: a stir-fry made of pebbles.
The Chinese dish, called soudui (“suck and throw”), has gained traction on social media for its peculiar take on street food.
The stones are stir-fried with an array of vegetables and spices such as chilli oil, garlic and rosemary, supposedly flavour-coating them. The way it's eaten is simple: suck and throw. One serving costs about $2.
The dish is believed to have originated centuries ago in the central Hubei province. Back then, local media reports, Chinese boatmen who ran out of food turned to pebbles for sustenance.
Some seafarers would even describe the pebbles, usually picked from freshwater rivers, as having “appetising qualities” with a hint of seafood flavour.
A slew of hawkers and chefs have recently revived and recreated the quirky snack to the amusement of mostly confused foodies. Mukbang content creators have also contributed to the dish's social media fame.
Chinese social media platforms Xiaohongshu and Weibo have been inundated with videos of vendors making the dish, as well as of people sampling it.
On Twitter, CNN International posted a video report on the dish. One user replied: “Guys, not every ethnic 'dish' is good and worth making a positive story about.”
Most reactions are a mix of confusion and disgust, but people are also seeing the light side of this quirky snack.
“We've hit the rock bottom,” Twitter user Yuan Gao says. Another user says it could be “all the rage in the fitness community” for having all the flavours in zero calories.
Others are quick to point out how unhygienic the dish could be as the stones, which are thrown out, could be reused.
Asian cuisine is no stranger to gastronomy that ranges from the overly creative to the downright bizarre: think deep-fried insects and steamed duck embryos to baby bee innards and steamed silkworm pupae.