A China Chain’s Pricey Bowls of Sauerkraut Fish Soup Have Landed in the SGV

Tai 2 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish serves just one entrée—and it’s a good one

The Sichuan cuisine boom in the San Gabriel Valley continues. There’s now a restaurant that serves a single main dish, a Sichuan hot-and-sour fish soup. At Tai 2 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish in City of Industry, the single-pot meal is the only entrée on the menu—small, large, and extra large. That’s it.

Located at the front corner of Four Seasons Plaza, the restaurant is the first U.S. location of a mainland Chinese chain. The restaurant is fairly busy, filled with expats seeking a familiar taste of home. In this case, it’s suan cai yu, a spicy and sour soup of small curls of fish fillet in a broth laden with Sichuan peppercorns, dried chile peppers, and pickled vegetables.

About that: Don’t take the English name literally. While sauerkraut does appear in soups from Northeast China, that isn’t what is used in the suan cai yu. Instead it’s pickled mustard roots and greens.

If you’ve dined at the noted Sichuan places in the SGV, you’re probably familiar with a dish of boiled fish with green (or rattan) pepper. While that dish provides a good touchstone, and shares some ingredients, suan cai yu differs by adding a sour component to the numbing tingle and spiciness, the respective ma and la signature of Sichuan cuisine.

Like most Sichuan cuisine, it’s complex, with a lot more than just heat going on. The fish—filleted tilapia in this case—is prepared in a manner that gives it an almost silky, soft texture. Even though small curls of fish are used, the waitstaff will likely remind you to watch for stray bones.

The strong, zesty note of the Sichuan peppercorns surges through, reminding one that they are from the citrus family. The numbing tingle is more than present, yet plenty of the heat gets past. This is definitely not a dish for those who can’t handle spiciness. The sourness from the pickled mustard also comes through, but doesn’t overwhelm. The dish provides welcome—albeit, temporary—relief from seasonal allergies or a cold. Like at hot pot restaurants, some add-in items are available, but will run you extra.

A little more than a dozen appetizers and cold dishes round out the menu, ranging from Sichuan favorites—bean jelly, couple’s sliced beef—to more unique items like boneless chicken feet in chile sauce; they’re served on skewers a la bobo chicken. A couple of noodle dishes are also available. Beer and wine are served, but options may be severely limited to even a single option.

It’s also quite pricey. This is not cheap fare. Prices are along the lines of some of the higher-end hot pot spots. The small portion will be $50-plus with tax and tip, with the large being $60 and extra large $90. Once drinks, appetizers, rice, and any extra items are added, the tab can quickly escalate. Fortunately, the serving size (even the small), is quite generous, making it a good spot for groups of four or more.

Tai 2 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish, 18518 E. Gale Ave., City of Industry.

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