Stir-Fried River Rocks – Chinese Street Food That’s Literally Hard to Stomach

Suodiu is a bizarre type of Chinese street food that consists of small river rocks stir-fried with a mixture of spices and herbs. You are supposed to suck on the stones and then spit them out.

Roughly translated as ‘suck and throw away’, suodiu is believed to have been invented hundreds of years ago by boatmen who would prepare the dish when they became stranded in the middle of the river with no real food while delivering goods. To trick their stomachs, they would stir-fry some river pebbles with various condiments and then suck the stones dry. The traditional dish was passed down through several generations, and today roadside vendors in China can sometimes be seen stir-frying bunches of river rocks with cilli oil, garlic sauce, garlic cloves and a mixture of spices.

A series of videos showing the preparation of suodiu at roadside stalls have recently gone viral on Xiaohongshu, China’s version of Instagram, sparking the curiosity of millions. It wasn’t only the peculiarity of the dish that intrigued viewers, but also the steep price of 16 yuan ($2.30) per serving, considering that there is hardly any edible stuff in it.

Suodiu consists of river rocks coated in this spicy dressing that you’re supposed to suck off of the rocks before spitting the hard pebbles out. Some wouldn’t even call that a meal, let alone pay money for it. However, it’s important to note that river rocks are used because they apparently acquire the taste of marine life with time, so sucking on them while eating suodiu, you get the taste of fish combined with the spices.

Once you suck on all the rocks, you are left with the sauce, which, some say has a distinct fishy taste from the river pebbles. Just don’t get carried away and chew on the rocks unless you miss your dentist.

“Do I have to return the pebbles to you after I finish?” one patron can be heard asking in one of the viral videos doing the rounds on Chinese social media, to which the vendor replies “Bring them home as a souvenir”.


For more unusual street foods, check out fire paan, the hottest snack you’ll ever eat.

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