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Sichuan Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish

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Szechuan Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish

Szechuan Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish

Hank Shaw
One of the great Chinese restaurant dishes is a whole fish crispy-fried and then served with sweet-and-sour sauce. It is a dramatic presentation and the combination of sweet-sour-hot-savory can't be beat. I developed this easy-to-make home recipe and it is as good as any restaurant version. Use small whole fish that have been scaled and gutted. It is traditional to leave the head on, but you can remove it if you'd like. I like to use Pacific rockfish, black seabass, perch, porgies, or any type of bass -- largemouth, white, smallmouth, spotted -- for this recipe, which serves 2-4, depending on the size of the fish.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole (but scaled and gutted) rockfish or other pan-sized fish
  • 3 chopped green onions
  • A 1-inch piece of finely chopped, peeled ginger
  • 1 T. Chinese cooking wine (or Japanese Mirin)
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • A 3-inch piece of peeled ginger
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 finely chopped habanero chile, or 1-2 Thai chiles or 1 serrano
  • 5 T. water
  • 5 T. tomato sauce or catsup
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 T. Chinese cooking wine (or Japanese Mirin)
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t. corn starch
  • 1 T finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 T. finely chopped green onions or chives
  • 4 cups peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour for dredging

Preparation:

Prepare the fish. Cut off the fins of each fish with kitchen shears or scissors. Remove the gills of the fish if they are still attached by cutting them out with the kitchen shears. Make three vertical slices along each side of the fish evenly spaced along its length. If you have a long fish, make four slices. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry.

Marinate the fish. Mix the 3 chopped green onions, the 1-inch piece of finely chopped ginger, the tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, the tablespoon of soy sauce and the black pepper together, then pour the mixture into a glass or plastic container, or a Ziploc bag. Place the fish in the container and make sure the marinade surrounds the fish.

Let this sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Prepare the vegetables. Julienne the 3-inch piece of ginger. Keep in mind 3 inches is a guideline, so the ginger can be a bit larger or smaller. Cut the ginger into a rectangle, then slice it into thin rectangles about 1/8 inch thick. Then slice these thin rectangles into very thin strips -- as thin as you can make them.

Slice the 1/2 onion into very thin half-moons.

Slice the garlic cloves as thinly as you can along the long side of the clove to make long pieces.

Pour the oil into a wok and turn the heat on to medium. If you do not have a wok, use the largest, deepest skillet you have. A wok really matters here, though, as its shape prevents the tail fin from burning to charcoal.

Make the sauce. Mix the tomato sauce -- I use pureed tomatoes -- sugar, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, water and corn starch and stir vigorously to combine. Set it aside.

Take the fish out of the fridge.

Check the oil temperature. You want it to be about 300-325 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer (you should buy one!) the oil is ready when a drop of water tossed into the oil boils away immediately.

Fry the fish. Remove the fish from the marinade and dredge in flour. Shake off excess, and when the oil is at hot, slip the fish one at a time into the oil. You are probably going to have to cook one fish at time. If so, turn the oven on to "warm."

Fry the fish for at least 5 minutes per side. You want it to be golden brown. With 300-degree oil, I will fry a 1-pound fish for 8 minutes on the first side, 5 minutes on the other side. Larger fish will need more time.

When the first fish is done, remove it to a plate and put the plate in the warm oven. Fry the second fish the same way as the first.

Finish the dish. When the fish are done, ladle out all but about 1/4 cup of oil. Toss in the slivered ginger, the onion, the chiles and the slivered garlic and stir-fry over high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add the sweet-and-sour sauce and stir well to combine. Bring this to a rapid boil and stir well. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

To serve, pour some sauce on a plate, place the fish on top of it and garnish with the finely chopped chives and cilantro. This dish goes best with simple steamed white rice.

User Reviews

 5 out of 5
Delicious!, Member ram9270

I made this recipe because I had a whole fish and no oven. It turned out better than I expected and was delicious. The prep time is probably longer than an half an hour for a first timer, but the result was worth it. I made this with white Basmati rice and used a European sea bass large enough for two people. I used a plastic bag to marinate the fish because there isn't a lot of liquid. I used three heaping tablespoons of canned tomatoes for the sweet and sour sauce and blended them with the other ingredients to liquify them. The sauce turned out really well and not slimy. I'll make this again soon.

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