This Sichuan fish dish is a second favourite of mine, right after the Shuizhuyü 水煮鱼 (fish in chili oil). This dish packs such a punch and it is so appetizing, that I guarantee that your guests will come back asking for more.

First of all, I’d like to say this is a compact version. I will state the original recipe, which requires a whole freshwater fish. So if you cannot get a whole fresh water fish, get a medium sized sea fish, like seabass. Otherwise, use either cod or pangasius fish fillet, which is what I have done here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium seabass or 2 large cod/pangasius fillets
  • 1 pack of Chinese pickled mustard leaves called ’suancai’ 酸菜 (about a handful), cut into strips [see photo]
  • 2 tsp Sichuan pepper  花椒[click to know more]
  • 2 tsp Majiao 麻椒(if not available, use 4 tsp of Sichuan pepper in total) [click to know more]
  • 5cm fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5-7 Thai red bird’s eye chillies (optional)
  • 5-7 dried red chillies
  • 2 stalks of thick spring onions
  • 1 eggwhite
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 0.5 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 10 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 litre water

Serving: 2 persons

Instructions:

  1. IF USING WHOLE FISH: Use a sharp knife to cut the fish close to the bone on both sides, so that you have 2 fillets. Pick out the bones in the fillet. Cut close to the skin so you have 2 skin, 2 fillets and a central skeleton with head. Cut the fillets into thin slices. Marinate with 1 tbs salt, ample black pepper. Set aside.
  2. IF USING FILLETS: Cut the fillets into thin slices, but leave a section of 10cm long fillet intact. Marinate with 1 tbs salt, ample black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Cut the bottom white half of your spring onions into strips and set the green top aside for garnishing later on.
  4. Heat up a medium sized pot with 5 tbs oil. Sautee your ginger, spring onions, garlic and Thai chilies. Then add in the mustard leaves.
  5. IF USING WHOLE FISH: Lay the skin and the skeleton in the oil and let it brown. Add 1l water, cover and bring to boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes. The idea is to have a milky broth.
  6. IF USING FILLETS: Add in that uncut 10 cm of fillet and let it brown. Add 1l water, cover and bring to boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes. You will not get the milky broth but at least the taste of the fish is in the broth.
  7. While the broth is simmering, add an egg’s white to your fish slices, then sprinkle corn starch all over. Coat well, taking care not to break them.
  8. Uncover your broth, add 3 tbs Shaoxing wine and half a tsp of sugar. Stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Slowly add in your fish slices one by one with chopsticks so you won’t break them. Cover and let it simmer.
  10. Heat up the rest of your oil in a small pot. Lightly crush your Sichuan pepper and Majiao pepper in a mortar then add to the oil. Once the aroma is released, take the pot off the fire otheriwse they would char. Add your dried chilies to the oil.
  11. Now carefully pour your fish broth in a serving bowl (just the slices, without the skin and skeleton if you prefer), and pour the sizzling pepper and chili oil on top. Garnish with green spring onions and serve immediately.
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