Now more than ever, shui zhu yu, or Sichuan Boiled Fish, is a must-try dish. It’s the most well-liked dish in all of China right now. Even though I have mastered many of my go-to dishes unavailable in the US, Shui zhu yu is one of the Chinese specialties I miss the most.
Modifying This Recipe For The Home Cook
Sichuan boiled fish is typically prepared with a whole fish, snakehead, carp, or catfish in restaurants. Catfish is a typical choice for us because it is tender and has few bones. A fleeting thought of using a whole fish for this post was considered, but ultimately I decided against it.
Using fish fillets simplifies preparation without sacrificing the dish’s authenticity. Tilapia fillets were what I used, but flounder or catfish fillets would work just as well. To reiterate, the fish must be extremely fresh, and it is best if it has never been frozen.
To begin with, I assumed it would be prepared in a manner analogous to the classic Sichuan dish, Shui Zhu Niu (Boiled Beef in the Style of Sichuan). However, the reality is much simpler. Everything gets boiled before being transferred to a heat-safe bowl where hot oil is poured on top and allowed to sizzle. There’s a secret sauce or marinade that makes the dish. Once you know how to season the fish, it’s a piece of cake.
Be aware that this boiled fish recipe’s chili and Sichuan peppercorns are quite strong.
Just so there’s no confusion, we’re using green Sichuan peppercorns, which are visually, aromatically, and culinarily distinct from their red counterparts, also known as hua jiao. Compared to their red counterparts, they are much more numbing and have a slightly more floral/herbal flavor.
- 1 lb. of fish fillets(such as tilapia, catfish, flounder, carp, or snakehead)
- 3/4 tsp. of salt (plus more salt to taste)
- ½ tsp. of ground white pepper (divided)
- 2 tbsp. of Shaoxing wine (divided)
- 1 egg white
- 1½ tbsp. of cornstarch
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil (plus an additional ½ to ¾ cups)
- 3 cups of chicken stock
- 2 cups of water
- 5 slices of ginger
- 3 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
- 2 scallions (cut into 2-inch lengths)
- 3/4 lb. of soybean sprouts
- 15g of dried red chili peppers (1/2 cup, de-seeded and chopped)
- 10g of green Sichuan peppercorns (3 tbsp.)
- A 45-degree angle should be used to cut the fish into slices 1/4 inch thick. Fish will shrink significantly when cooked, so it’s best to use large pieces.
- The fish must then be marinated. Combine a 3/4 teaspoon pinch of salt, a 1/4 teaspoon pinch of ground white pepper, and a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine. Make sure everything is thoroughly combined. Then, whisk in the egg white, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Without a better word, stir until the marinade takes on a slimy texture.
- The final step is to add 1 tablespoon of oil on top; there’s no need to incorporate it; drizzle it over the surface. Marinate the fish for about twenty minutes in the fridge.
- Since the time spent in the kitchen is so short (less than 10 minutes), you should get everything else ready while the fish marinates and have dinner ready to go as soon as the fish is cooked.
- Chicken stock, water, ginger, garlic, scallions, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine should be combined in a wok and brought to a boil over high heat. The ingredients need to be heated until they boil. It’s time to season with salt. Now, throw some bean sprouts and bring everything back to a rolling boil. Do not overcook by more than one minute. Quickly turn down the heat. Soup solids should be removed using a fine-mesh strainer, spider, or large slotted spoon before being transferred to a serving bowl. Your serving vessel must withstand the hot oil’s high temperatures that will be added later.
- Next, warm half a cup to three-quarters of a cup of oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Use at least a half cup, but don’t worry if it’s not exact. Dip a wooden or bamboo skewer into the oil to see if small bubbles form around it, but no smoke should be produced. In other words, it’s too hot if you see smoke coming from the oil.
- Once the oil has begun to heat, you can return the soup to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Prepare your soup by adding the fish pieces one at a time. When all of the fish has been added, put the fire to high heat and bring the soup to a boil. Once the fish and soup have come to a boil, pour them over the vegetables in the serving bowl at once.
- Toss the fish with the dried chili peppers and green Sichuan peppercorns, then drizzle the hot oil over the top. The chili and peppercorns will sizzle in the oil, but you don’t want to burn them. And ready to serve!