Sichuan Water Boiled Fish

水煮鱼

I did a lot of research on this dish because it is my *FAVORITE* from Sichuan. The ending photo results from the online recipes that I could find… were… well… really shitty. They basically sucked… and they didn’t look right at all.

In the restaurant, this dish is served in a type of basin and there are piles and piles of red chillies in them and a thick layer of oil. I was having a dilemma with this; should I make this as authentic as I can by using a thick layer of oil or should I adapt to how I like it? I chose the latter. It’s less wasteful on the ingredients.

I asked around my Chinese/Sichuanese friends and former colleagues, and the Sichuan restaurants in Shenzhen, and I finally think I’ve got a pretty good recipe. The fish used is typically a river fish but I think you can use any white-flesh fish. At Whole Foods yesterday, there was a sale on hake fillets so I used that. Hake is similar to cod and haddock. Flounder works great too.

*I used potato starch because it’s my new favorite ingredient but corn starch will suffice.

[100% organic, wild fish]

For the Marinade

  • 1 TBS ground ginger
  • 2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 TBS potato starch/corn starch
  • 2 egg whites

Whisk together the marinading ingredients and then marinate fish slices for 15 minutes.

For the Fish

  • 1 lb flounder fillets, sliced thinly and roughly to 2-inch x 2-inch squares
  • ½ cup Sichuan whole peppercorns
  • 2 TBS ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • ½ cup Sichuan whole dried chili peppers, halved
  • 2 TBS dried chili flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 stalks of celery, julienned
  • 1 bundle fensi (glass/cellophane/Chinese vermicelli/bean thread noodles)
  • 2 TBS Sichuan garlic bean sauce
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 2 TBS chili oil
  • Salt
  • Cilantro leaves, garnish

Boil fensi noodles in salted water and strain then place in cold water, to stop from expanding.

In a wok or pan, roast (without oil) the whole dried chilies and whole Sichuan peppercorns over high heat for 30 seconds and set aside in a bowl. Smash some of the peppercorns to release flavor for later.

Back in the wok/pan, on medium-low heat, add the 2 TBS of chili and canola oil. Sauté the garlic until aromatic and then add in the roasted chilies and peppercorns, along with the ground peppercorns and chili flakes. Turn heat to medium-high and add the garlic bean sauce. Pour in enough cold water to the wok/pan in order to poach the fish. Season generously with salt. When mixture comes up to a boil, bring it down to a simmer and carefully place marinated fish into poaching liquid. Keeping the simmers at a low steady pace, cook fish for 6-8 minutes.

In a large serving bowl, arrange the fensi noodles at the bottom, then place celery on top. Pour the fish and mixture over everything, garnish it with cilantro leaves and serve with rice!

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