Braised Whole Fish in Chili and Garlic Sauce

This is a classic Szechuan recipe. When it is served in a restaurant, The fish's head and tail are usually discarded before cooking, and used in other dishes. A whole fish may be used, however, and always looks impressive, especially for special occasions and formal dinner parties.


serves 4 - 6
1 carp, bream, sea bass, trout, grouper or grey mullet, weighing about 675 g (1 1/2 lb), gutted
15 ml (1 tbsp) light soy sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
vegetable oil, for deep frying

For the sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 - 3 spring onions, finely chopped with the white and green parts separated
5 ml (1 tsp) finely chopped fresh root ginger
30 ml (2 tbsp) chilli bean sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) tomato puree
10 ml (2 tsp) light brown sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) rice vinegar
120 ml (4 fl oz) 1/2 cup chicken stock
15 ml (1 tbsp) cornflour paste
few drops of sesame oil


1. Rinse and dry the fish well. Using a sharp knife, score both sides of the fish down to the bone with diagonal cuts about 2.5 cm (1 in) apart. Rub both sides of the fish with the soy sauce and rice wine or sherry. Set aside for 10 - 15 minutes to marinate.

2. Heat sufficient oil for deep frying in a wok. When it is hot, add the fish and fry for 3 - 4 minutes on both sides, until golden brown.

3. To make the sauce pour away all but about 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the oil. Push the fish to one side of the wok and add the garlic, the white part of the spring onions, the ginger, chilli bean sauce, tomato puree, sugar, vinegar and stock. Bring to the boil and braise the fish in the sauce for 4 - 5 minutes, turning it over once.

4. Add the green of the spring onions. Stir in the cornflour paste to thicken the sauce.

5. Sprinkle over a little sesame oil and serve

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