Shallow Fried Fish

The Chinese Lunar New Year is upon us. The year of the Golden Rabbit. Chinese New Year has always featured traditional foods which are served to commemorate the event. In the south of China it's stir-fried lettuce and Cantonese shrimp; in southern Taiwan it's crab rolls; in northern China it's fried dumplings. Always every meal includes a fish dish. One of my favorite fish meals for this time of year, or any time for that matter, is shallow fried fish. It's very easy to make and includes a technique called "shallow frying." This type of cooking has been popular in China, I'm told,  for many years. So, tonight, give tradition its due, and pay homage to friends and ancestors, with an entree that's bound to please everyone.

Be aware that this recipe calls for a whole fish. That's right: whole---with head intact. Almost any variety of fish can used: blue fish, tilapia, mackerel, flounder, mullet, tilefish, red snapper, stripe bass, etc. Just make sure the fish is scaled, gutted and clean (but with  head kept on). For this kind of cooking, a wok is perfect; but any large skillet or pan can also be used. Note that this fish goes well with steamed rice or noodles.


1 whole fish, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
1 teaspoon salt per pound of fish

2 tablespoon peanut oil (or olive oil)
1 teaspoon sugar

1 piece of ginger, approximately about an inch, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably light soy sauce)
2 tablespoons dry white wine, or dry sherry
2 tablespoons water
2 stalks scallions, finely chopped

1. Rinse the fish under cold running water and dry with paper towels. Rub it well inside and out with salt.
2. Heat the wok at a high temperature. Add the oil and tilt the wok until all the bottom is covered with oil. Lower heat to medium-low.
3. Add the fish, and tilt the wok at different angles to let the fish catch the heat evenly. BE PATIENT and cook for about 10 minutes. Additional drops of oil may be added, if needed, to prevent the fish from burning and sticking to the bottom of the wok. Turn the fish and cook the other side for about 10 minutes. When the fish is well browned (that means its done), carefully take out the fish, and clean the wok with paper towels.
4. Heat wok again, add sugar, ginger, soy sauce, wine, water, and scallions. Add fish and tilt the wok to let this mixture surround the fish. Cook on medium heat for 1 minute. Turn the fish and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove from wok and serve, spooning the sauce over the fish.
    Yield: 4 servings. 
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