|Fish in Chinese sauce|
An important dish for a nice long holiday weekend, especially if you are having guests over. :)
Cooking fish in China
If you have read my earlier post on ‘Stir-fried fish’, you will understand why I say that cooking fish is very important in Chinese custom.
When fish is served, the head of the fish should always face either the most important guest, or the oldest person at the table — it is a sign of respect and welcome. According to Chinese custom, (at least) one or two meat dishes, a fish plate, and vegetables are all the ‘must-have ones’ for a nice table of food.
I learnt this particular recipe when we were invited for dinner by a lovely Chinese friend. She told me that she had learnt it from a chef in a Chinese restaurant in Spain. I cannot remember all the details, so for the second part of the cooking– to make the sauce , I just prepared in the normal way.
The recipe: Chinese oven cooked fish
Anyway, I really want to say is that I cannot take much credit for this recipe. It is really easy to cook and super tasty. If you have a lazy day, or if you have guests coming, and you are too busy with other things, this dish is a really good option (both for the eyes and for the stomach. :)))
What distinguishes the way of cooking this dish from the standard way of cooking fish in the North East of China is that there is no need to fry the fish at all. Normally, in North East Chinese cuisine, fish is always oil fried first, then cooked in a sauce or pour the sauce on the top. ( A popular way of cooking called ‘Jiaozhi’).
The amazing thing about this dish is the combination of Western and Chinese methods. In the traditional Chinese kitchen, there is no built-in oven, so Chinese recipes never involve the use of an oven. This dish is definitely an exception and it is healthier than traditional Chinese recipes in which the fish needs to be fried. However, this dish is not totally Western either, because the final taste of the fish greatly depends on the sauce, and the sauce I will use here is a very typical Northeast Chinese fish sauce with a slight ‘sweet and sour’ taste.
Concerning the kind of the fish, I used sea bass, but any similar fish will do. (Saying this, my knowledge about different types of fish is rather limited; provided they taste good…). In this fish supermarket in Oxford I mentioned before, sometimes, they have very good deals for sea bass, especially if you buy a few. :))
However, the serving could be a bit inconvenient… because of the bones. One day, we had a few close (non-Chinese) friends over. After placing the fish in a way that ‘shows respect’ towards our guests, my lovely French friend helped me get rid of the bones… and the head and the tail.:) Well, if you want to keep everything as it is, probably using chopsticks is the best choice, coz it is not easy to pick up the small bones by using a fork.
The whole cooking time probably 20 -25 minutes, but you only need to work for 5. (See, that is why I like preparing this dish– lazy solution).
Fish: a cleaned whole fish with head and tail
Oil, salt, anise stars, sichuan peppercorn, ginger, spring onion, light soy sauce, rice vinegar, white sugar, coriander
1)Slice the fish: evenly slice the fish on the surfaces of two sides (diagonally )
2) Chop a few pieces of ginger, spring onion, and coriander.
Cooking the fish
1) Place the fish in an oven tray, spray some oil and salt on the body of the fish, use hand to let it evenly cover the fish.
2) Put the fish in pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes, or when the skin of the fish is getting a bit ‘crispy’. (Oven is set at 200°c.)
3) When the fish is almost done, in a heated wok, pour in 5-6 table spoons of oil, when the oil is heated, put a few anise stars, a small spoon of sichuan peppercorn, ginger and spring onion.
4) When the nice smell rises up from the wok, put half teaspoon of salt, a few drops of light soy sauce, 1 table spoon of rice vinegar, a tea spoon of sugar, and coriander.
5) Mix everything in wok well, then turn off the fire, pour the sauce on the fish. Close the oven door, turn off the oven.
|Oven baked fish in Chinese sauce|
6) Leave the fish in the oven for further 5-8 minutes.
— Then, ready to serve!
Depends on how much you like vinegar and sugar, you can alter the amount. In Northeast cooking, we say that sichuan peppercorn powder and a few drops of rice vinegar is the best for getting rid of the ‘fishy’ smell. I like to serve this dish by keeping the fish in the oven tray, so people can dip in the sauce. This dish goes well with white wine or rice.
Oh, at last, don’t forget to place the head in the direction of the respectful guest on the table — only if they don’t mind. :)))