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Chinese fish and seafood

85. Chinese fish recipe: Sole cooked in soybean paste

How to cook sole fish with Chinese recipe
Chinese fish in soybean paste


Bonfire night!! Sitting in the living room, although we could only over see the quite streets under the peaceful yellowish street light, the noise of fireworks is everywhere. My friend just asked me, ‘in China, you have lots of fireworks, right?’

— Yes, there are lots fireworks, especially during Chinese New Year and wedding celebrations. Normally every household would set off firework at 12am on the Chinese New Year eve, noise, sparkling everywhere. I never really like those very ‘noisy’ ones, so my parents used to get me those ‘sparkling’ ones with lots of colours and ‘images’. The noises and ‘sparkling’ colours symbolize the ‘good’ start of the new year.

I haven’t been at home celebrating Chinese New Years with my parents since I came to England, haven’t really felt that ‘noisy’ atmosphere for so long. About 5 years ago, I went back home just before the new year celebration finally finished, (which is normally on the 15th January in Chinese calendar), I saw a bunch of those ‘sparkling’ fireworks on the table — my mom said, ‘I thought you haven’t played them for all these years, you might want to light them up.’ … … That was the most memorable fireworks I ever played… …

For this recipe, I really hope you can get soy bean paste somewhere near you. :))
Soybean paste has traditionally been used in Chinese cuisine to create a unique “main taste” in a dish. For example, aubergine in soybean paste, beef strips in soybean paste, fish in soybean paste, and many more. It creates a unique taste, which simply using soy sauce cannot achieve.

Cooking fish with soybean paste

There are actually different ways of cooking fish with soybean paste, for example, stir fry fish with soybean paste, ‘Jiao Zhi’ – pour the soybean paste sauce on the fish, or the recipe I put here – cook the fish in soybean paste.

(Image source: http://www.sbar.com.cn/caipu/88467/)

If you have read my first fish recipe, you probably already know that I try to cook boneless fish Chinese way in England, especially when we have guests over; however, the original recipes always involve cooking a whole fish – with bones, tale and head (see the image above).

This time, I used sole fillet, in theory, any kinds of white fish can be used for this recipe, but traditionally it is carp fish, or corvina fish. The disadvantage of sole is that it is so easy to break into pieces, so the advantage of adopting this recipe is the fillet does not need to be ‘turn over’ so much during cooking in sauce.

The cooking process is quite similar to other fish recipes, always fry it first, then (in this recipe) slowly cook it in the soybean paste sauce, until the taste of the sauce completely goes into the fish.

Oh, as for the soybean paste, the original yellow soybean paste is preferred. See post soybean paste. If it is not easy to get, sweet smooth soybean paste can also do, (on some package, it is also called ‘hoisin sauce’, which I guess if you cannot find any other type of soybean paste, it could be an alternative), but, if you use this ‘sweet’ version, do not add any sugar in the sauce then.

The recipe: Sole cooked in soybean paste

Here you go.


Sole (or other white fish), I used two sole fillets

Oil, cooking wine, soy sauce, soybean paste, white sugar, MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional), salt, spring onion, ginger, garlic, sichuan peppercorn, sesame oil.


Chop a good piece of ginger, around 3 gloves garlic, and around 5cm long spring onion.

cooking fish with Chinese recipe
Chopping ginger, spring onion and garlic


1) Lightly fry the fish in the oil first, get it firmer. Normally we say the oil is supposed to be around 80% hot, not extreme hot. Be careful when you put the fish in the oil, it could cause lots of spills, so not get burnt. :)

fry fish fillet first in Chinese fish recipe
Lightly frying the fish

2) Remove the fish from the wok, keep around 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok, remove the excess oil from the wok.

3) When the wok is heat again, add chopped ginger, garlic, spring onion, and a small pinch of sichuan peppercorn in the wok, then add around 2 tablespoons of soybean paste, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 full teaspoon of white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional), and 1/2 cup of water (or fish stock), bring the content to boiling.

how to cook fish with Chinese recipehow to cook fish with soybean paste sauce Chinese recipe
simple Chinese recipe cook fish with soybean paste sauce

4) Then put fried fish back to the wok, turn down the fire to low, keep it cooking for further 10 -15 minutes, and the sauce is supposed to be thickening.

how to cook fish with Chinese recipe in soybean paste
Putting the fish back into the wok

5) Before serving it on a plate, you can pick up the spring onions, garlic, ginger and sichuan peppercorn from the wok. Add a few drops of sesame oil on the fish. –

a simple Chinese fish recipe cook fish with soybean paste
Fish in soybean paste

— Done!

Because of the strong taste of the soybean paste, I like to have it with plain rice, probably a salad (liang cai) dish on the side? :)

Have a good weekend!

Related posts:

9. Chinese stir fried Aubergine and seafood
18. Dumplings with crabmeat filling
122. Simple Chinese fish recipe: jiao zhi fish
128. Chinese tofu cooked with crab meat


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