Tuesday, May 27, 2014

White Fish Two Ways... Szechuan Spicy Fish Soup and Pan-Fried

I am an absolute fan of this soup.... my dear friend Eve introduced this Northern Chinese dish to me at a local restaurant Szechuan Legend and I have been hooked on the "ma la" flavour profile since. It wasn't until the second time I went back with her and our other friend, Kaitlyn that I said to myself, I have to, have to replicate this soup at home. This soup served at restaurants is filled to the brim with red chilis in a pool of red oil and looks scorching hot, but in fact it's tamer than appearance. Coupled with the addictive slightly lemony taste and numb tingling sensation left on your tongue from the Szechuan peppercorns, it makes for a bold, rich and complex eating experience. I sweat and my sinuses act up but it's so worth it! The white fish cooked in it, is oh so tender and soft. So many I know who don't like fish, love this soup and actually go and seek it out in restaurants! I thought I'd try my hand on making it, toning down the spiciness quite a bit and the results... I am definitely in love.... here is what I did: 

Szechuan Spicy Fish Soup
Makes 2 to 3 Servings

1 lb. white firm basa fish fillet (tilapia or catfish would work), cut into large bite size pieces

Fish Marinade:
1 egg white, reserve egg yolk for second dish below
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. rice wine
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. Szechuan hot bean sauce or Toban sauce
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 green onion, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 Tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns
10 Szechuan dried red chili peppers
1 Tbsp. rice wine
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 cups chicken stock or 2 cups water with 1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon seasoning
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup napa cabbage, sliced

Remove as much water as possible before marinating.

1) Cut fish into 2″ pieces. Mix Fish Marinade ingredients and toss well with fish fillet. Set aside to marinade for 20 minutes.

Place celery and napa cabbage in a clay casserole with lid. Lay marinated fish on top.

3) Heat oil in a skillet. Add hot bean sauce and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic, half of green onions, Szechuan peppercorns, and dried chili peppers. Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn the peppercorns or chili peppers. Add rice wine and soy sauce and stir another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil.

4) Pour soup on top of fish. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Such extraordinary spicy rich flavours perfectly absorbed in mild tender fish!

This was way too spicy for the kids, so instead I took another pound of basa fish fillets to pan-fry. I cut the fillets into two bite-size pieces and marinated with the reserved egg yolk, 1/8 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. rice wine and 1 Tbsp. cornstarch. Let marinate for 20 minutes.

Marinating fish fillets to pan-fry.

Heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil in flat skillet or fry pan. Pan-fry both sides until golden and slightly crispy. Remove onto serving plate.

Delectably soft and delicious. My kids love this and sometimes opt to dip them in Japanese mayo!

Serve with a topping of sauteed chopped green onions cooked in a little canola oil.

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