Fish with Meat Sauce

Shaoz Yu

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Red-cooked

    This is one of Mrs. Chiang’s most spectacular dishes — a whole fish cooked in a rich and spicy meat sauce. The combination, strange as it sounds, works. It exemplifies the Szechwanese taste for unusual juxtapositions of ingredients. Cooking in meat sauce, shaoz, is a favorite Szechwanese method. Mrs. Chiang makes noodles, bean curd, and eggplant that way. Like the fish, they are all marvelously spicy dishes, redolent with garlic and hot pepper paste, and are absolutely delicious.

    Method

    Preparation

    1 whole fish (1-½ to 2 pounds), preferably sea bass, carp, or 2 small trout Have the fish cleaned and scaled, but leave the head on; make sure that the fish’s insides have been thoroughly gutted. Put the fish on a platter and cut shallow gashes about 1 inch apart on both sides of the fish. (These slashes will permit the flavor of the sauce to penetrate the entire fish.)
    1 teaspoon salt Sprinkle the salt over both the inside and the outside of the fish and rub it in fairly thoroughly. Set the fish aside for 30 minutes.
    7 scallions Clean the scallions, then chop them, both white part and the green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head.

    ½ pound ground pork

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    Add 1 scallion’s worth of the chopped scallions to the pork, along with the soy sauce and the sesame oil; mix it all together thoroughly.
    1-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then slice it into shreds about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a matchstick. Put half of the ginger shreds aside and chop the rest very fine, until they reach the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.
    8 to 10 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your cleaver, then peel. Chop the garlic into tiny pieces, the size of a matchhead.

    1 tablespoon cornstarch

    3 tablespoons water

    Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.

    Cooking

    ½ cup peanut oil Heat your wok or pan (a large one) over a high flame for 15 seconds. (Before you add the oil, you can rub the inside of the heated pan with the cut end of a piece of ginger. Mrs. Chiang says this will help keep the fish from sticking to the pan.) Pour in the peanut oil. It will be ready to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
    (ginger shreds) When the oil is ready, toss in the ginger shreds. Let the ginger cook by itself for 1 or 2 seconds.
    (fish)

    Now add the fish. (A good trick here is to hold the fish by the tail and slide it gently into the oil, head first, all the way up to your fingertips. Then pull it out and slide it into the oil on the other side. This also keeps the fish from sticking to the pan.)

    Fry the fish over a high flame for 4 minutes, tipping the pan occasionally from side to side to make sure the hot oil reaches both ends of the fish. Then turn the fish over gently and let it cook for 4 more minutes on the other side. (It is quite possible that most of the ginger shreds have turned black by now; if so, try to remove them from the pan.) After the fish has cooked on each side, remove it gently from the pan and deposit it on a large serving platter.

    (chopped garlic and ginger)

    Pour out about half the oil in the pan; you should have 4 or 5 tablespoons left. Reheat the oil over the same high flame, and, when it is hot enough for cooking, toss in the chopped garlic and ginger.

    Stir-fry the garlic and ginger over a high flame for 1 minute, using your cooking shovel or spoon to stir the ingredients around in the bottom of the pan and keep them from burning.

    2 tablespoons hot pepper paste Add the hot pepper paste and continue to stir-fry for 15 seconds.

    1-¼ teaspoons granulated sugar

    (meat mixture)

    Add the sugar and the meat mixture and stir-fry fairly vigorously for 45 seconds, taking particular care to break up any large hunks of meat that are sticking together.

    5 tablespoons soy sauce

    ¾ cup water

    Add the soy sauce and the water. Wait until the liquid comes to a boil, then let cook over a high flame for about 1 minute.

    (fish)

    (remaining scallions)

    Now return the fish to the pan, along with the remaining chopped scallions. Let the fish cook in the boiling sauce for 2 minutes.
    2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry (optional) Add the optional wine, then cover the pan, without reducing the heat, and let the fish cook for 5 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook it, covered, for 5 more minutes on the second side. Then remove it gently to the serving dish.
    (cornstarch and water) Stir the cornstarch and water to make sure they are thoroughly combined, then pour the mixture into the boiling sauce. Stir the sauce until it turns clear and becomes slightly thick; this will probably take about 15 seconds. Ladle the sauce over the fish and serve.