Red-Cooked Fish Slices

Cheeks and Tongues

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Reddish-Brown: Red-cooked

    The Chinese prize the cheeks and tongues of fish. The cheeks are firm and fleshy and the tongue has an unusual texture, both crunchy and gelatinous. They are difficult to obtain separately in America except in Boston, where codfish cheeks and tongues are an inexpensive regional specialty. In the hands of a talented cook like Mrs. Chiang, these unusual pieces of fish turn into a genuine delicacy. She cooks them in a rich and spicy sauce, Szechwanese in the complexity of its flavors and fragrant with a profusion of chopped garlic. Since fish cheeks and tongues are not always available, even in Boston, Mrs. Chiang has discovered that she can use the same recipe for plain fillets of fish. It is particularly good with coarser, white-fleshed varieties like cod, whose resilient flesh is similar to that of a cheek or a tongue. Fillets of more finely textured fishes tend to disintegrate during stir-frying.



    1 pound fish fillets, such as cod or sea bass, or cod cheeks and tongues Cut the fish into slices about ½ inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Put the fish slices in a bowl.
    4 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both white part and green, into ½-inch lengths. Add the scallions to the fish.
    ½ inch piece of fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then slice it into shreds, about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick. Add them to the fish.

    1 teaspoon granulated sugar

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1-½ tablespoons cornstarch

    3 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    Add the sugar, salt, cornstarch, soy sauce, wine, and sesame oil to the fish and mix well.
    6 to 8 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your cleaver, then peel. Chop the garlic into small pieces, the size of a match head.


    6 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. The oil will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
    (garlic) When the oil is ready, toss in the chopped garlic and stir it around in the hot oil with your cooking shovel or spoon for about 30 seconds. Don’t worry if the garlic turns brown right away; just make sure it doesn’t turn black.
    1 tablespoon hot pepper paste Quickly add the hot pepper paste and stir-fry it, together with the garlic, for another 30 seconds.
    (fish slices and their marinade) Add the fish slices and their marinade and cook for 2 minutes, stirring the fish slices occasionally to make sure that all are exposed to the hot oil.
    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar After the fish has cooked for 2 minutes, add the vinegar and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
    3 tablespoons water Add the water, stir-fry everything for 30 more seconds, then cover the pan and let the fish cook, covered, over the same high flame for a final 2 minutes; serve immediately.