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.
Cut the fish into slices about ½ inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Put the fish slices in a bowl.
Clean the scallions, then cut them, both white part and green, into ½-inch lengths. Add the scallions to the fish.
Peel the ginger, then slice it into shreds, about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick. Add them to the fish.
Add the sugar, salt, cornstarch, soy sauce, wine, and sesame oil to the fish and mix well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the fish has cooked for 2 minutes, add the vinegar and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
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.
© 1976 Ellen Schrecker. All rights reserved.