Tender Home-style Fish Calces with Bean Sprouts

This popular southern Chinese treat demonstrates how Chinese cooks are masters at creating something marvellous out of (apparently) almost nothing. In this case, leftover fish fillets are blended to a soft purée, and seasonings and egg whites are added. The mixture is then quickly fried and sliced, or it is rolled into round cakes and poached. The cake can be made ahead of time and then stir-fried with vegetables, or sliced into pieces and added to soups.

It is not surprising to see that these favourites were common foods in Chinese—American homes. Fish cakes were available in our local Chinese grocers, but my mother always made her own. It was cheaper to do so and avoided the msg that the store-bought versions sometimes contained. She would pan-fry the fish cakes, slice them thinly and then stir-fry them with fresh bean sprouts. It made a light and delicious dish at our dinner table.

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  • 450 g (1 lb) white fish fillets, such as sea bass or cod
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) groundnut oil
  • 1 tablespoons finely sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
  • 150g (5 oz) red onion, thinly sliced
  • 210 g ( oz) bean sprouts, cleaned
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or water

For the Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 teaspoons water


Remove any skin from the fish fillets and cut them into small pieces. Blend with the egg white, cornflour, spring onions, ginger, salt, pepper, rice wine and water in a food processor until you have a fine paste.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is hot and pour in the oil. Form the paste into cakes 12.5 cm (5 in) in diameter and 1 cm (½ in) thick and deep-fry them for 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Pour off most of the oil, leaving 2 tablespoons. When the fish cakes are cool, slice them into bite-size pieces.

Reheat the wok with the oil and, when it is hot, toss in the garlic, ginger and onions. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Then toss in the bean sprouts and 3 tablespoons of chicken stock and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce ingredients and cook for a further minute. Return the fish cake pieces to the sauce, mix gently and heat through. Serve at once.