Crispy Fish with Pan-fried Bean Curd

This delectable dish is typical of what one would find at my mother’s dinner table. It is a winning combination of firm, crispy fish and silky-soft bean curd: nutritious, delicious and easy to make. For a working mother, such as my own, recipes like this are a godsend.

With the rice already cooking, my mother would quickly chop, dice and slice vegetables; cut up and marinate the fish; combine the essential garlic, ginger and spring onions. Finally, sauces were mixed in bowls. Once these steps were accomplished, the actual cooking took literally ten minutes. I was always amazed how, within half an hour, we sat down to a four-course meal (often reheated dishes she had made the night before or leftovers) almost every night.

When I recall her kitchen style, I remember my mother’s quiet efficiency, the flowing smoothness of her techniques and the economy of effort. She rarely showed anything but composure as she worked her magic.

Serve this with a vegetable dish and soup for a complete meal; for a true feast, add a meat dish to the menu.

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  • 450 g (1 lb) fillets of red snapper, sea bass or any firm white-fleshed fish
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Cornflour, for dusting
  • 450 g (1 lb) soft bean curd
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) groundnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh red chilli
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions, to garnish

For the Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons yellow bean sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry


Cut the fish into bite-size pieces. Blot completely dry with kitchen paper. Evenly sprinkle the salt over all the pieces and dust them with cornflour, shaking off any excess. Gently cut the bean curd into bite-size pieces and set them aside to drain on kitchen paper. Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Pour in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, pan-fry half of the fish pieces for 2 minutes on each side, until they are brown and slightly crispy. Fry the remaining half of the fish. Remove and drain well on kitchen paper. Pour off all but tablespoons of oil from the wok.

Reheat the wok; toss in the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir-fry for 1 minute. Next, gently layer in the bean curd pieces. Pour in the sauce ingredients and bring to the boil. Return the fish to the sauce and continue to cook for 1 minute, or until the fish is cooked through. Garnish with the spring onions and serve at once.