Whiting with Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

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Homestyle Chinese Cooking

Homestyle Chinese Cooking

By Yan-Kit So

Published 1997

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Whiting, an economical but meaty white fish with only a large bone in the center, is rather bland on its own. This vinegary sweet-and-sour sauce is just the answer, for it gives zest to the overall taste, thus upgrading the fish from a homely dish to one fit for entertaining as well.


  • 1 whiting, about pounds, cleaned with the head left on
  • ¾-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice
  • Several tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-3 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-3 fresh red or green chiles, cut into small rounds (optional)
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated


  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons concentrated tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon thin soy sauce
  • teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • tablespoons Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
  • 6-7 tablespoons water


  • Pat dry the whiting. Make 2 slashes about 1 inch apart across both sides of the thickest part of the fish, but without going all the way to the sides. Rub all over with the salt and ginger juice, including the cavity. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle over both sides of the fish with a thin layer of cornstarch, shaking off any excess. This helps to keep the skin intact when fried.
  • Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • Heat the wok over a high heat until abundant smoke rises. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and swirl it around the sloping edges as high as possible. Add the ginger slices, fry until burned, then discard. Lower the heat to medium and add the fish. Fry for about 8-9 minutes, tilting the wok back and forth so that the whole length of the fish can be browned evenly. Slip the wok scoop or metal spatula underneath the fish to loosen edges, then carefully turn it over and fry the other side for 8-9 minutes, adding another tablespoon oil around the fish. The fish should be cooked by now. Remove to a serving dish. Wash and dry the wok.
  • Reheat over a high heat until smoke rises. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and swirl it around. Add the chopped ginger, chiles (if using), and white scallions, and stir to release their aroma. Remove the wok from the heat for about 10 seconds. Now add the well-mixed sauce, stir continuously over a gentle heat until it thickens, then boil fiercely. Spoon over the fish and serve immediately.

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