Smoked Halibut or Turbot

Rate this recipe

Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Homestyle Chinese Cooking

Homestyle Chinese Cooking

By Yan-Kit So

Published 1997

  • About

The technique of preparing this dish is adapted from the well-known Cantonese dish called Smoked Pomfret. While pomfret, a fish of subtle taste and texture, is easily available in South China, Southeast Asia, and India, it is never seen fresh in Europe and North America. But cod, halibut, and turbot, all available on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, can be used successfully as substitutes. Compared to halibut and turbot, cod steaks are much more economical, while their taste and texture, unfortunately, are just as much less interesting.


  • 2-3 halibut or turbot steaks, about 1ΒΌ pounds, each Β½ inch thick
  • 4-5 large leaves iceberg lettuce, cut into very thin strips
  • 3 red tomatoes, cut into thin slices
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black tea leaves (Chinese or Indian)
  • Mayonnaise

Spiced Liquid

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1Β½ inches fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 2 scallions, halved crossways
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon thin soy sauce
  • Β½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry


  • Prepare the spiced liquid. Heat the wok over high heat until smoke rises. Add the oil and swirl it around. Add the ginger and scallions and stir to release their aroma. Add the water and season with the salt, soy sauce, and cinnamon or five-spice powder. Bring to a boil, then continue to boil for 10-15 minutes, reducing the water to about 1 cup. Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the wine or sherry.
  • Pat dry the fish. Add to the spiced liquid, which should almost or just cover the fish. Leave to stand for 3 hours, turning over from time to time and piercing the flesh with a sharp knife for better absorption of the soaking liquid.
  • About 15-30 minutes before deep-frying them, lift the fish out of the liquid and put onto a wire rack to dry off excess moisture. Discard the spiced liquid.
  • Spread the lettuce in the middle of a serving dish and arrange the tomato slices around it. Put into the refrigerator to chill until the fish is ready to be served.
  • Half-fill the wok with oil and heat to a temperature of 375-400Β° F, or until a cube of stale bread foams fiercely immediately. Carefully lower the fish into the oil and deep-fry for 8-10 minutes, until light brown in color, turning them over once. Remove with a large hand strainer or perforated spoon and put onto paper towels.
  • Empty the oil into a container for another use. Leave the wok oily and unwashed.
  • Sprinkle the sugar into the center of the wok, then sprinkle the tea leaves on top. Transfer the fish to a latticed rack (wire or bamboo) that is fitted into the wok above the sugar and tea, leaving a gap of Β½-1 inch. Put on the wok lid. Turn on a high heat to produce smoke by melting the sugar and burning the tea leaves. Smoke the fish for 3-5 minutes from the time you see smoke escaping from the wok lid. Remove from the heat. (The layer of burned sugar and tea can be easily removed from the oiled wok.)
  • Place the fish on top of the lettuce in the serving plate. Serve either hot or cold. Use the mayonnaise as a dip.

Part of