Last Updated September 22, 2021
A simple whole fish recipe using one of the signature Chinese ingredients, the Szechuan broad bean paste. Enjoy the rich and varied flavors and textures that only a whole fish could offer.
This recipe works well with medium sized whole fish, especially those under half kilo or 1 pound. Here I used sea bream, a lovely fish with a fine texture and not too many small bones; great for those who aren’t experienced with eating whole fish yet!
Szechuan style broad bean paste is the base of the sauce for this recipes. It is widely available in Asian supermarkets. The best known ones are Pi-xian County Broad bean pastes (Pi-xian country, located in Szechuan province, is famous for fermented bean paste due to its unique climate). Look for a brand that uses traditional methods and has gone through a longer period of fermentation. When it comes to fermentation, good things take time, and broad bean paste is no exception.
If you have to further scale the fish ( although the fish are gutted and scaled when I buy them, I always find myself still having to scale around the belly and the tail), put the fish in a plastic bag, and use the back of a teaspoon, instead of a knife, to scale it. This way, you won’t risk cutting yourself, or the fish, and all the scales will end up in the bag, instead of everywhere in and around the sink!
As for the spirit or wine used for this recipe, in my opinion, what kind of spirits or wine to use isn’t nearly as important as what quality they are. So ditch the cooking wine from your local Asian store that no one is willing to drink. Instead, use a good quality spirit, be it a Chinese liquor, whisky, vodka or rum. Good grape wine, both red or white, or rice wine are fine too, simply adjust the amount based on their alcohol content.
BOILED WHOLE FISH IN SZECHUAN BEAN SAUCE
MAKE 2 servings PREP: 2 min COOKING: 8 min
- 2 gutted and scaled whole sea bream, cleaned and pat dry
- 2 tbsp. of cooking oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon of Szechuan Broadbean paste, mixed with 1 cup of hot water
- 1 thumb sized fresh ginger, cut into thin slices
- 1 to 2 tbsp. of good quality spirit (please see note above)
- Boil a kettle of water, set aside. Heat a wok, add oil and sautéed the ginger for a few seconds. Spread the ginger pieces around to cover the bottom of the wok or skillet (to prevent the fish sticking to the wok).Turn the heat to medium.
- Add the fish, pour the bean paste and water mix over the fish, let it cook for about one minute. Add the boiled water until the fish is covered (see Recipe notes below). Bring the liquid back to a boil, then let it boil gently for 6 to 8 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
- If you are using a plat-bottom pan or a skillet, you will need a lot more water than with a wok to completely cover the fish. To avoid the flavor of the sauce being diluted too much, cover the fish halfway with water, and turn the fish once during cooking to ensure both sides are cooked through.