Fish Fillets in Spicy Vinegar Sauce, Beijing Style 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Jun 25, 2014

If Chinese takeout were always delicious, this is what it would taste like. Better, the strong flavors of ginger and vinegar are ideal for a fish fillet that has already been in the refrigerator for a few days or has been stored for a long time in the freezer.

This recipe also works well with freshwater fish that can have a muddy flavor, such as catfish.

Make Ahead: The mushroom caps need to soak in hot water for 30 minutes, until they are spongy.

Where to Buy: Black or dark soy sauce is thicker and more assertively flavored than regular soy sauce; find it at Asian markets.


Servings:
4

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

Ingredients
  • For the fish and marinade
  • 3 dried Chinese mushroom caps, stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinned white-fleshed fish fillets, such as red snapper or striped bass, cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
  • Peanut oil or canola oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 4 small dried chili peppers
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths, including some of the dark-green part
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • Lettuce leaves, for garnish (optional)
  • For the sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons black soy sauce (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

For the fish and marinade: Soak the mushroom caps in hot water for 30 minutes, until spongy. Drain and cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Whisk together the ginger root, salt, white pepper, sugar, dry sherry and egg in a medium bowl. Add the fish and toss to coat. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels, then seat an oven-safe wire rack on top; place on the middle oven rack and and preheat to 200 degrees.

Heat a few inches of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat until it is quite hot but not smoking. The oil is ready when lively bubbles form around a standing chopstick.

Coat each piece of fish in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Fry in batches until golden brown; use a slotted spatula to transfer to the wire rack in the oven.

Turn off the stove-top heat. Carefully remove all but 3 tablespoons of oil from the wok.

Reheat the remaining oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Once it shimmers, add the dried chili peppers, ginger, garlic and scallions; stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the mushroom strips and the pork; stir-fry until the meat loses its pink color, about 4 minutes.

For the sauce: Whisk together the sugar, vinegar, black soy sauce, rice wine or dry sherry and broth in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a separate cup until the cornstarch is completely dissolved, to form a slurry.

Pour the sauce mixture into the work; cook, stirring, until it almost comes to a boil, then stir in the cornstarch slurry; cook until the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.

Place the fried fish in the wok and toss gently to coat. Swirl in the toasted sesame oil.

Transfer to a serving platter lined with lettuce leaves, if desired; serve hot.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "The New Classic Chinese Cookbook," by Mai Leung Thayer (Council Oak Books, 1998).

Tested by Helen Horton.

E-mail questions to the Food Section.

E-mail questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.