Braised Fish in Hot Bean Sauce

Braised Fish in Hot Bean Sauce

Cook time: 10 minutes  |  Total time: 20 minutes |  Serves: 2

My version of braised fish is like a cross between a hong shao yu (red braised in soy sauce) and a dou ban yu (hot bean sauce fish), which my parents served in our restaurant in North Carolina. Back in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the '80s, the seafood selection was not exactly diverse or plentiful. The most abundant and freshest fish at the supermarket was catfish or trout—fresh water fishes—the former having way less bones. We would cook this dish using catfish, which in some European cultures is considered an end of the rung fish because of its status as a bottom feeder. Honestly, I love catfish, but it's hard to find it at the fishmongers here in London. Sea Bass is easier to find and is actually the ideal fish for this dish, although in China, the most common fish is the muddy (and boney) carp. Any fish with a white fleshy meat can do for this dish.

The recipe calls for frying the fish first in a carmelised oil to brown the fish and get rid of the fishiness. Then you add the seasonings, let it braise and steam while covered, flip it over if you want, and voila. It's a very simple dish in under 10 minutes. I was recently watching the Francis Mallmann episode of the Netflix series "Chef's table" and he says "never over cook a fish, it's better to under cook it slightly." I'm paraphrasing a bit here, however, in this recipe, I'd say braise it till it's just perfect. Don't try to under cook it.

What you'll need and how much:

— 1 Sea Bass
— 3 whole cloves of garlic
— 2 spring onions (cut in 3 inch long pieces)
— 5 thin slices of ginger
— 1 tablespoon of dou ban jiang
— 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
— 2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine
— 1 tablespoon of sugar
— 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
— 3 tablespoons of water
— 3 tablespoons of cooking oil

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Ensure the sea bass is clean and de-scaled. Dry lightly with a paper towel and set aside. Heat the oil in the wok on medium high and fry the sugar in the oil until it becomes brown and caramelised.

Delicately side the fish into the wok and let it fry on both sides for two minutes. Use your hands to manoeuvre the fish in the wok by it's tail. This step browns the fish slightly and removes the fishiness.

Take a tablespoon of the oil out and then add the dou ban jiang, soy sauce, shao xing wine, garlic, ginger and spring onions.

Smear the top of the fish with the dou ban jiang so it covers it nicely. Lower heat to low and cover, allowing it to simmer, for 4 minutes. Add alittle water if it seems too dry.

Uncover and splash the top of the fish with the boiling sauce. No need to flip the fish over, but you can if you are feeling adventurous. Cover again for 3 more minutes.

Remove and douse with spring onions and coriander.

Ingredients

— 1 Sea Bass
— 3 whole cloves of garlic
— 2 spring onions (cut in 3 inch long pieces)
— 5 thin slices of ginger
— 1 tablespoon of dou ban jiang
— 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
— 2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine
— 1 tablespoon of sugar
— 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
— 3 tablespoons of water
— 3 tablespoons of cooking oil

Recipe

  1. Ensure the sea bass is clean and de-scaled. Dry lightly with a paper towel.
  2. Heat the oil in the wok on medium high and fry the sugar in the oil until it becomes brown and caramelised.
  3. Delicately side the fish into the wok and let it fry on both sides for two minutes. Use your hands to manoeuvre the fish in the wok by its tail. This step browns the fish slightly and removes the fishiness.
  4. Take a tablespoon of the oil out and then add the dou ban jiang, soy sauce, shao xing wine, garlic, ginger and spring onions. Smear the top of the fish with the dou ban jiang so it covers it nicely. Lower heat to low and cover, allowing it to simmer, for 4 minutes.
  5. Uncover and splash the top of the fish with the boiling sauce. No need to flip the fish over, but you can if you are feeling adventurous. Cover again for 3 more minutes.
  6. Remove and douse with spring onions and coriander.

Photo Credits: Jenny Smart

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