Fish dishes

Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shuizhuyu, 水煮鱼)

Sichuan Boiled Fish, or shui zhu yu, is a very popular dish throughout China, especially in Sichuan speciality restaurants. It can be quite oily, with lots of Sichuan peppercorns, and dried red chillies, all used to flavour the delicate fresh fish slices.

A faily mild looking Shuizhuyu
Version 1
  • 500g of fish fillets (such as tilapia, catfish, flounder, carp, or snakehead)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (plus more salt to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper(divided)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine(divided)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1½ tablespoons cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus an additional ½ to ¾ cups)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 slices ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 2 spring onions (cut into 2-inch lengths)
  • 3/4 pound soybean sprouts 
  • 15 grams dried red chili peppers (1/2 cup, de-seeded and chopped)
  • 10 grams green Sichuan peppercorns (ma jiao 麻椒, 3 tablespoons)

Cut the fish into ¼-inch thick slices at a 45-degree angle. The aim is to get pieces of fish with a lot of surface area, as they’ll shrink once cooked.

Next, marinate the fish.
Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine. Mix everything well (best done by hand). Then, add the egg white and mix, followed by 1½ tablespoons of cornflour. Mix until the marinade starts to feel a bit slimy. Finally, drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the top – there’s no need to mix it in, just drizzle it over the surface. Put the fish and marinade in the fridge, and leave for about 20 minutes.

The active cooking time takes less than 10 minutes, so make sure the rest of the ingredients are prepared while the fish is marinating, and that you’re ready to eat as soon as the dish is ready, because it really is best served immediately.

In a wok over high heat, add the chicken stock, water, ginger, garlic, spring onions, ¼ teaspoon of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine. Bring to a boil, and add salt to taste. Next, add the bean sprouts, and bring to a boil once more. Cook for one minute, turn down the heat, and using a fine-meshed strainer, or large slotted spoon, scoop all the solids out of the soup and transfer to a heat-proof serving dish. It’s very important that the serving dish is heat-proof, as you’ll be pouring very hot oil into it later.

Now, in a small pot, slowly heat up ½ – ¾ cup oil. It doesn’t have to be exact, but you should use at least ½ cup. To test whether the oil is the correct temperature, dip a wooden/bamboo chopstick into the oil and look for small bubbles forming around it, but no smoke. If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot!

While the oil is heating, bring the soup back to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Place your fish, one piece at a time, into the soup. Once all the fish is in the soup, turn up the heat and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, immediately pour everything (fish and soup) on top of the vegetables in the serving bowl.

Quickly sprinkle the dried chillies and the green Sichuan peppercorns evenly over the fish, and pour the heated oil evenly over everything. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle the chillies and the peppercorns, but not hot enough to burn the spices. Serve immediately!

nother mild one
Version 2

One fresh fish around 1000g to 1500g

1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine

Other ingredients

5 garlic cloves
2 spring onion, separate white and green part
2 cups of Shitake mushrooms , you can choose other vegetables you like for example cucumber or bean sprouts
1 inch root ginger , peeled and sliced
3 star anise
1 large cassia bark , break into small sections
2 tsao-kuo (“false cardamom”, black cardamom), optional
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
10 dried chili red pepper
2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon doubanjiang
2 teaspoons dou-chi (fermented black beans)
pinch of salt if needed
Water as needed
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish


– Cut the fish meat into thin slices and chop the bones into sections.
– Put all the bone section and fish slices in large bowl; add cooking wine, cornflour and salt. Mix thoroughly and set aside to marinade about 15~30 minutes.
– Boil some water in a wok and cook mushrooms or any other vegetables (e.g.cabbage or other leafy vegetable, chopped into bite size pieces). Then lay the vegetables in the bottom of your serving dish
– Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok, add star anise, cassia bark and tsao ko to stir fry for around 2 minutes until you can smell the aroma. Discard the cassia bark.
– Add garlic, ginger and white part of spring onion and stir-fry for about 1 minute, then add half of the Sichuan peppercorns and half the dried chilli peppers and stir-fry until smell fragrant.
– Add doubanjiang and dou-chi and stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant.
– Pour water (around 3 cups) into wok and turn down the heat after the water boils to simmer for 15 minutes and then add 2 teaspoons of salt.
– Pick the bone sections out of the marinade and cook them first for around 1 minute, then add the thin slices of fish to cook until they become white.
– Transfer all the contents to the serving dish. Garnish with some chopped spring onion and sesame seeds.
– Heat about 2 teaspoons cooking oil in a wok and add the remaining Sichuan peppercorns and chillies.
– Pour the hot oil with the Sichuan peppercorns and chillies evenly over the surface of the dish.
– Garnish with another layer of spring onions.

The real thing – hot hot hot

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