Paojiao Xianyu- Fresh Fish with Pickled Pepper

Originally from Chongqing, this dish is a wonderful use of flavors. As Chef Li was preparing this dish, the room filled with the aroma of pickled peppers and the students began clearing their throats and coughing. As he added scallion, garlic and ginger, the smell became irresistible. As a finished product, the heat and sour pickled flavor combined into a beautiful broth. This was my first experience cooking fish that didn’t come straight out of a plastic tray or frozen bag, and my butchering skills were rough. However, I was proud of my commitment to accurately making the dish by include the head, tail and all bones.

  • Fresh fish (grass carp, trout, grey mullet or cod) (1 kg)
  • Pickled greens (250 g)
  • Pickled small, green peppers, juice reserved (about the size of thai chilies) (50 g)
  • Ginger (10 g)
  • Garlic (30 g)
  • Scallions (30 g)
  • Sichuan peppercorn (2 g)*
  • Cooking wine (20 g)*
  • Salt (4 g)*
  • White pepper, ground (2 g)*
  • Sugar (3 g)*
  • Egg white (30 g, about 2)
  • Gourmet powder (3 g)*
  • Cornstarch (30 g)*
  • Stock/water (1 kg)
  • Oil

Preparation:

  1. Finely mince the pickled green peppers.
  2. Cut ginger into small grains.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Smash scallion, then chop.
  5. Cut leaves of pickled green into 1 in chunks. Thinly slice stalk.
  6. Scale, clean and fillet fish. Chop bones into 3-4 in segments. Slice fillets (with skin) into thin, wide slices.
  7. Marinate sliced fillets in salt, gourmet powder, dry starch, cooking wine and egg white.

Cooking:

  1. Heat oil in wok. (The wok does not need to be seasoned when making a soup.)
  2. Add most of the minced pepper and stir fry. (Remaining will be used at the end of the cooking along with a small amount of garlic, ginger and scallion.)
  3. When peppers are fragrant, add garlic, ginger and scallion. Stir fry.
  4. When water has evaporated and oil is clear, add Sichuan peppercorn.
  5. Add pickled greens and stir fry. Allow all water to evaporate.
  6. Add reserved juice from pickled peppers and stock.
  7. Cook until simmering. Add head, tail and bones.
  8. Once soup is boiling, season with sugar, white pepper and cooking wine.
  9. Taste and season as necessary.
  10. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  11. Add gourmet powder, taste and season as necessary.
  12. Remove vegetables and bones with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
  13. Add a little water to stock and return to a boil.
  14. Gently add fish. Stir carefully so that fish does not break apart.
  15. When all the fish is white and the stock is boiling, remove from heat and pour into serving bowl.
  16. Top soup with reserved peppers, garlic, ginger and scallions.
  17. Heat oil in wok to a high temperature.
  18. Pour hot oil over dish so that toppings sizzle.

Dish checklist:

  • Is the fish tender?
  • Is the flavor hot and peppery?

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