How To Make Sweet And Sour Fish

How To Make Sweet And Sour Fish

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There’s more to sweet and sour Chinese dishes than what you’ll find under the bright fluorescent lights of the mall food court. Under those conditions, it’s easy to write off the ubiquitous steam table combination of sinewy meat, starchy batter and glowing orange sauce as a guilty pleasure that’s nevertheless not “authentically Chinese.”

In fact, the sweet and sour genre here in America is derived from a Cantonese recipe that’s enjoyed throughout China. In its native form, sweet and sour dishes marry a tangy vinegar acidity with a light sweetness that’s irresistible and, fortunately for all of us, easy to make at home.

The keys to a great sweet and sour meal are, first, to make the signature sauce from scratch and, second, to combine the sauce and fried meat you choose just before serving, so that the dish retains its crunch. Alternative approaches call for effectively braising the meat in the sauce, which I think produces something of a soggy mess.

This recipe combines a base of fried white fish fillets with red bell peppers in the sauce to create a complete meal. Once you get the technique down, you can pick from other proteins like chicken, pork and shrimp and other vegetables like onions and squash. Heck, add the pineapple and maraschino cherries from the corner takeout place — your secret is safe with me.

This sweet and sour fish recipe takes 45 minutes to make from start-to-finish. You can leave the fish fillets to marinate in the refrigerator when you leave for work in the morning, then fry up the meat, make the sauce and boil a pot of rice in the evening. Super simple.

Here’s how to make sweet and sour fish, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures and directions is at the bottom of the page.

Your turn! What tips can you share from your family’s recipe? Want to ask a question before you start cooking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!


Sweet and Sour Fish Recipe

Makes: 4 Servings | Prep Time: 20 Minutes | Cook Time: 20 Minutes
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Ingredients

1 pound white fish (cod, tilapia, catfish or other)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
oil for deep frying
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 green onion
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons clear rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce
1 red bell pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions

1. Cut the fish into 1 inch wide strips and marinate with the salt and 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing rice wine. Refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Finely chop the ginger and green onion. Cut the bell pepper into 1 inch squares. Set aside.

3. Blend the egg, flour and a little water to create a batter with the consistency of heavy cream.

4. Drain the fish pieces, then coat with the batter.

5. Fill a wok or small pan with 1 inch of oil, then heat to 350 degrees. Deep fry the fish pieces in batches for 3 minutes until golden brown, flipping halfway through. Remove the fish pieces from the oil and drain on a plate covered with paper towel.

6. Reheat the wok with 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Stir fry the green onion and ginger until fragrant. Add the remaining Shaoxing rice wine, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, chili sauce and bell pepper, then bring to a boil.

7. Combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to form a paste. Add the mixture to the sauce, then return to a boil until thickened.

8. Arrange the fish pieces on a serving plate, ladle the sauce and bell pepper mixture over the top and drizzle with the sesame oil. Serve immediately with white rice.


Step-By-Step Tutorial

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Start by gathering your ingredients. Fish and a red pepper provide enough substance for a full meal, while the rice vinegar and sugar produce the dish’s distinctive sweet-and-sour flavor.

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Cut the fish into 1 inch wide strips and marinate with the salt and 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing rice wine. Refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

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Finely chop the ginger and green onion. Cut the bell pepper into 1 inch squares. Set aside.

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Blend the egg, flour and a little water to create a batter with the consistency of heavy cream.

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Drain the fish pieces, then coat with the batter.

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Fill a wok or small pan with 1 inch of oil, then heat to 350 degrees. Deep fry the fish pieces in batches for 3 minutes until golden brown, flipping halfway through.

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Remove the fish pieces from the oil and drain on a plate covered with paper towel. Here’s a tip: Once you’ve finished frying all the fish, you can fry each batch a second time for 2 minutes to produce an extra-crispy exterior.

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Reheat the wok with 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Stir fry the green onion and ginger until fragrant. Add the remaining Shaoxing rice wine, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, chili sauce and bell pepper, then bring to a boil.

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Combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to form a paste. Add the mixture to the sauce, then return to a boil until thickened.

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Arrange the fish pieces on a serving plate, ladle the sauce and bell pepper mixture over the top and drizzle with the sesame oil. Serve immediately with white rice.

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