Sweet and sour fish Chinese style
When I think of a sweet and sour dish, the first thing that comes to my mind is the sweet and sour pork in a restaurant menu, especially in a country style westernised Chinese restaurant. The thick sauce is sticky and gluey, caramalised with lots of tomato ketchup and sugar, some with honey and pineapple juice (from canned pineapple!) with pineapples, chunky cut onions and vegetables like capsicums. Usually it has so much thick sauce that it doesn't matter what type of meat or fish is used because it all tasted the same. Incredibly, it is such a popular dish on the menu, and I believe anyone who has been to a Chinese restaurant in the west would have ordered the sweet and sour pork or dish at least once.
But, do you think that this popular sweet and sour dish, especially the pork, in a western Chinese restaurant is originally a Chinese dish?
Well, I have done some digging to find out. And, the answer is no. It is not originally a Chinese dish. Chinese has been making dishes by combining sweet and sour using Chinese rice wine and rice vinegar, and sugar for thousand of years. But, the sweet and sour pork served at a westernised Chinese restaurant is definitely not a Chinese dish. It is a western-style Chinese dish created in the west.
I prefer my sweet and sour dish cooked the Chinese way using rice wine and rice vinegar with a bit of sugar to achieve the mildly sweet and faintly vinegary sourness in the dish. That way, I can still enjoy and taste the main ingredient in the dish, like the pork, chicken or fish. And, the flavour comes from standard Chinese flavouring, which is ginger and spring onion.
Clean and marinade the fish fillet
Prepare and cut the other ingredients
Mix the sauce
Coat the marinated fish with flour and deep fry until lightly golden brown
Stir-fry the Chinese spice and sauce, and then glaze the fried fish fillet in the sauce
Plate and garnish the dish
How to make
Rinse and wipe the fish fillet until dry. Then cut into small bite pieces. Season and marinade the fish with a bit of salt, white pepper, 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of flour. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Cut the spring onions by separating the lower white section from the top green section. Use the white section for stir-fry. Cut the white section into small pieces. Cut the top green section into small pieces to use as a garnish. Set aside.
Peel the skin of ginger and then cut and slice into thin strips. Set aside.
In a small bowl, make the sauce mixture by combining 1 tablespoon of light soy, 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of Chinkiang black vinegar and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.
Set aside 1 cup of stock or water.
In a small bowl, make the starch slurry by combining 1 tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of water. Mix and set aside.
Spread a layer of flour on a flat plate or tray. Coat the marinated fish pieces well and set aside.
Heat up enough oil in a wok. Once oil is hot, add the coated fish one piece at a time. Cook the fish in batches. Do not overcrowd the oil. Deep fry each batch for 2 minutes. Remove and drain the excess oil.
Repeat the process for a second time and fry again for another 2 minutes.
Using another saucepan, add some oil. Once the oil is hot, toss in the chopped white section of spring onions and julienned ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrantly aromatic.
Add the sauce mixture. Mix through and blend well. Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat once the sauce is boiling. Slowly add the starch slurry a bit at a time. Keep stirring until sauce thicken.
Once the sauce reaches the consistency that you like, add the fish. Gently and carefully glaze the fish in the sauce.
Turn off the heat. Drizzle the fish with a bit of sesame oil.
Remove and plate.
Garnish with some toasted sesame seeds, chopped green section of spring onions and chopped red chilli.
400gm-500gm white fish fillet
2-3 inch ginger
3-5 spring onions
flour (corn flour/starch or potato flour or tapioca flour)
liquid (chicken stock or water)
Chinese cooking wine
Chinkiang black vinegar
salt and sugar
ground white pepper
optional to garnish - toasted sesame seeds, chopped red chilli, chopped green section of spring onion