Once considered rare in the States, serving a whole fish at the dinner table – head, tail and eyeballs intact – is embraced by a lot of Chinese families, including mine. It is a lot less scary to eat than it looks. Whole fish also tastes better because the meat is cooked on the bones.
Fish is pronounced “yu” in mandarin Chinese, it has the same pronunciation as “surplus”, and increase in prosperity. Chinese families share whole fish on New Year’s dinner because they believe fish will bring good luck and extra money in the upcoming year. Here is a braised whole fish recipe that I made for my family, they absolutely loved it and you will too. So……take notes!
- 1 whole fish (flounder, red snapper, sea bass)
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 4 slices ginger
- 4 slices of garlic
- 3 scallions, 2 cut into 2-inch pieces and 1 thinly sliced for decoration
- 1/3 cup rice wine
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- Wash the fish in cold water and pat dry. Make three diagonal slashes on each side of the fish (this is to make sure the fish absorbs all flavors)
- Season fish all over with 1 teaspoon of salt and lay it on a plate
- Lightly dust the fish with flour or cornstarch (this will prevent the fish from falling apart during cooking)
- Heat oil till it starts to smoke, throw in ginger and garlic slices, reduce the heat to medium-low, slide the fish into the wok, cook for 3-4 minutes (do not move or turn the fish)
- Carefully flip the fish over and cook for another 3-4 minutes
- Add rice wine, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and scallions into the wok
- Cook for another 5-7 minutes, spoon the sauce over on fish occasionally (your kitchen should smell like heaven now)
- Carefully transfer the fish onto a plate, sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions. Enjoy!
- You can add some red peppers into the sauce if you like it spicy
- I know it sounds crazy and scary, but fish eyes actually taste amazing
- If you want to double the luck, feel free to braise two fish and lay them side by side on the plate!
I hope enjoyed making this dish. Feel free to share how your families and friends liked it. Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments. For more homemade dishes and recipes, follow me on Instagram! Happy Chinese New Year!