March 4, 2012

Chinese Salted Fish 鹹魚

Chinese Salted Fish
Isn't salted fish just so beautiful!?
Published: 2012-03-04
Hanging from multitudes of ceilings everywhere, dangling in the gentle breeze by twisted bits of red nylon rope, sometimes exposed in all its wrinkled dried glory, sometimes rather politely wrapped up in a a fold of white paper: maybe you have seen them before while walking through streets the older parts of Hong Kong.  The Chinese Salted  Fish, or 鹹魚, is a Cantonese classic, a food stuff of legend.  In the early days, the peoples of the south, being near the sea and thus a plentiful supply of fish, began to salt and dry in the sun the fishes that they caught so as to preserve them for future need.  It became known as the "poor man's food" because a little bit of Salted Fish, being so very salty, goes a long long way with your rice and thus became a firm dinner favorite with the poor population.

Chinese Salted Fish

Then for a while the Chinese Salted Fish dropped out of fashion, as things of this sort (dried, fascinatingly ugly and with a, um, shall we say distinctive smell) will, with the younger generation abhorring the very sight and scented whiff of these fish, as the young (willful, careless, and, um, shall we say not yet ripened of knowledge) will do.  It was definitely not "cool".  It was something the old or the poor ate.  Nowadays, the tides are shifting again and as the Hong Kong people begin to discover themselves in their own great heritage, the Chinese Salted Fish has lost much of its earlier stigma which is a good thing for us food lovers.  The Chinese Salted Fish can be a very unique and tasty experience as dish on it's own and also as a flavoring enhancer when cooking other dishes.  Rather like the anchovies of Europe, another type of salted fish also noted for their intense flavors and flavor enhancing qualities.

These Chinese Salted Fish (a gift, courtesy of my 老公's mother) are from a little street side shop in Lau Fau Shan, Hong Kong, as shown in photos above.   Not really sure exactly how to choose the fish myself yet (on my ever-growing to-do-list), but this batch of Salted Fish was really yummy.  Not too salty, just soft enough without being mushy and very flavorful.  A lot of times, the salted fish you get in restaurants, etc. is just way too salty.  Because the salted fish was so tasty we have been on an "add Salted Fish to everything" bing lately and the results have been finger licking good.  I will be posting a couple of these dishes soon so watch out. And then the next thing I need to do is to get over to Lau Fau Shan myself (I hear it is very 'romantic' and beautiful there) and  buy some more Salted Fish cuz we're all out already!  Yup, must stock up on the good stuff when you find it!

More Salty recipes at The Hong Kong Cookery:

chinese salted fishChinese Salted Fish 鹹魚

chinese steamed fish with salted fishSteamed Fish with Salted Fish 生死戀

steamed pork patty with salted fishSteamed Pork Patty with Salted Fish 鹹魚蒸豬肉餅



  1. If I can't find proper salted fish, is there anything I can use as a substitute? I'm thinking of today's Steamed Salted Fish recipe (06/08/2018). Thank you! :)

    1. Hi Susan - great question, the only thing I could think of was either salted cod (bacalao) or anchovies. Or you could just omit the salted fish altogether which is commonly done when fisherfolk prepare this dish. Let me know what you decide to do! ~ellen


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