July 4, 2017

Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew 水煮魚

Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew 水煮魚

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣
By Published: 2017-07-04
This gloriously easy and distinctive Sichuan 四川 dish has swept the world and leapt to fame in the past decade or so.  You cannot go anywhere in the world these days where Chinese food is served and not find some version of this addictive dish which features the 'mala' 麻辣 kind of spicy with fish or beef.  'Mala' spiciness is a very unique flavor, featuring the heat of chilies married with the mouth numbing tingle of sichuan peppercorns.  Once you've tried 'mala' it's hard to forget, it's so unique.

My 老公 loves, loves, loves 'mala' spicy dishes but we seldom get to eat it as my little girl has still not gotten the hang of spicy food yet.  It's hilarious really, he gets the saddest look of longing on his face when he mentions this dish every once in a while.  So to stop that sad face, I suggested that we make it at home as one dish of our three dish plus rice family style Chinese dinner.  Yeah, finally, he can have his beloved Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew 水煮魚, a tender fish and veggies stew finished with a fiery and tongue numbing aromatic 'mala' spiced oil.  Oh. Wow. What a spectacular dish this is!!

For the record I'm not a fan of spicy hot for the sake of spicy hot.  No thanks.  None of that sweat filled sadistic torture for me.  But I do like the aromatics of spicy, those lush florals and deep citrusy notes that flower underneath all that hot.  And this...this magnificent dish are where those undertones of spicy are brought to the forefront and celebrated.  

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣

Part of the secret to infusing the Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew with its 'mala' pungency is to make a Spicy Mala Powder.  Only two ingredients are needed for it: dried chilies and dried Sichuan peppercorn 花椒, also known as Sichuan pepper, flower pepper or Chinese coriander.  The Sichuan peppercorn is what gives this dish the unique character: a citrus flavored, mouth numbing sensation that is just crazy the first time you try it.  

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣
Chilies, roughly chopped
chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣
Sichuan pepper, finely ground
For the dried chilies you can use whatever chili you prefer, usually larger chilies are milder in heat and smaller chilies are much hotter.  If you can't find your preferred chili dried just dry it yourself by leaving the fresh chilies on a tray in an airy, sunny spot for a few days, turning over once in a while until completely dried.

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣  

The other part of the secret to the Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew is the Spice Infused Oil that is used to activate the Spicy Mala Powder.  Above are the spices we used for the Spice Infused Oil.  Starting from top then clockwise: star anise, cinnamon bark, black cardamom, green cardamom, and coriander (I wanted to use coriander seeds but only had coriander powder).  It seems like a lot of spices but the amazing thing is that when spices are used in the right combination, even if there are a lot of spices, the end result is like a song that is just right, each note helping the song reach its ultimate 'songness.'  If you know what I mean...

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣

The spices undergo a low heat oil simmer that releases all the deep flavors and delicate aromas of the spices into the oil.  We indicate a shortish cooking time in the recipe but if you have the time you should cook/infuse at low heat as long as you can for the best results, maybe an hour or so.  Just be sure to keep the heat real low.  

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣

For the fish any lovely white fish fillet will do, something with firm tender meat and no small bones if any.  We used carp sliced to 1/2" slices.

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣

The only other classic ingredients besides fish slices are soy bean sprouts 黃豆芽 and dried tofu gan 豆干, also known as doufu gan or dried beancurd.  You can of course switch these background ingredients to your preference but try to keep it simple and let the fish and 'mala' be the stars of the dish.

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣
Spicy Mala Powder sprinkled over fish stew
Once the fish stew is cooked, Spicy Mala Powder is sprinkled over the top and then activated with a generous pour of hot roiling Spice Infused Oil which cooks the spice powder instantly, infusing the dish with its unique and pungent tongue numbing 'mala' spicy kick. Whoopee!  Get in a sweat and break out the 'mala' for an authentic Sichuan eating experience!

    

chinese, mala sauce, recipe, Sichuan, Spicy Fish Stew, Water Boiled fish, 水煮魚, 麻辣


Sichuan Spicy Fish Stew Recipe Recipe  水煮魚
Prep time:    Cook time: 12

Ingredients:

Spice Infused Oil
1/2 cup oil (any neutral flavored oil)
4 star anise
2 pieces cinnamon bark
3  black cardamom
10  green cardamom
1 tsp  coriander seeds, or 1 tbsp coriander powder

Spicy Mala Powder
1/3 cup  sichuan peppercorns
15 dried chilies (or adjust to your preferred heat level)

1 lb white fish fillet, 450g
1 tbsp corn starch (or potato starch, or wheat starch)
1 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fermented soybeans (also known as douchi), 發酵大豆
1 tbsp sugar
5 slices ginger
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 liter fish stock
1 big bunch soy bean sprouts 黃豆芽
3 squares dried tofu gan (also known as doufugan 豆干)
1 stalk spring onion, cut to 1" lengths
1 tbsp whole sichuan peppercorns
6 whole dried chilies

Directions:

Make Spice Infused Oil: In small pot heat up 1/2 cup oil.  Smash cardamoms open with side of cleaver or a pestle.  When oil is hot add in star anise, cinnamon bark, smashed black and green cardamoms, and coriander seeds.  Simmer over low, low heat for 10-15 mins or until the spice's oils are released and infused into the oil.  

Slice fish on a bias cut into 1/4"-1/2" thick slices.  Marinate fish with starch, rice wine, white pepper and salt for 15 mins.  Wash soybeans and pluck off roots.  Slice dried tofu gan into 1/8" thick slices.

Make Spicy Mala PowderUse your food processor to roughly grind dried chili peppers.  Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to finely grind the sichuan peppers.  Mix peppers together and set aside.

Use mortar and pestle to mash fermented soybean and sugar together until it becomes a paste.  Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok,  add in mashed fermented soybean, garlic and ginger, then stir until aromatic.  Pour in stock and cover the pot.  When stock is boiling, add in soybeans and let simmer for 2 mins or until cooked.  Remove soybeans and place in a layer on bottom of a 2-3" deep serving dish.  Add sliced tofu gan over soybeans.  Heat up the stock again until boiling, then add in marinated fish slices and let cook for 2-3 mins or until cooked.  Scoop fish out and place neatly as the next layer in serving dish.  Finally pour soup in up to an half inch from the top.

Sprinkle Spicy Mala Powder all over fish.  Evenly spread out whole dried chilies, whole sichuan peppercorns and spring onion.  Heat up Spice Infused Oil until very, very hot.  Carefully pour hot oil all over fish.  The stock will boil and roil up quite a bit and splatter so be careful.  Enjoy the Mala!

    


More Spiced Up Specials at The Hong Kong Cookery: 

asian, chili oil, Chili sauce, chinese, hot oil, hot sauce, indonesian, recipe, thai, 辣椒醬, 辣油Asian Chili Hot Oil Sauces 辣椒醬



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