April 5, 2014

Sweet & Sour Braised Fish 酸甜魚

sweet and sour fish, sweet and sour sauce, fish, chinese, recipe, 酸甜魚

I love, love, love the amazingly delightful taste of the Chinese sweet and sour sauce, but I have to seriously protest against that bright orange gooey guck that passes for sweet and sour sauce these days.  What is that stuff?  And why is it so bright orange?!  Everyone must be using the same bottled stuff because it tastes and looks exactly the same from restaurant to restaurant.  

If you love the taste of Chinese sweet and sour, why not try the traditional Chinese way, and make the very delicious Sweet and Sour Fish, or 酸甜魚.  I promise, this traditional preparation tastes way better than restaurant style sweet and sour!  Plus it's easy peasy!

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We used a whole fish for our Sweet and Sour Fish but you could use fish fillets if you desire.  The Chinese believe that cooking meat with the bones in improves the taste of the final dish.  (I agree!  And it's probably better for you nutritionally too.)  As  always, a simple dish like this is elevated by using good ingredients so make sure your fish is super fresh.  

For the sugar use something that is less processed (like raw sugar) to get that rich caramel depth of the cane sugar.  We use a eight year aged rice wine (again better flavor plus I you can enjoy a little fragrant tipple while cooking!)  And I've recently been on a vinegar kick and discovered my latest favorite rice vinegar which is a brown rice vinegar from Japan which makes the chinese rice vinegars pale in comparison.  (Sorry, dear chinese rice vinegars, I wish it wasn't so...)

I don't know what it is about the combination of vinegar, sugar and soy but whenever we have this Sweet and Sour Fish, it's so hard to stop eating it!  You just want to eat some more and then eat some more.  It makes for a real rice killer of a dish.  You can even mix a bit of the sauce in your rice!  (My little girl loves that!)  

We leave you now (til next time!) with the seductive thought of fresh sea fish braised in homemade Sweet and Sour sauce!  Good eating!

Tip:  You may have noticed that we often suggest using potato starch instead of corn starch because we have used both and find that potato starch is far superior (and easier to use) for creating that thick yet lightly clinging glossy sauce that is so important to Chinese cooking.  Corn starch has tendency to seize up and be a pain in the a** while potato starch is much more forgiving.

2nd tip:  You must use the large amount of ginger suggested in recipe while frying your fish in order to balance the "fishiness" inherent when pan frying even the freshest of fish.  The ginger enhances the fresh sea sweet taste of your fish and keeps your kitchen smelling fresh.
Sweet & Sour Braised Fish Recipe

(Prep time: 1 mins  Cook time: 8 mins)


  • 1 firm white fish (or equivalent fish fillets)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 6 slices ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced to rounds



Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Rinse fish and dry.  Rub a coating of oil all over the fish.  Heat wok to medium heat and add oil when the wok is hot.  Add the ginger slices and stir till fragrance released.  Add the fish in, being careful of oil splatters.  During the first minute of cooking, use the spatula to lift and shift the fish around a bit.  (Sometimes I just shake the wok back and forth lightly.)  This will help to prevent the fish from sticking to your pan.

Lower the heat and cook for another 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip fish over (add a bit more oil if needed) and cook for 1 minute, lifting and shifting as before to prevent the fish from sticking.  Then cook another 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Add garlic to the wok around the fish and stir till fragrant.  Add mixed sauce ingredients to wok, cover and cook fish over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half.  Stir 2 tbsp of water with the starch into small bowl then pour into the sauce, stirring constantly.  Once the sauce is thick and glossy turn off heat.  Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with spring onions and serve.



  1. I adapted this recipe for sea scallops. The only changed needed were to not move the scallops while they sear in the wok, and push the timing a little because scallops cook so quickly, otherwise everything was done as directed. Delicious!

  2. Sound delish! I never thought to do this with scallops, great idea! ~ellen