September 20, 2014

Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Sauce 煎紅衫魚

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This simple and easy to prepare pan fried fish dish is a favorite in our house for the rare times when we decide not to steam a fish for dinner (usually our favorite way to prepare fresh fish!)  

Deceptively simple to look at and make, we find this fish dish incredibly tasty: a firm white fish meat cooked to golden crispy skinned perfection, then, at the last minute, inundated with a multi flavored sauce that permeates every bite with dash, zip and multiple layers of tastiness.  Try this Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Sauce, or 煎紅衫魚, and see if you don't find it just as yummilicious as we do!

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The first thing to be sure to remember when you want to pan fry a fish is to have lots and lots of ginger at hand.  You can't fry a fish without ginger!  My 老公's always rolling his eyes when we sometimes smell the 'fishy' smell of other people frying fish.  "More ginger for goodness sakes!" he will announce vehemently to no one in particular.  (You can smell, unfortunately at times, pretty much all of your many neighbor's cooking smells in Hong Kong due to everyone living at close quarters in tall towers.)  

Just use loads of ginger and it will make all the difference as you cook it (smell-wise) and when you eat it (taste-wise)! 

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The second thing, but the most important!, is to get a really, really fresh fish.  This is of the utmost importance for the taste!  At the wet market or at your supermarket, look for fish with bright clear eyes and lovely gleaming skin.  Some folks poke around at the gills to check for nice wet red or pink gills but we find that we generally don't need to do that.  I usually look first at the eyes and if there's even a bit of cloudiness I move on to the next fish.  Also smell the fish.  It should smell fresh and not fishy at all.

For this Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Sauce you will need a firm white meat fish.   Firm meat fish is excellent for the frying pan while tender, delicate meat fish is a must when you want to steam.  Don't get too big of a fish though, it's better to get two or three of same sized smaller fish. This will make it easier to evenly fry the fishes and get it cooked all the way through while not overcooking the skin.    

In Hong Kong there are always fresh Golden Threadfin Bream to be had so we usually pan fry with these lovely fish.  I love the Chinese names for fish, they are always so literal in a funny way, for example the Golden Threadfin Bream is called 紅衫魚, translated as the Fish with Red Clothes!
Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Sauce
(adapted from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen )  
(Prep time: 5 mins  Cook time: 10 mins)


  • 2-3 small sized Golden Threadfin Bream (or other firm fleshed white fish)
  • 6-8 slices ginger, quarter sized approx
  • 2 spring onions, cut to rounds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper


Wash fish.  Gut and scale if not done already.  Let hang to air dry until reasonably dry to the touch. (Or you could just dry it with paper towels.)    

Mix spring onions, garlic, minced ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper together in a bowl.

Rub oil over fish all over.  Heat wok to medium high heat.  When wok is hot add 1 1/2 tbsp oil.  Add ginger slices and stir fry until aroma rises.  Carefully add in your fish.  As your wok is hot, the fish skin should cook quickly and not stick.  

After about 30 secs give the wok a gentle shake, making sure that the fish is not sticking. Turn the heat to low and let the fish cook for 4 minutes or until the skin is a golden brown.  Turn heat up and flip fish over.  Cook for 30 secs and then give the wok a gentle shake, making sure the fish isn't sticking.  Turn heat to low and cook for 5 minutes or until the fish the golden brown and cooked through.  

You can check fish meat by carefully poking a knife through to the bone and making sure that the meat separates easily from the bone.  If meat and bone are sticking, the fish is not cooked through yet.  

Pour the sauce mix over the fish, cover the wok and turn off the heat.  Let sit covered in the wok for a minute.  Remove carefully out to plate and serve hot!  Yum, yum!

Tip:  If the cooking starts smelling strongly 'fishy', just slice more ginger and add it in!



  1. My other half will love this fried fish. Never fried in this style before, must try!

    1. Hi Sokehah - I hope your other half likes this fish dish as much as we do! ~ellen

  2. My favorite way to cook fish, better than steaming. I always have soy sauce in a small dish just for dipping the meat.

    1. If you follow our recipe there should be some extra sauce around the fish that can be used for dipping. Gotta dip that fish meat, totally agree! ~ellen

  3. I love your recipes, keep it up, thank you.

    1. Thanks we will, please come back often! ~ellen

  4. Thanks for always telling us what kind of fish! I am a newbie at cooking fish, so it's helpful to be able to have one to look for at the wet market. Just got this and will try it tonight.

    1. Hey Lolai - yeah, I totally get it. I had the worst time in the beginning. Glad to be of help! 😊 ~ellen