March 5, 2016

Red Braised Fish Tail with Roast Pork 紅燒斑尾

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By Published: 2016-03-05
Okay, I have to say right off the bat that just thinking about this dish makes me swallow...hard.  This traditional Cantonese fish dish maybe does not sound super exciting when you describe it in words but once I had tasted it, it just burned into my food memories as one of the most delicious, comforting, unforgettable kind of Chinese dishes that I've ever had.  That's a tall order, I think, and I confess that now that I have written that sentence I'm nervous that people will make this dish and think, what the hey is she talking about?  

But then I backtrack in my mind to the last time I had this spectacular dish, cooked up by my Cantonese cuisine extraordinaire 老公, and all I can remember is joy and muffled sounds of eating and the soft slurping sounds of delight and happiness.  You know what I mean.  All those funny body movements and facial expressions people have when their food makes them really, really happy.  

So I present you with the Red Braised Fish Tail with Roast Pork, or 紅燒斑尾, a truly yummilicious fish dish braised to perfection with heapings of succulent roasted pork and tender chewy bean curd skins, all smothered in a thick, glossy, delectable sauce, the one fish dish besides the glorious Steamed Garoupa Fish, that I think is truly fit for a Chinese festival table.

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As with any true blood Cantonese dish, one must start with the freshest and best of ingredients in order to achieve the maximum result.  To make this fish and pork dish fit for a king you need to start with a very good fish tail.  

We made it with the tail of a Star Garoupa fish, a truly tasty fish.  In Hong Kong the garoupa fish is super popular and commands top dollar but out of all the different kinds of garoupa that we have tried, the star garoupa is our favorite.  There are two types of star garoupa, also know as star grouper, both sprinkled in the distinctive spotting that gives them their names:  Leopard Coral Garoupa  東星斑 and Areolated Coral Garoupa 西星斑.

Image courtesy of Hong Kong Center for Food Safety

We have tried both and they're equally delish.  The day we made this dish we lucked out, finding a decently priced Areolated Coral Garoupa tail 西星斑 at our local wet market with its snowy white flesh, firm without being too firm, smooth, tender, flavorful after cooking.  Oh, the joys of the fresh seafood market!

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Fish tail after pan frying to golden brown

The first step is the pan frying of the fish tail in ginger infused oil.  As anyone who understands fish must know, very often the fish must be fried to a golden brownness before the next step of making soup, braising, or what not.  This step allows one to cook out any fishiness and to increase the flavor.  For soup this is the key to a milky white fish soup.  A medium to low heat and a bit of time will allow you to control the frying without the fish sticking to the pan.

And then the roast pork, what can I say?  I love this stuff and we often buy it just for a late afternoon snack, nom, nom, nom!  Find yourself a good source for Cantonese style roasted pork 燒肉.  Good roasted pork has a nice crispy skin and very tasty, fresh, juicy and not overly salty meat.  

A lot of sui lap stores nowadays sell really salty roasted pork which is yucky.  And of course roasted pork is fatty, why that is the whole point (see my photo below).  The flavor is in the fat.  If you haven't experienced it you'll think it's strange but once you experience pork fat with an open mind you just can't go back.  I know I can't.  And my little girl loves it as well!

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Roasted pork
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Cook the lard out of roasted pork

You render the roasted pork in your wok and the oil that is rendered out (yes, darn yummy right it's lard!) is used to cook the fish tail.  And that oil is why this dish tastes sooooooo good!

The last thing you must have for this gorgeous dish is the dried bean curd sheet, also known as dried tofu skin sheet, or  枝竹.  Anyone who has tried dried bean curd sheet will understand when I say that it's a treat to find it used in any dish, whether in dim sum, or in red braised dishes, chinese vegetarian dishes or in cold dishes.  Dried bean curd is rehydrated before cooking.  

It wonderfully absorbs the flavors of whatever dish it is paired with while contributing it's own special food super power, the power of a delightfully chewy, yet delicately tender texture.  I personally love the stuff and always find myself sneaking more bits of the bean curd than anything else in the dish!

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Dried bean curd sheet, or 枝竹, rehydrated already

Do note that there is also dried bean curd sheet known as 腐竹.  This one is probably more common to find.  They are both made by boiling soy milk until a thin skin like curd forms on top.  The skin is carefully plucked off and dried and becomes the dried beancurd skin.  (How the heck did the chinese in the days of yore think of that?!)  

I think that the difference between these two types of dried beancurd sheets is that the 枝竹 is the first layer of skin curd removed and is considered to be the most smooth and tender in texture.  Both are fine to use in this dish.

This Red Braised Fish Tail with Roast Pork  紅燒斑尾 is not hard to make once you've got your ingredients including and most importantly your super fresh garoupa fish tail.  And then just wait for the ohhs and ahhs of your family or guests as they tuck in into this dish with a bit of everything...tender tasty fish, incredibly flavorful roasted pork, sauce soaked mushrooms, chewy yet tender tofu skins, gorgeous red braised sauce.  

This feast dish looks pretty spectacular on the plate and will be the highlight of your festival table, but let me assure you, it tastes 10 times better than it looks!!!   Yeah for yummiliciousness!

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Red Braised Fish Tail with Roast Pork
Prep time: 5 mins  Cook time: 20 mins


  • 1 garoupa fish tail (or any other fish tail that braises well) (600g or 1 catty)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 ginger slices
  • 1 bulb garlic, deskinned
  • 2 ginger slices
  • 2.5 cups sliced cantonese style roast pork燒肉 (300g or 1/2 catty)
  • 2.5 cups dried bean curd sheet 枝竹, reconstituted and sliced to 2" lengths, 150g
  • 10 dried chinese mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup Shao Hsing rice wine
  • 2 cups Jin Hua Ham chicken stock*
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup spring onions, shredded


Reconstitute dried mushrooms in hot water until soft, about an hour.  Squeeze out excess water and remove from water.  Wash fish tail and dry it, then dust lightly with salted flour.  Shake off any excess flour.

Add 3 tbsp oil to medium hot wok, add ginger and stir fry until aromatic, about 1/2 min.  Remove ginger, add the fish and carefully pan fry at low heat until a golden brown on both sides, approx. 4-5 mins each side.  The fish should be approx. 50-60% done.  Remove fish and then rinse and dry wok.

Heat wok to medium heat, add 1/2 tbsp oil, then toss in the garlic and ginger, stir frying until aromatic.  Add in the roasted pork, mushrooms and bean curd skins.  Stir fry until bean curd skins and roasted pork slightly caramelised, approx 2 mins.  The fat in the roasted fatty pork will render into oil at this point.

Add in 1/2 cup Shao Hsing rice wine, simmer 1 min, add fish, burying it in between other ingredients but not letting the fish lie directly on the pot surface.  Add in 2 cups Jin Hau Ham chicken stock.  When stock boiled turn to med low heat and let braise covered for 10-15 mins.  Scoop sauce over fish periodically.  Keep a eye on the stock level and add boiling water if necessary to top up.  There should be at least 1 cup of liquid left at end of braising.  

Turn off heat, first scoop all ingredients except fish to presentation dish, then carefully place fish on top.  Reserve sauce in the wok.

To sauce in wok add 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine and1 tsp sugar, then simmer over low heat until sauce is reduced, thick and glossy.  (If sauce is too runny you can thicken by adding a starch mixture: 1 tsp of starch thoroughly mixed with 1-2 tbsp of cold water, pour in while constantly stirring until thickened. ) Pour thickened sauce all over the fish dish, drape on spring onions and cilantro and serve hot and gorgeous!

*Tip:  A good Jinhua Ham chicken stock really makes this dish!  I think that Swanson makes a pretty good one.  But if you can't find that you can make your own by substituting 2 cups chicken stock and 1/4 cup jinhua ham pieces.

Tip:  If you want to make pretty curly shredded spring onions threads for your fish dishes like we made in our photos above you have got to get yourself this spring onion shredding gadget.  It works a treat, I promise!



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