September 30, 2022

Chinese Poached Fish 水浸魚

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚
One of the most famous Cantonese methods for preparing fish is the Classic Chinese Steamed Fish.  The Cantonese cuisine emphasizes the bringing out the natural flavors of fresh food.  Steamed fish is a celebration of the fish's natural flavors, producing fish that is tender, moist and delicious.

However for those in the know, there is another heavy weight contender for the best way to cook fresh fish: the Chinese Poached Fish 水浸魚.  This method of cooking fish in an infused water bath is not as well known for some reason but poaching fish actually produces even silkier meat, just so tenderly delicious that it melts in your mouth!

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚

For this type of preparation it's absolutely vital that the fish is fresh.  We used this fish, the Red Drum 紅鼓魚, which we found in one of the many fresh small grocery shops that are popping up all over Hong Kong.  Any white fish will do, like sea bass, grouper, or snapper.  No oily fish.

When buying fish check for freshness first.  The eyes of the fish should be clear and the fish should not smell fishy at all.  If you can inspect the gills they should be moist, bright pink or red and not slimy or dry.  I myself find that a good sniff is usually sufficient to check.

Painting of Red Drum fish by Robert W. Hines, Library of US Fish and Wildlife Service

A couple of super tips for preparing the fish:

1) Scrape away the blood vessel? (not sure what it's actually called) along the spine.  Removal of this and all other blood in the fish cavity will help a lot to keep fishyness away, leaving a clear and sweet taste.  The blood vessel will be behind the membrane lining the cavity, just pull it off and then scrape the blood vessel? away with a fingertip.  A bit gross but totally worth it.

2) After cleaning, salt the fish generously inside and out and let rest in the fridge for 15 mins.  This trick will also help with any fishiness.  My hubby swears by this.

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚

The poaching bath is prepared with enough water to submerge the fish and infused with the aromatics of ginger, spring onion whites and a good splash of rice wine.  You could add more spices to infuse flavor if you like.  For example, you could add a couple of star anise or a handful of sichuan peppers.

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚

Slip fish gently into the aromatic infused poaching bath.  Once the water reboils cover the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the fish poach in the residual heat of the bath until cooked through.  It's this quiet, motionless cooking that creates the unbeatable smooth, silky, melt in your mouth texture of poached fish.  Neato, amirite?!

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚

While your fish is having its lovely bath it's time to prepare the fish toppings.  The classic duo of toppings consists of spring onion and ginger.  The spring onion greens needs to be shredded.  For easy shredding try using this nifty spring onion shredder gadget.   For a beautiful curl soak shredded greens in cool water.

The ginger is sliced to very thin matchsticks.  It's important to make it thin otherwise the mouth feel of ginger is overwhelming.  Then, to reduce the pepperiness of the fresh ginger, let it soak in cool water until ready to use.

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚

When the fish is done, use two spatulas to lift out and place onto serving dish.  Place aromatic toppings over the fish.  Isn't it starting to look beautiful?

The final touch: a drizzle of hot, hot oil over the aromatics.  The hot oil will sizzle and hiss and release the aromas of the spring onion and ginger...yummilicious!  A final splash of soy sauce and your poached fish is ready to serve!

Let us know what you think of this Chinese poached fish.  Is this the best cooking method for fish or is steaming fish still the best? 

Chinese, Poached Fish, recipe, poaching, fish, water cooked, 水浸魚
Chinese Poached Fish Recipe  水浸魚
Prep time: 5 mins   Cook time: 25 mins


  • 1 whole white fish
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 stalks spring onion
  • 5 slices ginger
  • 1/2 inch knob ginger
  • 1/2 cup rice wine
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce


Rinse and clean the fish.  Check the cavity, removing any bits and making sure to scrape off the blood vessel along the spine of the fish.  Sprinkle salt all over the fish, inside and out.  Let chill in fridge for 15 minutes.

Slice the white parts of spring onion into 1 inch lengths.  Reserve the green parts for topping.

Use a pot that can fit the length of the fish.  Add enough water to submerge the fish.  When water is boiling add in spring onion whites, ginger slices and rice wine.  Let simmer for 3 mins.

Rinse the salt off the fish.  Slide into the water.  When the water reboils, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit, covered, for 25 mins.  

While the fish is poaching prepare the toppings.  Shred spring onion green into thin shreds.  To curl the shreds,  soak in a bowl of cold water.  Slice the knob of ginger into very thin matchsticks.  To reduce the pepperiness, soak a bowl of cool water.

Check if fish is done.  Poke with knife, if the knife goes through easily, the fish is done.  If not, just let sit for another 5 mins.

Use two spatulas to carefully lift the fish onto serving plate.  Sprinkle ginger matchsticks, then spring onion curls over the fish body.  Heat oil until very hot.  Drizzle over fish.  Add the soy sauce around the fish, not on the fish.  Serve hot.  Enjoy!