Man, Chinese New Year came and went so quickly. CNY is one of my favorite holidays because it brings together all my close friends and forces us to stuff our faces. It’s like Thanksgiving where the only purpose is to eat (and be thankful) but with better food (sorry).
So, on Chinese New Year, you pretty much HAVE to have a whole fish because of the Chinese saying “年年有余” or “every year you will have a surplus”. The word for “surplus” sounds like the word “fish” so… we eat fish to ensure that we’ll have more than enough to eat for the rest of the year (the culture really does revolve around food). You also can’t finish the fish (to show that there is, in fact, a surplus).
On the morning of my Chinese New Year party, I went to HK Supermarket in Chinatown and picked up a Live Striped Bass. The fish monger helped me gut and scale the fish so I didn’t have to attempt the mess at home.
This fish only takes about 15 minutes to cook, so make it close to dinner time. Rinse the fish and pat dry.
Sprinkle a light layer of flour on both sides of the fish.
Heat up about a teaspoon to two tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry both sides of the fish until golden. Takes just a couple minutes.
Prep a large handful of scallions, garlic, and ginger.
Remove the fish from the pan and heat up some more oil (if not enough is leftover from the frying). When the oil is hot, throw in the scallions, garlic, and ginger and stir fry until fragrant (also just a few minutes). Your kitchen will smell amazing.
Make sure you have a bottle of chili bean paste, or “soybean paste with chili” on hand because this is the base of the sauce. You can find it at any Chinese supermarket. It’s also the base of Mapo Tofu.
When the pan is smelling great, add a quarter to a third cup of the chili bean paste (depending on how salty the bean paste you have is). Also add a tablespoon ish of soy sauce, a teaspoon ish of sugar, a splash of vinegar, and a smidgen of rice wine.
And that’s it! Add some scallions and cilantro for garnish (I didn’t have cilantro). (I know, I repeated the photo…)
This fish is flakey and delicate. The sauce really easily and quickly infuses the meat so the fish is super flavorful.