Fish, as an indispensable delicacy on the Chinese dining table, has been developed into Chinese fish dishes with countless types. There is a folk adage in China, says “no fish, no feast,” which has been well implemented from large wedding banquets to small gathering meals of friends, where fish dishes are always essential.
The importance of fish to China people states far further than a dish of delicacy on a dinner table of the banquet. There is a Chinese set phrase, also one of the most traditional blessing words for Chinese new year, called “年(nián)年(nián)有(yǒu)余(yú),” which means enjoying an affluent life and possessing surplus wealth and food every year, of which the word “余(yú)(meaning surplus)” has a homophonic pronunciation with “鱼(yú)(meaning fish.)” Therefore, fish is also deemed as one of auspicious elements by the Chinese.
Fish is a prevalent food ingredient in China that covers plenty of varieties. The Chinese have adopted almost all the cooking methods on fish cooking. The cooking method varies according to different types of fishes, and have been evolved into diverse flavors in different parts of China.
Most Popular Chinese Fish Dishes
- Steamed Fish Head with Diced Hot Red Peppers
Steamed Fish Head with Diced Hot Red Peppers is a famous dish in Chinese Hunan cuisine, possessing a history of over 100 years. It adopts the fish head of Aristichthys Nobilis (bighead carp) as the main ingredient, to be steamed in the match with chopped pepper (a pickled pepper), ginger, onion, soy sauce, and other seasonings, offering a flavor of fresh and spicy.
- Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili
Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili is a classic fish dish in the region of Chongqing and Sichuan Province, China. Grass carp or Snakehead (fish) are usually selected as food materials, which will be cut into pieces and to be boiled in the match with pickled cabbage (a Chinese pickled vegetable with sour taste) and other food materials. It is predominated by sour and spicy flavor.
This dish is one of the most popular fish dishes in Chinese restaurants. Due to its characteristics of appetizing, my friends and I like to pour its soup into the rice every time we order this dish, turning out an extra two bowls of rice will be consumed. That’s true! Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili is one of the most appetizing fish dishes!
- Fish Fillets In Hot Chili Oil
Fish Fillets In Hot Chili Oil originated from Chongqing, China, which was created by a chef from a local Sichuan cuisine aristocratic family. It has now ascended one of the most popular dishes in Sichuan cuisine though with only 20 years old history.
Carp and Black Carp (mylopharyngodon piceus) are the most commonly used food materials for this dish, which will be sliced into pieces and boiled till 50%-70% cooked, followed by being scooped up and placed into a container filled with side dishes and seasonings, then met the hot oil been poured into the container. The dish is cooked through twice short heats, which ensures the freshness and tenderness of the fish. Pepper and Sichuan pepper are essential seasonings for this dish, which make the dish with perfection in color, smell, and taste.
- Steamed Perch
Steamed perch is a traditional fish dish in Guangdong Province and has been widely spread among home cooking and restaurants in China. Taking perch as the food material and soy sauce as the seasoning, a fantastic dish can be done by the simplest cooking method, namely “steaming.” Requiring no rich cooking experience, it’s a recipe that can be quickly cooked at home. Perch is highly nutritional valued and is often used as a nourishing dish for women and children in China.
- Steamed turbot
This is also a traditional steamed fish dish in Guangdong, China. Guangdong people have their unique insight into fish-diets. They are used to keeping the freshness and nutrition of fish to the greatest extent by steaming.
- West Lake Poached Fish
West Lake Poached Fish is a traditional famous dish in Hangzhou, China, being named as one of Top Ten Classic Famous Dishes in Zhejiang Province in the year 2018. It is said that this dish originated in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 -1279) and has a long history and reputation in the local region.
West Lake Poached Fish uses grass carp as the food material, covered with a modulated sweet and sour soup juice after boiled, offering a tempting taste of freshness, tenderness, sweetness, and sourness.
- Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish
Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish is one of the Top Ten Classic Dishes in Suzhou, China. The fish is first treated to boneless, the been cut into flower-shaped, then to be marinated and deep-fried, ended by pouring with sweet and sour juice, a sweet and sour fish dish is then ready to serve. Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish is also nick-named as Squirrel Mandarin fish. The deep-fried mandarin fish presents in a fluffy appearance, which looks like a squirrel’s tail. The presentation of the dish even goes more into squirrel alike after decoration, hence the name of the dish.
A relatively high standard to the cutting and cooking skills is set for this dish, which has narrowed down the population of people who home-cook this fish dish, resulting in people’s more accustomed to ordering it in restaurants. Mandarin fish is an expensive freshwater fish in China, for which carp or perch are used to replace it in some restaurants, in the purpose of providing the diners an acceptable and economical price.
- Smelly Mandarin Fish
Smelly Mandarin Fish is a traditional dish in Anhui Province, China, which has a history of over one hundred years. This fish dish smells terrible, but tastes delicious and smooth.
An odor will be given off by the surface of the marinated fish, which is not a sign of deterioration. It will present a unique taste after deep-frying and the cooking method of “braising in brown sauce.” However, not everyone likes the odor. Therefore, this fish dish is not widely spread in the whole of China, but only being famous in Anhui.
- Fried Carp with Sweet and Sour Sauce
Fried Carp with Sweet and Sour Sauce is one of the typical dishes of Lu cuisine in China. It adopts carp as the food material and deep-fry it to gold color, then poured with sugar and vinegar juice. Some master chefs will keep the fish in a curved shape during deep-frying, which would donate to a more elegant and beautiful presentation upon serving.
- Braised fish （Braised fish blocks)
Braised fish is one of the most usual fish dishes in China, which allows you a free choice to adopt a whole fish or fish blocks as the food material. The selection of fish is also very casual, with no specific standard, crucian, grass carp, catfish, and all other kinds of fishes! All fishes winning your love and available in market can be used to cook this dish.
“Braise in soy sauce” is the most commonly used cooking method for fish dishes in China. The fish shall be first pan-fried (or deep-fried) to yellowish, then appropriate water and seasonings shall be added into the wok for stew. The taste can be adjusted according to your own preferences.
- Braised Fish with Ciba
Braised Fish with Ciba is a traditional fish dish in the Hubei Province of China, which grass carp or carp are usually used as food materials. It’s named for a similar cooking process to Ciba Cake, the latter of which is one type of glutinous rice cake. The fish is cut into blocks and left for marination. The marinated fish blocks shall be displayed under the sun for drying, then to be pan-fried to gold color. At last, to be stir-fried with seasonings added before serve. This dish has a spicy taste and earned its position as one of the favorite fish dishes in Hubei people’s hearts.
- Chinese Fish Soup
There are two types of the most common fish soups in China, of which one is Crucian Carp Soup, a very popular home dish. Many Chinese people cook this fish soup at home. The food material is crucian carp and the cooking method is not complicated. (Click to get Crucian Carp Soup recipe)
The other fish soup is Fish Head Soup, which is commonly served in Chinese restaurants, usually, adopt the fish head of aristichthys nobilis or grass carp (large) as the food material for soup. It sometimes matches with tofu or white radish for flavor enhancement. Both of the two fish soups are famous for their fresh and elegant taste and have become the favorite fish soup dishes of the Chinese.
In addition to the fish dishes listed above, there are many more ways to enjoy fishes for the Chinese, such as Fish Fondue, Fish Balls Soup, and Fish Soup Noodles … You would be surely amazed by the pursuing of China people on the diet if you have ever made a trip to China.