Crispy Sweet and Sour Fish Recipe

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Sweet and sour fish is a popular Chinese restaurant and home cooking dish. The fish is served whole, first lightly battered and deep-fried for flaky-tender meat and crispy skin, then doused in a bright, glossy, sweet and tangy sauce for an impressive finish.

Sweet and Sour Fish Recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

For the fish and marinade:
1 (2-pound) whole sea bass, cleaned
2 tablespoons rice wine
6 thin slices ginger
3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the sweet and sour sauce:
4 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil
3 thin slices ginger, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 scallions, white parts finely chopped and green parts julienned

For the batter:
1 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons water chestnut powder (or can substitute glutinous rice flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup water
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying

First, prepare the fish. Make 4 evenly spaced diagonal cuts into each side of the fish, cutting down to the bone but being careful not to completely cut off the flesh. Transfer to a shallow plate big enough to fit the length of the fish.

Season each side of the fish with salt, making sure to lift up the cut flaps to season the exposed flesh as well. Pour rice wine evenly all over and inside the fish, lightly rubbing it into the skin and flesh. Stuff the ginger and scallion under the cut flaps and inside the fish; sprinkle any remaining pieces on top. Let sit for 20 minutes to marinate.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, sugar, rice vinegar, salt, and chicken stock and mix well. Set aside; we’ll finish the sauce after frying the fish.

Now, make the batter. In another large bowl, combine the cornstarch, water chestnut flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and oil. Pour in half of the water and mix well. Then add the rest of the water and mix again until completely smooth. The batter should be quite thin.

After 20 minutes, remove all the ginger and scallion pieces from the fish. Pour the batter over the fish and use your hands to distribute it evenly, making sure that the entire fish, including underneath the cuts, is coated.

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees F. You can test the oil with a small amount of leftover batter: Add a few drops into the oil, and if they immediately float to the surface and start to bubble, the oil is ready.

With your non-dominant hand, hold the fish by the tail over the oil. (Wearing gloves or holding the tail with paper towels will help make sure that it doesn’t slip.) With your other hand, use a ladle to carefully spoon the hot oil over the fish for about 1 minute, to set its form. Then, put the fish fully in the oil and let deep-fry for about 4 minutes, flipping it halfway through, until golden brown. Take out the fish and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When the fish is no longer dripping oil, transfer to a serving plate.

Now, finish the sauce. Prepare a cornstarch slurry by mixing together the cornstarch and water until smooth. In another pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add in the garlic, ginger, and the white part of the scallions, and stir-fry over medium-high heat until the aroma is released, about 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce, then add the cornstarch slurry, and stir until thickened.

To serve, pour the sauce over the fish and top with the julienned scallions.


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