Most people have heard of the masterpiece Dream of the Red Chamber, one of China’s four great classical novels. Yet, few may realize that the dishes described in the novel are Huaiyang cuisine, which originates from China’s Jiangsu Province. This region was a transportation hub for the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, wealthy merchants converged in the region’s major cities. Hence, fine cuisines were created for these rich diners, such as Shanghai smoked fish.
Huaiyang cuisine stresses knife skills, cooking time, degree of heat, and elegance in presentation. Foods have a mild, moderately sweet, and salty taste. Served either hot or cold, this nourishing seafood dish warms the stomach, calms the liver, and dispels wind in the body. Different fish — grass carp, black carp, seer, or mackerel — can be used to create this popular Shanghai smoked fish delicacy.
Ingredients: (2 servings)
- Approx. 3 cups (700 g) sliced grass carp or black carp
- 2⅓ cups (550 ml) water
- 3 scallions or spring onions finely sliced
- 6 star anise
- 2 tsp (10 g) cinnamon
- 2 tbsp (30 g) cooking wine
- 4⅔ tbsp (70 g) soy sauce
- ⅔ cups (160 g) sugar
- ⅔ tsp (3 g) five-spice powder
- 2 tsp (10 g) salt
- 4 tbsp (60 g) ginger finely sliced
- 3½ cups (900 g) oil
- Clean the fish, wipe off excess water.
- Place the fish, sliced ginger, and scallions with cooking wine in a big bowl. Place in a refrigerator for 10 minutes to remove any fishy smell.
- To prepare the marinade, add cinnamon, five-spice powder, star anise, sugar, salt, and soy sauce to the water in a pot.
- Boil on high heat, simmer on medium for 10 minutes, then keep warm on low heat.
- Heat oil to 265°F (130°C); fry the fish until light brown and remove.
- Then heat oil to 356°F (180°C); fry the fish again until golden brown.
- Remove the fish; place in marinade for 3 minutes.
- Serve the fish on a plate garnished with chopped scallions.