Thursday, January 19, 2012

How is Szechuan Fish Fillet Cooked?

Szechuan Province lies in the southwestern part of China. Its proximity to spice-loving nations such as Thailand and India helps fuel Szechuan cuisine's pungency and heat. Szechuan cooking is as varied as the region's climate. Warm, humid lowlands contributed to a history of pickling foods to preserve them in a challenging climate, while mountainous areas had traditions of drying and salting foods against harsh winters. Multiple cooking techniques are another hallmark of Szechuan cooking. Incorporating these elements -- flavorful pickled vegetables, spicy heat and two cooking techniques -- results in a delicious and healthy Szechuan fish dinner.

Step 1

Heat sufficient oil in the skillet to coat the bottom of it. If you're using a wok, it might pool in the vessel's round base; this won't affect the dish adversely.

Step 2

Pat the fish fillets dry and dredge them in rice flour to coat them.

Step 3

Place the floured fish fillets in the skillet or wok and cook them over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your fish fillets. If you're cooking in a wok, place the fish fillets about halfway up the wok's curved surface, not in the oil at the bottom. This ensures that the fish is seared and not fried.

Step 4

Remove the fish fillets from the pan or wok with kitchen tongs and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Allow it to drain on paper towels as you prepare the sauce.

Step 5

Combine diced garlic, scallions, dried chilies, peppercorns and fresh ginger with the remaining hot oil in the pan and cook the mixture over high heat until the garlic becomes soft when you press it with the edge of the tongs, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 6

Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and chili sauce to taste. Check the balance of flavors and adjust it as necessary. A Szechuan chili sauce should have a mild acidity and a moderate amount of heat, but you can modify the flavors to suit your individual taste.

Step 7

Place the fish fillets in a baking dish or transfer them back to the skillet and pour the sauce over them. Set the skillet or baking dish with the sauced fish in the oven on "broil" until the sauce darkens and thickens slightly. This process should take no more than 5 minutes.

Step 8

Remove the fish from the oven and pour any remaining sauce over it after you've transferred the fillets to the serving plate. Garnish the fish with a sprinkle of fresh scallions. Serve the fish alongside Szechuan-style pickled cabbage and brown rice.

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