guo yue's red stewed fish


at guo yue’s chinese cooking with fish and seafood masterclass my favourite dish of the day was hong shao yu (red stewed fish).

this dish is typical of northern china and has a strong, distinctive and richly perfumed flavour. much of this flavour comes from the spices used – raw sichuan peppercorns, star anise, ginger and garlic – but equally important, i think, is the chinese dark vinegar which has a wonderful smokey quality (guo yue recommends chinkiang rice vinegar).

despite not having any dark vinegar in, i was so hyped up after my course that i decided to try and recreate the dish for supper that same day, with whatever ingredients i had at home. the end result was pretty good and we ate it served with noodles (made in the class), stirfried with chinese mushrooms and asparagus.

this recipe is the original one provided by guo yue. for more examples of his cooking have a look at his memoir with recipes; music, food and love.

guo yue’s hong shao yu (serves 2)

1 whole fish (in the class we used grey mullet, i used sea bream), cleaned inside and out, with fins and scales removed, slashed 3 times on each side and then rubbed with salt

sunflower oil

10-15 thin slices of ginger, not peeled

3 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed

2/3 spring onions, cut into fine strips

2 tablespoons chinese dark vinegar

½ tablespoon chinese cooking wine

1 ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce

3 tablepsoons water

¾ tablespoon sugar

2 star anise

1 teaspoon raw sichuan peppercorns (optional)

sesame seed oil

fresh coriander, chopped

heat a dry wok then add 4 tablespoons sunflower oil. when the oil is smoking add the fish (which will make a dramatic sound!). let it sit in the oil as you tilt the wok around to gently coat the fish: we call this “giving the fish a hot bath”. after a minute, turn the fish over, turn the heat to medium low and cook for 6 minutes.

meanwhile, put the prepared ginger, garlic and spring onion in a bowl and add the vinegar, wine, soy sauce and water. pour this mixture around and over the fish. add the star anise and sichuan peppercorns (or you can use 2 pinches of chinese five spice if you don’t have either of these). cover the pan with a lid and leave to simmer gently on a medium heat for 10 minutes.

place your fish and its sauce on a serving dish, drizzle a little sesame oil over and top with some finely chopped coriander.