Pickled Mustard Fish (酸菜鱼 Suan Cai Yu)
April 30, 2022  Print
In my last post, I shared a basic fish stock to be used for many fish-fillet-centered recipes. Today’s post, Pickled Mustard Fish is one of those. A popular Sichuan dish, Pickled Mustard Fish (sometimes called Hot and Sour Fish with Pickled Mustard Greens) used to be a local specialty within the province of Sichuan. But it grew super popular elsewhere in China and overseas in the past 20 – 30 years.
To make this recipe, the pickled mustard is an essential ingredient. It’s very important to getting the right flavor. It’s actually pretty easy to get pickled mustard from Asian grocery stores or even Amazon. Go for the ones in clear plastic packages. Make sure the mustard is whole and has not been sliced. Before you use it, make sure you rinse the pickled mustard a few times to remove any astringent taste.
Obviously, fish is the most important ingredient for this recipe. Like I mentioned in my previous Fish stock/broth recipe, traditionally a whole fish is used to make dishes like Pickled Mustard Fish or Red Braised Fish. The fish bones are used to make the stock. The fish fillets are thinly sliced, marinated, and cooked in a stock flavored with various herbs and seasoning. Nowadays in Asia, a skilled seafood seller can do most of the fish preparation for you. But at least in the US, it’s not that easy to find that.
Of course, you can do everything yourself, including boning and filleting a fish. But that requires you to get a suitable fish. That is, a fish with mildly tasting meat that is large enough (~3 lb) to be filleted. In China, grass carp and northern snakehead are some of the most typical river fish used for filleting. In the US, it’s hard to find such fish in grocery stores. I have seen some Asian grocery stores selling grass carp, but they are always too big for my purposes.
So I came up with a solution I feel is best suited for me, and hopefully for you as well! I make fish stock using a relatively small tilapia, which is a cheap and abundant fish in the US. Then I purchase two skin-on boneless fish fillets from my local chain grocery stores. Together, they make a delicious and authentic-tasting Pickled Mustard Fish that can be the center of a family dinner or gathering.
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes (not including fish stock/broth)
Servings: 4 to 6 people
- 2 fish fillets 1
- 4 cups fish stock/broth 2
- 1 bag pickled mustard 3
- 1 1-inch ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 green onions
- 2 whole pickled chili peppers or 1 tablespoon chopped pickled chili peppers 4
- 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Fish Fillet Marinade
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- pinch of ground ginger
- 1 egg white 5
- 2 teaspoons corn starch or tapioca starch
- De-scale the fish fillets if there are any scales. Then cut the fillets at an angle (about 45 degree) into thin slices. Gently rinse all the fish slices a few times and put them in a bowl. No need to pat dry. Add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon of ground white pepper, and a pinch of ground ginger, mixing gently. Marinate for 10 minutes. Then add the egg white to the fish slices, making sure all the slices are wrapped with egg white. Finally add about 2 teaspoons of corn starch, mixing well. Marinate the fish slices for another 15 minutes (for about 25 minutes in total). While marinating the fish, proceed to the other steps.
- Rinse the pickled mustard a few times to remove any astringent taste. Then cut the pickled mustard along the veins into thin slices.
- Peel and cut the ginger into slices. Separate the green onion green parts and white parts. Chop the white parts into large slices and the green parts into thin pieces (to be used at the very end). Peel and cut the garlic cloves into slices.
- Heat a large well-seasoned wok or dutch oven under medium-high heat. When the wok is hot, add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Swirl the oil around the wok a bit. Then add the previously prepared ginger, garlic, white parts of the green onion, and 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns into the wok. Stir around a bit to release their flavors. Then add the chopped pickled sour mustard and pickled chili peppers, stirring and tossing everything together for a minute.
- Pour the 4 cups of fish stock into the wok, bringing to a boil. Turn the heat to low or medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the desired amount of pickled mustard to a large bowl. Use a slotted spoon or colander to filter out the rest of the solids.
- Turn the heat to medium-high again. When the fish stock starts bubbling, slowly add the marinated fish slices from step 1, one at a time, minimizing overlap. This helps the heat distribute equally among all the fish slices. Cook the fish slices for about 1 minute and turn off the heat. DO NOT overcook. Add all the fish slices on top of the picked mustard and carefully pour the liquid into the bowl.
- Sprinkle the sliced green onions on top. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable in a cast iron skillet under high heat. When the oil is getting hot, pour it on top of the green onions. If you want more heat, add some chopped or coarse dried chili peppers along with the sliced green onions before pouring the hot oil on top. Enjoy right away!
- You can use either skin-on or skinless fish fillets. I prefer skin-on fillets for this recipe as the skin holds the meat together better and often helps to result in a desired curl. I got mine from the seafood section of my local H-E-B grocery store.
- Please see my post on how to make Fish Stock/Broth. This dish is best made with fish stock to capture the full flavor of the fish. It really doesn’t take that long to make the stock. You can make the stock ahead of time and use it within the next three days.
- You can get pickled mustard from most Asian grocery stores or on Amazon. Look for the whole ones in a clear plastic package.
- You can use either whole pickled chili peppers (泡椒), or chopped pickled chili peppers (剁椒). They are not super spicy but do provide a slight kick for this dish. My kids (2 and 5) can even tolerate the heat. But if you don’t want any heat, skip this step.
- Save the egg yolk to make fried rice.
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