Chili bean paste fish and tofu is the name of this Chinese fish dish. This dish is also my first recipe for this Chinese new year. A lot of people probably don’t know when Chinese New Year is this year but it’s actually the 2nd of February. People from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan will usually celebrate from this day and celebrations will go on for about a week. In
In Chinese language we call Chinese new year eve “除夕” (Chu xi). All of our families will gather together, wear new shoes and wear new clothes. We usually wear red and then we’ll have a large new year dinner together. We call this new year dinner “年夜飯” (Nian ye fan).
Fish is one of the dishes that we must have for new year dinner. Fish in Chinese is called “yu” and it sounds similar to the word “餘” which means “more than enough, spare”. We usually call the fish dish in New year supper “Nian nian you yu 年年有餘”, The whole phrase means “every year have some good things happen and/or money left. Or every year have more than enough money or luck”.
Different families have different traditions for this fish dish for New Year dinner. In my family, we can’t finish this fish in one go. We must leave some fish on the plate, we can’t eat all of it. This is because we believe leaving some fish will bring us luck and money, which also means more than enough money or luck. My grandfather told me, in his navy friend’s home, they can’t turn over the fish because the method for turning over fish looks like a ship or boat capsizing, which of course no-one and especially a navy officer doesn’t want to see.
There is no strict rule of how to cook “Nian Nian you yu” (this dish) for Chinese New Year. You can use any kind of fish you want so long as it’s a whole fish that includes it’s head and tail. I know you’re probably wondering why it has to be a whole fish but using a whole fish represents you doing everything from start to finish and not just doing something halfway.
For this dish I decided to cook Dou Ban Yu. Dou Ban Yu is a really tasty Sichuan style fish dish that can be as spicy as you like but has a really strong taste typical of Sichuan cooking. The most important thing is the red colour from the chilli bean paste (sauce). As mentioned before red is a very good colour for Chinese New Year.
The English translation for Dou Ban Yu is “Chili Bean Paste Fish” and here is my recipe for this dish. I hope you enjoyed reading about this dish and maybe you could give it a go this Chinese New Year.
1 whole fish, I use sea bass today.
2 thin pieces of ginger, chop finely
2 spring onions, chop finely
3 cloves of garlic, chop finely
½ chilli, remove seed and chop finely
50g beef or pork mince
350g Tofu, cut into the size as the photo shown, panfry both sides
1 ½ tablespoon chilli bean paste (sauce)
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 litter of boil water or boil vegetable stock
½ teaspoon ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon rice vinegar
- Remove all the dirty bites of fish as procedures photo. This procedure ensures the fish tastes better and removes any unpleasant fishy taste.
- Cut the fish as the photo shows and use your finger to rub some chilli bean paste into those cuts and inside the fish belly. Leave it aside for 15 minutes after you have done that.
- Heat a wok with 1 tablespoon of oil and panfry both sides of the fish. Leave each side to fry for 2~3 minutes at least, don’t keep turning the fish or you will just make a mess of the fish. Place the fish on a plate after both sides are a golden brown colour.
- Using the wok from step 3, stir-fry the chilli bean paste first for a couple minutes then add the mince to fry it for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add rice wine, chilli, ginger, garlic and just half of a spring onion into the wok and stir-fry it until all the fragrance comes out from the wok. Put the fish back in the wok and add the boiled water or stock to cook.
- Add tofu and simmer it to reduce down the sauce.
Add all the seasonings and mix evenly. Place tofu and fish on a plate and sprinkle the rest of the spring onion on the top as garnish. It’s now ready to serve.
Credit: All photos were taken by Chris at: http://www.chrisradleyphotography.com