chilli bean paste fish and tofu
Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu Chinese new year dish
by Liv
January 14, 2011

Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu Chinese new year dish

Jan 14, 2011 | Chinese Food, Recipes, Taiwanese Food | 12 comments

Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu

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 “” 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.

Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu


Chili Bean Paste Fish and Tofu Chinese new year dish

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 people



  • 1 whole fish I used sea bass
  • 2 thin slices ginger chop finely
  • 2 spring onions chop finely
  • 3 cloves garlic chop finely
  • 1/2 chili remove seeds and chop finely
  • 50 g beef or pork mince
  • 350 g tofu cut into the size as the photo shows, pan fry both sides


  • 1.5 tbsp chili bean paste sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 ltr boiled water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp rice vinegar


  1. Remove all the dirty bits of fish as procedures photo. This procedure ensures the fish tastes better and removes any unpleasant fishy taste.
  2. A teaspoon or similar can help to get rid of the bits you don't want
  3. 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.
  4. Use your finger to rub some chilli bean paste into those cuts
  5. Use your finger to rub some of chili bean paste inside of fish belly.
  6. 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.
  7. Cut the tofu into the size as this photo shows
  8. Pan fry the tofu on both sides
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Put the fish back in the wok and add the boiled water or stock to cook.
  12. Add tofu and simmer it to reduce down the sauce.


By Liv

Illustrator by day, home chef at night. I worked as a professional chef for many years but now I draw for a living. I now cook just for the love of cooking. The recipes on this website are all influenced by things I have eaten in different locations around the world.

You May Also Like



The very first time I tried Guoba was with my grandfather. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Taipei for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch eating out is very much a family tradition where my grandfather would order all kinds of different dishes I hadn’t tried before. This...

read more
Caramelised Pineapple Coconut Rice Pudding

Caramelised Pineapple Coconut Rice Pudding

Caramelised Pineapple Coconut Rice Pudding. This is the first time I’ve made this caramelised pineapple with coconut rice pudding. My daughter has been eating rice pudding at her nursery recently and she mentioned it a few times so I thought I’d have a go at making...

read more
How To Make a Basic Japanese Ramen Noodle Soup

How To Make a Basic Japanese Ramen Noodle Soup

Ramen is one of my family’s favourite Japanese dishes. In a city like Edinburgh where it’s almost always wet and/or cold, ramen (along with hot pots) are the perfect dishes for warming yourself up. A good ramen is one of the most rewarding dishes you can eat, full of...

read more


  1. Judy / Bebe Love Okazu

    Happy New Year, Liv! Pink is my favorite color. 🙂 I love your new blog design, and you’re right, it’s perfectly cheery and pretty to brighten up any dreary-weathered day! The fish looks fantastic although I would be scared to try making this at home. I’m such a chicken I only cook w/ fillets! 🙁 I also liked your post on the scallops. I should make your scallop dish to bring our family the 4 joys for 2011. 🙂

    • admin

      Hello Judy,
      Many thanks for your kind comment. I know a lot of people afraid of fish head. lol But I’m sure scallop would be nice for Chinese new year dinner too. Are you going to celebrate Chinese new year with your family this year?

  2. Jessica's Dinner Party

    Thanks for such a great explanation on Chinese traditions for the New Year. It’s always fun to know how different cultures celebrate.

    • admin

      Hello Jessica,
      Many thanks for your kind comment.

  3. Nancy/SpicieFoodie

    Hi Liv, As always this dish looks spectacular! I enjoyed reading about Chinese new year’s traditions, always so interesting to learn about other cultures. The fish looks and sounds like it would taste heavenly. I’ll have to come back on Feb. 2nd to wish you a happy new year:)

    • admin

      Hello Nancy,
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I always enjoy your post as well. 😀

  4. Shirley

    This looks delicious and so flavorful! I’m looking forward to seeing my family for the new year as well. 恭喜发财!

  5. Hyosun Ro

    Your fish looks so delicious! I also like to cook whole fish with the head and tail on, and I love your flavor combination here. I know I have not been here for a while, but your blog does look very pretty and cheery. Happy New Year!!

    • admin

      Hello Hyosun,
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I really appreciate it. Happy Chinese new year.

  6. AsianSupper

    Wow! We made it this weekend and my family and I loved it. I’m sure I will make it more often now that I learned how easy it is to make. Thanks for the great recipe.

    • admin

      Hello Asian supper,
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I’m really happy that you and your family like my recipe. I’m a member of your website: and I really like that website. I can’t wait to share more recipes on your website and wish you have a great Chinese new year.

  7. RecipeNewZ

    I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts 🙂 ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author’s site.

    It’s called RecipeNewZ (with Z) –

    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board 🙂



  1. Chinese New Year!The Year of the Rabbit! | The Home of ABOVE Restaurant & Bar and Eden Marketplace - [...] to make your new year celebration delicious and lucky:  Chili Bean Paste Fish with Tofu:   (We can help…
  2. It’s Chinese New Year: The Year Of The Rabbit. Bring On The Pineapple Tarts, Green Pea Cookies, & A Dose Of Much-Needed Good Luck! | China Village - [...] from Doldol & Mochi that are almost too posh to eat, and Egg Wans Food Odyssey’s gorgeous Chili Bean…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating