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Fish Substitute in Chinese Cooking

Fish

Most of the fish eaten in China are fresh-water fish. Since it is often difficult in the West to obtain the same fish as those used in the original recipes, we have compromised by suggesting that the fish used should be good to eat, or roughly the same type as the original i.e. oily or white, and since fish are usually cooked whole in Chinese recipes, Chinese food recipe, that the fish should look right on the plate.

  • Baby Haddock - the flesh and taste are almost always good, but the length of the whole fish presents many problems to the cook, and when cooked it does not look very Chinese. However, on balance it is probably the best general fish for Chinese cooking since it is almost always available.
  • Wrasse - a small wrasse is a very good shape and the flavor of the flesh is delicate. The meat is firm enough to be easily eaten with chopsticks. It is used in Chinese restaurants in the UK
  • Whiting is too long and thin in shape and the flesh is too soft to be satisfactory with chopsticks. Not recommended.
  • Mackerel is too oily for most Chinese recipes.
  • Herrings are too oily for most Chinese recipes.
  • Sprats are good shape for small fish but too oily to give a satisfactory result.
  • Sardines have a good flavor and are acceptable shape for small fish dishes.
  • Gurnard the size and flesh are both good, but the fish is not always available.
  • Trout - the size and shape are acceptable, but the flesh is a little soft for chopsticks eating, and the flavor very undistinguished when cooked in the Chinese style.
  • Roach - the shape is good and its flavor can be very good if fresh. Being fresh water fish roach are as close to the Chinese originals as is possible, but they are hard to find.
  • Brea - when really fresh these fish are excellent for Chinese cooking, but they quickly lose their flavor.
  • Snapper - mentioned in some Chinese recipes, Chinese food recipe, but is a rather dull fish with a poor flavor.
  • Mirror carp are perfect but only available at Christmas time.

All fresh-water fish should be soaked in a solution of 1 tbsp. vinegar to 2 cups cold water for 10 minutes to remove any muddy flavor.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.