To cook fish right the Chinese way, you must begin at the market. For the first thing is to tell your fish monger to keep the scales on . If the scales are removed, the skin will become dry and the taste will be wrong, and you might as well cook it the American way. If the fish is too long for the pot, you may have to cut it in two, but the whole fish looks much nicer. Always keep the head and the tongue in a fish cheek.
It is most important that fish should be very fresh. It goes bad very quickly and should be cooked as soon as possible. The following are criterias to look for when buying fresh fish:
The gills should be bright red and moist
The eyes should be full and bright, not sunken and dull
The flesh should be firm, and not flabby, and the tail straight, not drooping
There should be no disagreeable odor. A muddy odor does not indicate that the fish is no longer fresh, but rather that the fish was caught in muddy waters.
The skin should be shiny, iridescent, tight and firmly attached to the flesh.
The shiny, intact scales should adhere firmly to the skin.
The belly should not be swollen or faded.