Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shui Zhu Yu)

Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shui Zhu Yu)

Sichuan Boiled Fish (水煮鱼), also known as “Shui Zhu Yu” or “Water-Boiled Fish,” stands as a distinctive and beloved dish originating from the Sichuan and Chongqing regions in China. This culinary masterpiece, belonging to the Sichuan cuisine category, gained initial popularity in Cuiyun Township, Yubei District, Chongqing. Renowned for its unique combination of flavors, Sichuan Boiled Fish is a culinary journey that marries freshness, spice, and a tantalizing array of textures.

The predecessor to Sichuan Boiled Fish traces its roots back to Chongqing’s hot pot fish, initially crafted as a special treat for taxi drivers. The dish gained widespread acclaim during a culinary competition held in the Chongqing region in 1983 when a Sichuan chef clinched a top prize with this creation, elevating it to culinary stardom.

The genesis of this dish can be attributed to a moment of culinary improvisation. One day, a chef’s friend, who lived along the banks of the Jialing River, brought freshly caught Jialing River grass carp to the chef’s home. Faced with a lack of other ingredients, the chef ingeniously prepared the first pot of Sichuan Boiled Fish. The resulting dish, with its tender and flavorful fish, combined with the bold and spicy broth, earned lavish praise from the friend and marked the inception of a culinary journey.

The ingredients for this gastronomic delight include fresh grass carp, bean sprouts, chili, and more. The hallmark of Sichuan Boiled Fish lies in its ability to be “oily but not greasy, spicy but not dry, numbing but not bitter, with tender and smooth meat.”

To recreate this dish, the chef starts by dissecting the fish, separating the head, filleting the body into slices, and cutting the fillets into bite-sized pieces. The fish slices are then marinated with egg white, salt, dry starch, and cooking wine. Meanwhile, a mix of vegetable oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chili peppers is slowly heated in a wok. Once the chili peppers change color, half of the oil, peppercorns, and chili peppers are removed for later use.

With the heat turned up, garlic and ginger are added to the remaining oil in the wok, releasing their fragrant aroma. The fish head and fillets are then tossed into the wok, stir-fried briefly, and seasoned with a splash of cooking wine, salt, and hot water. As the fish head broth simmers, the marinated fish slices are delicately placed in the boiling soup, cooking rapidly. Just before serving, a finishing touch of chicken essence, white pepper powder, and Sichuan pepper salt is added to enhance the flavors.

Served in a bowl with blanched bean sprouts, the fish slices are gently laid in the fragrant broth. The reserved half of the chili-infused oil is then drizzled over the top, creating a visually appealing and aromatic masterpiece.

Sichuan Boiled Fish is not just a dish; it’s an art form, a symphony of flavors and textures that has evolved from humble beginnings into a culinary sensation. Its popularity has transcended regional boundaries, earning it a well-deserved reputation as a symbol of Sichuan and Chongqing’s rich and diverse gastronomic heritage.

Leave a Comment

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