Wan Zhou Grilled Fish (Chongqing Kaoyu)

wanzhou grilled fish

Wanzhou Grilled Fish (万州烤鱼), a distinctive traditional dish hailing from the Wanzhou district of Chongqing, belongs to the Chongqing-style Sichuan cuisine. This culinary delight seamlessly combines three cooking methods – marinating, grilling, and stewing – while incorporating the essence of ingredients used in Chongqing hot pot. The result is a medley of flavors, including numbing and spicy, savory and fragrant, pickled pepper, peppercorn aroma, chili flavor, consummate oiliness, and a tantalizing spiciness, among others, earning it the affection of food enthusiasts.

The preparation of Wanzhou Grilled Fish involves cleaning and splitting the fish, laying it flat in an iron clamp, and grilling it over charcoal. The grilled fish is then served on a specialized iron plate, topped with a base sauce made from ingredients such as butter, red oil, sugar, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili. This flavorful base is complemented with fresh and crunchy vegetables like celery and bean sprouts. The taste profile is characterized by a salty and spicy sensation that leaves a lasting impression.

To cook Wanzhou Grilled Fish, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by cleaning the fish – remove the scales, make a dorsal incision to remove the internal organs, and wash thoroughly. Make a cross-cut pattern on the fish’s back. Marinate the fish with 5 grams each of cooking wine, salt, and MSG10 minutes.
  2. Place the fish on a grill rack and grill for approximately 10 minutes until it is about 90% cooked. Brush a layer of lard onto the fish (the number of times you brush the oil can be adjusted based on your preference; generally, twice is ideal). The first brushing should occur when the fish is about 50-60% cooked, and the second brushing just before it is fully cooked. This ensures that the oil’s fragrance permeates the fish. Sprinkle cumin powder on top and grill for an additional 1 minute. Transfer the fish to a stainless steel plate lined with onion strands.
  3. In a wok, heat vegetable oil (around 1-2 tablespoons). Stir-fry ginger, garlic, and doubanjiang (broad bean paste) over medium heat until fragrant. Add the remaining lard, fresh chicken fat, and fresh broth. Season with chicken essence and white sugar. Finally, add celery and cucumber segments. Bring to a boil and pour the mixture over the fish in the prepared plate.
  4. In another pan, heat 30 grams of vegetable oil until it reaches 50% heat. Add dried chili and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry over medium heat until fragrant. Pour this mixture over the fish. Garnish with chopped green onions, cilantro, and red chili strips.

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