Fish 8: Fish Slices (魚片)

Take slices of black carp or a grouper, season with autumn sauce, then add starch powder and egg white. Start a wok and stir-fry them over high heat. Plate them using a small dish and add green onions, Szechuan pepper, and soy-pickled ginger. Each dish should not contain more than six liang of fish, since heat cannot be evenly and thoroughly applied when there is too much ingredients.

魚片
取青魚、季魚片,秋油郁之,加芡粉、蛋清,起油鍋炮炒,用小盤盛起,加蔥、椒、瓜薑,極多不過六兩,太多則火氣不透

Notes:
This recipe is quite similar to the preparation of our contemporary stir-fried fish slices (炒魚片), which shows how old this method of fish preparation likely is. Although some recipes contain more ingredients than this, regardless the core technique for stir-frying the fish is the same.

While stir-frying fish slices (likely stir-frying itself) sounds easy to do, all too often the fish slices gets cooked into jerky by the novice cook or stirred until it disintegrates into something more like fish floss. Successful preparation of this dish takes some skill and a few tricks. First the fish’s flesh needs to be sliced with its grain so the pieces does not easily fall apart. Next, the fish must be first quickly pan fried in a wok to set their shape before being quickly and gently flipped until the fish is barely cooked. The cooking typically takes less than a minute or so. Any other ingredients that goes into the dish must be precooked to not mess up this timing.

When done well, the resulting dish is sublime.

Fish 4: Groupers

Groupers1 have few bones and are best when sliced and stir-fried. For stir-frying, the more thinly sliced the grouper’s flesh the better. Lightly season the fish with autumn sauce, then mix it with starch-powder and egg-white before putting it into the wok to stir-fry, adding the appropriate seasonings while stir-frying. The oil that should be used here is vegetable oil.

季魚
季魚少骨,炒片最佳。炒者以片薄為貴。用秋油細郁後,用縴粉、蛋清摟之,入油鍋炒,加作料炒之。油用素油。

 
Notes:
1The grouper in this section is referred to as jiyu (季魚) or as “鲫魚”. It is one of many species of groupers from the genus Epinephelus. It is also known more commonly as shibanyu (石班魚) or sometimes just banyu (班魚). The latter name should not be confused with the fish described in River Delicacies 5: Snakehead Fish (班魚).

River Delicacies 5: Snakehead Fish (班魚)

江鮮單::班魚
班魚最嫩,剝皮去穢,分肝、肉二種,以雞湯煨之,下酒三分、水二分、秋油一分;起鍋時,加薑汁一大碗、蔥數莖,殺去腥氣

Epinephelus bruneus
The Longtooth Grouper, one of the many Asian species of groupers commonly used in Chinese cuisine. To my knowledge they are all delicious. Although its Chinese name is the same as the snakehead it is otherwise unrelated.(Credit: efishalbum.com)

List of River Delicacies::Snakehead fish[1]
Snakehead fish are the most tender of all fish. To prepare it, skin the fish and clean-out its inedible innards.[2] Separate the fish’s liver from the flesh and braise them in chicken broth with three parts wine, two parts water, and one part autumn sauce. Prior to plating add one large bowl of ginger juice and many stalks of green onion to reduce its fishiness.[3]

 

Random notes:
[1]: Okay Yuan Mei, I give up. What is it with you lumping all these saltwater fish in the River Delicacies chapter? There are a tonnes of groupers around China, but none live in fresh water. Maybe this is here for the same reason that river delicacies are items that may be delicacies from the river or transported by river, but seriously, I don’t care anymore. You know what? Maybe I’ve been thinking of the wrong “班魚”. Although the name is commenly used for fish in the Grouper family, it is also relatively common to use it to refer to the fresh-water snakehead fish Channa argus, Channa maculatus, or Channa asiatica (山斑鱼). These fish are native or naturalized to the Yangtze river, are very tender and are braised to make medicinal soups, some of which are similar to the above recipe. Judging from (1) the recipe here being a weird one for groupers, (2) Yuan Mei does not mention any “typical” recipes for the fish and (3) the fact that groupers are NOT freshwater fish, I am starting to suspect that maybe Yuan Mei’s 班魚 is not from a spotted fish of Genus Epinephelus but rather one of the snake patterned fish from the Channa Genus. However, due to the lack of definitive information, I’m going to keep this section as grouper for now. But if the right piece of info comes, the name and content of the section will change.

[2]: Hui (穢) literally means “filth/unclean junk”. I assume it’s means innards like stomach, intestines, gills, and other whatnots. That said fish intestines (魚腸) are eaten in many Chinese cuisines, check out the famous dish: “Steam-roasted fish intestines“.