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One Food, Five Flavors

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fish and Seafood

Spring Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(1) page(s): 18

"What is Shanghainese food," Diane Jacob asks in this issue? "What is Zhejiang food" Ellen G. inquires via e-mail? Many readers wonder about Cantonese, Hunanese and many other food tastes. What will the same food taste like with different flavors? In response to these and similar queries, here are two recipes with the same main ingredients.

While we have selected fish tails, one could make any recipe with a pound of fish filets, with an equal amount of fish steaks which is fish with skin and on the bone and sliced cross-wise, or even with small whole fish. One could also make it with pork, chicken, beef, lamb, or another protein food. Likewise, it could also be made with fish cheeks or other parts of fish, assuming the fish scales have been removed, and the fish rinsed and dried before use.

Do you have a favorite among them? Can you make one similar recipe taste as though it came from another region in China? Enjoy the comparison, and the challenge!
Shanghai-style Stewed Fish Tails
4 fish tails, each about six to eight inches long
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 scallions, cut into two inch lengths, then into long thin strips
3 cloves garlic, cut in thin slices, then into thin strips
1/2 cup corn oil
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons rice wine
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
1. Cut each tail in half the long way and remove the center bone, then cut it in half again, and dry the pieces.
2. Marinate the fish tails in the dark soy and white pepper for half an hour
3. Mix garlic and scallion strips. Heat corn oil and fry them in it for half to one minute or until crisp, then remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Reserve the oil.
4. Mix cornstarch with like amount of water and cost the fish tails with this paste. Do not discard the extra cornstarch paste.
5. Reheat the oil and fry the batter-coated fish tails just until they brown, then add the rice wine, thin soy sauce, and sugar and cover and simmer for five minutes, and remove them to a warm platter.
6. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until it thickens and pour this over the fish and serve.
Hunan-style Fried Fish Tails
4 fish tails, cut in half the long way, scales and bones removed.
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine
2 Tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground coarsely
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup corn oil
1 Tablespoon pickled vegetable, minced fine
1. Marinate the fish tails in soy sauce and rice wine for fifteen minutes, then drain.
2. Mix ground Sichuan peppercorns with salt and flour and coat the fish tails.
3. Heat the oil and fry the fish tails until brown and cooked, about five minutes, then drain and put on a warm platter. Sprinkle the pickled vegetable on top and serve.

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