Cook up this classic restaurant-styled Chinese sweet and sour fish dish which comes with an amazing recipe for a gastronomic Cantonese-inspired sweet and sour sauce! Quick and easy to prepare, and immensely versatile, this dish can be a quick weekday meal or your favourite weekend indulgence!
In Chinese cuisine, there are many sweet and sour dishes which are differentiated by regions or areas in China where these originate, or by dialect clan – for example, Cantonese, Hainanese, Szechuan, and so on. I am always amazed at how these taste distinctly different from each other, but are all so flavourful and are, in essence, authentic sweet and sour flavours.
The Cantonese are well known for their fine cuisine, and undoubtedly, when it comes to sweet and sour dishes, I think most of us have indelible impressions of the Cantonese version, which tends to be delightfully more sweet than sour.
Needless to say, there are so many good, and great, recipes one can try. Having experimented with many, I have stuck with just one or two recipes over the years. Here is one that you can start with – this is my go-to recipe for any dish – pork, fish, prawns or even tofu – that calls for a sweet and sour sauce.
I think what makes this fabulous is the use of a premium quality plum sauce, like that which you pour into, and toss with raw fish and grated vegetables in Yu Sheng, a specialty dish served at many Chinese New Year festive gatherings. The warm flavours of the plum sauce, combined with the citrus undertones of lemon juice and honey-like sweetness of brown sugar, adds breadth and depth of flavours, offsetting the tartness of the tomato and chilli sauces. The result is a perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce.
In preparing sweet and sour fish, I always use fresh red snapper, though commonly, garoupa or grouper is often used. Not all fish are suitable, taste-wise, with sweet and sour sauce. Usually, white-fleshed fish with very subtle or mild flavours are good options.