Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, welcome ladies and gentlemen to the year of the dragon!
When The Fella and I packed up and moved across the world from Ireland to Australia, we took the long way down. Once we found out our furniture was going to take three months on the slow boat, we decided we also didn’t need to rush. So when we left Dublin we were initially bound for Beijing, not Sydney. From Beijing we travelled down through China, into Vietnam, back up into Cambodia, then onto Malaysia and Singapore before finally deciding we should probably face reality again.
It was the trip of a lifetime and China was definitely a highlight. It’s such an enormous country with a hugely diverse culture, people and countryside. We spent three and a half weeks there and it was not nearly enough, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s planning a holiday. And the food? Oh my, the food! Sometimes it’s not for the faint hearted, navigating a menu can be more confusing than learning the modh coinníollach (a famously difficult tense in the Irish language); but it’s also so interesting and not at all like any Chinese take-away/restaurant you’ve ever been too.
I learned to make this recipe while doing a course at Yangshuo Cooking School. We spent a very relaxing few days in the little village of Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, surrounded by the most fabulous mountains I have ever seen.
This recipe is the local staple and it’s great, totally moreish and a cinch to cook. I also did a chicken version for The Fella (he’s allergic to fish) and it was equally delicious. If getting to China on your holidays is going to be a little bit of a stretch, make this and bring a little bit of China home instead.
200 g (7 oz) any firm white fish you fancy (with the skin on), in this case I used a leather jacket.
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tomato, chopped
1 red pepper (or capsicum), sliced
1 green pepper (or capsicum), sliced
25 g (¾ oz) ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 glass of beer
½ tbsp oyster sauce
handful of spring onions, chopped
Add the peanut oil to a wok or frying pan and heat. Once the pan is fairly hot, place the fish in the oil, skin side down, and fry for about 2-3 minutes or until the skin starts to brown. Next add the tomato, peppers, garlic and ginger to the pan (on top of the fish). Pour over the beer and soy and oyster sauce. Cover and cook this together gently for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked and the sauce is beginning to reduce. Then remove the lid and reduce the sauce for a further 2 minutes or to your taste. Sprinkle the spring onions over the top and serve with a mountain of rice and a bottle of very cold beer.
For the chicken version, I simply browned two chicken drumsticks in the pan and braised them for about fifteen minutes in the beer/soy/oyster sauce mixture before adding the veggies. I did need to nearly double to quantities for the sauce to compensate for the longer cooking times. I was pretty much winging it but it worked out fine, The Fella certainly had no complaints.
What a perfect way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Beer fish (or chicken) with a cold beer, it couldn’t be any better.