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Shanghai Smoked Fish (上海熏鱼, Shanghai XunYu)

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Shanghai Smoked Fish is one of the traditional dishes Shanghai is famous for, it being considered unmissable from the menus of various restaurants. The preparation of it implies "bathing" the finely fried fish in a sweet and mouth-watering brown sauce.

As it is well-known, Shanghai is situated on both: a seacoast and the bank of a river, thus fish and seafood can be easily found all over the city. This dish is characterized by a somewhat peppery and salty taste, with a small twist of sweetness. In Shanghai restaurants, the smoked fish is commonly served warm, thus enriching the aroma of this dish. If initially the fish was first marinated before being prepared, during the time this step has been skipped by many modern cooks. The dish is basically made from: salmon, cod, pike or any other firm fish, brown sugar, Chinese rice wine, scallion, chicken stock, oil, sea salt, pepper, five-spice powder and herbs.


The preparation of this dish is time requiring, as before smoking, the fish has to be cured, cut into thin slices, rubbed with a mixture made of sea salt, sugar, herbs and pepper, then placed in a glass vessel covered with plastic foil, and left to marinate at room temperature for at least three hours, stirring every half hour or so. Then the fish is removed from the marinade, rinsed carefully under cold running water, patted dry with paper towels, and left to dry for about two hours. The remained marinade is strained in a saucepan and brought to a boil over high heat, after what the heat is reduced and the chicken broth, brown sugar and five-spice powder are stirred in. The sauce is simmered, while the fish is being fried in another wok until it is crunchy and deep dark brown. Finally, the fish pieces are picked up one at a time with a pair of slender sticks, dipped in the slowly boiling sauce and arranged side by side on a platter. Right before serving, the smoked fish is cooled a little and sprinkled with the five-spice powder.

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