I learned about this Szechuan piao xiang chili fish fillet from the Grand Szechuan restaurant. Ever since we were introduced to the piao xiang chili fish fillet, it has become our favorite ever since and still is. For the longest time, I’m trying to make this at home but it never came close, not even close actually. And of course for the longest time, piao xiang chili fish fillet was the number one reason (besides their spicy couple beef dish) we visited Grand Szechuan so often until the waiters knew us.
Just in case you don’t know already, Szechuan is well-known for their red-looking dishes (thanks to the chili) and the “ma la” (literally means numb and spicy in Mandarin) sensation when you eat them (thanks to Szechuan peppercorns). Unlike regular peppercorns, Szechuan peppercorns are highly aromatic and when you bite into them, you may feel the numb sensation in your tongue, making the whole hot spicy experience even more intense (if you like hot spicy food that is). This piao xiang chili fish fillet is exactly that. The spicy thick sauce is prepared with ground red chilis, szechuan peppercorns, garlic, ginger and chicken broth. The sauce is then thickened with corn starch. Adding slices of cucumbers/zucchini into this dish is really nice too. I highly recommend using sole fish fillet to prepare this dish. The sole fillet just melt in your mouth and the whole dish is just so addicting (to us anyway). If you can’t find sole fillet, the best substitution is to use cat fish fillet. They are more common in the U.S. as well.
I’m proud to announce that I’ve finally developed this recipe on my own and it tasted exactly the way we like it from the restaurant. Wohoooo!!! Piao xiang chili fish fillet is the type of dish when I have it, I always ended up eating bowls and bowls of rice with it. How can you not with the delicious thick sauce!! My mouth’s watering just thinking about it!!! This is definitely a keeper forever and ever! Now, we gotta ordered something else at the restaurant since I’ve tackled piao xiang chili fish fillet lol!
- 2 oz (about 60 g) of dried red chili (soaked with warm water until soft)
- ¼ cup water (add more if needed)
- 2-3 oz (3-4 Tbsp) of the chili paste you prepared above (I only use 2 oz, if you want it spicier you can add more)
- 5 cloves garlic (peeled and finely minced)
- 2-inch sliced ginger (finely minced)
- 1 cucumber (peeled)
- 1 lb sole fish fillet (or cat fish fillet if you can't find sole)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 4 stalks of spring onion (both white and green parts finely chopped)
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (crushed with mortar and pestle or with rolling pins)
- 1 chicken bouillon
- 2 Tbsp of corn starch + 1 Tbsp of water
- 3 Tbsp of canola oil
- Few sprigs of cilantro (leaves picked)
- In a clean food processor put in 2 oz of soaked dried chili and add in about ¼ cup of water and process into paste. You may add a bit more water to get it going if it's too thick. You only need about 2-3 oz (3-4 Tbsp) of the chili paste for this recipe. Store the rest in air-tight container in the refrigerator for next use and it will last for about 1 week. If you freeze them, they may last up to 1 month
- Peel the cucumber and halved it lengthwise then halved again lengthwise. Then thinly slice them lengthwise into 1-inch width strips and set aside
- Preheat a medium to large wok or pot. Add the canola oil. Add in the chili paste and szechuan peppercorns and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and ginger and continue to stir-fry for another 1 minute. Add in 2 cups of chicken broth and grate in the chicken bouillon and bring to a boil. Add in the sliced cucumbers and cook until they are soft but not mushy, about 1 minute. Bring back to a boil
- Add in the corn starch mixture and continue to stir until thickened. Once it's thickened, add in the fish slices and stir gently now (so you don't break the fish fillet into flakes) and let them cooked through, which won't take long, around 1 minute. Taste and season with salt if needed. Turn the heat off. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately with some rice and other vegetable and/or meat dishes