Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shui Zhu Yu, 水煮鱼)

I just finished making this for lunch and it was good. However, there are some things about the recipe that I got from the web that I would do differently next time. First, there were way too many Sichuan peppercorns. They interfered with the textural enjoyment of the dish. Also too much oil. I used what we had in the freezer for the fish (Atlantic Cod). It tasted good, but it fell apart while eating it, which was disappointing as it was the best part of the dish. Next time I would use a firmer-fleshed fish like Tilapia or Catfish. I also found it to be not spicy enough for me. Next time I will use chili oil instead of just plain oil. Otherwise it was really good.

So, here’s my rewrite of the recipe. Please forgive me I haven’t prepared “MY” recipe. Laura’s in WI, James is in OR and I’m all alone, no one to bounce taste-buds and opinions off of.  Would welcome you to try and comment. Would appreciate the feedback!

Here is the fish sliced thinly.
Here is the fish in the marinade ready to go into the fridge.
IMG_1793 (1)
Garlic, ginger, scallions, chilies and peppercorns ready to go. (Too many peppercorns as it turned out.)
Soup components ready to go.
Soup boiling away.


Here is the recipe:

Serves: 2

Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shui Zhu Yu)


1 pound, FIRM fish fillets – such as tilapia or catfish
3/4 teaspoon, salt
1/2 teaspoon, ground white pepper (divided)
2 tablespoons, Shaoxing wine (divided) – or dry sherry
1 egg white
1 1/2 tablespoons, cornstarch
1 tablespoon, vegetable oil
1/4 cup, chili oil
3 cups, chicken stock
2 cups, water
5 slices, ginger
3 cloves, garlic – thinly sliced
2 scallions – cut into 2-inch lengths
3 anise pods
5 shiitake mushrooms – sliced
3/4 pound, soybean sprouts
black bean garlic sauce  (or soy sauce) – to taste
1/2 cup, dried red chili peppers – de-seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon, Sichuan peppercorns – soaked and drained


  1. Soak Sichuan peppercorns in a bit of heated water or chicken broth FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. Otherwise they will be crunchy and off-putting. Strain when ready to use.
  2. Cut the fish into 1/4-inch thick slices at a 45-degree angle. The goal is to get pieces of fish with a lot of surface area, as they’ll shrink once cooked.
  3. Next, marinate the fish. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry.) Mix (best with your hand) everything well. Next, add the egg white and mix, followed by 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Finally, drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the top. Put the fish in the refrigerator, and marinate for about 20 minutes.
  4. While fish is marinating, prepare all the other ingredients.
  5. In a wok set over high heat, add the chicken stock, water, ginger, garlic, anise pods, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry.) Bring it to a boil. Now is a good time to add the black bean garlic sauce to taste (if you don’t have any just use soy sauce.) Next, add the bean sprouts, and bring to a boil once more. Cook for one minute. Now turn down the heat. Using a fine-meshed strainer, spider, or large slotted spoon, scoop all of the solids out of the soup and transfer to a heat proof serving bowl. It’s very important that your serving vessel be heat-proof, as you’ll be pouring very hot oil into it later. I removed the anise pods at this point because they had done their job.
  6. Now, in a small pot, slowly heat up 1/4 cup of chili oil. It doesn’t have to be exact. To test whether the oil is heated to the correct temperature, dip a wooden/bamboo chopstick into the oil and look for small bubbles forming around it, but no smoke. If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot!
  7. When the oil is heating, bring the soup back to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Place your fish, one piece at a time, into the soup. Once all the fish is in the soup, turn up the heat and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, immediately pour everything (fish and soup) on top of the vegetables in the serving bowl.
  8. Quickly sprinkle the dried chili peppers and the Sichuan peppercorns evenly over the fish, and pour the heated chili oil evenly over everything. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle the chili and the peppercorns, but not hot enough to burn the spices. Serve immediately!


3 thoughts on “Sichuan Boiled Fish (Shui Zhu Yu, 水煮鱼)

    1. I have the utmost respect for folks that cook Indian. I have never been able to do it well. Hence we always go out for Indian food. I will try making your fish though!

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