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DUNLOP March Cookbooks of Month: Fish

All things fishy go here.

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  1. Fragrant-and-Hot Tiger Prawns (RCC p. 175)

    Some friends were stopping by for drinks and I had bought a pound of medium shrimp to make a go-with nibble, but then my copy of RCC came in and I decided to try this instead. The recipe calls for jumbo shrimp and they definitely would have been preferable. It also calls for finely chopped red pepper, but I didn’t have any so skipped it. Also used sherry instead of Shaoxing and sambal oelek instead of salted chiles.

    She says to leave the shell on the shrimp and I did; but I slit it down the back to the first joint to remove the vein also thinking it might make it easier to eat. I have no qualms about peeling cooked shrimp and I knew my guests wouldn’t either, but next time I make it I think I’ll remove the shell down to the first joint. I know the shells makes for a tastier dish, but I can’t imagine it would suffer too much without them.

    This wasn’t as spicy as I expected, or would have liked, it to be. It could be that my sambal oelek has been sitting around too long. But next time I’ll up the heat factor a bit. These weren’t my favorite shrimp cocktail-time nibble, but they’re probably number two. They were fun to eat and we just kept reaching for one after another. They’d be really good served on rice as a main course as well.

    15 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      That looks great! The shells look crispy enough to eat, crazy as that sounds.

      1. re: saltwater

        Not crazy at all. I think we ended up eating about a quarter of the shells and none of us minded in the least.

      2. re: JoanN

        Thanks JoanN - looks wonderful, and don't know how I missed that recipe - I love shrimp and hadn't noticed this one in RCC.

        1. re: JoanN

          May be off-topic, but what is your favorite shrimp cocktail-time nibble?

          1. re: onefineleo

            It's a recipe for Cilantro Lime Shrimp from the big yellow Gourmet. I've made it at least a dozen times, both at my home and at friends' homes, and it's always very, very! well received.

            Here's an online recipe that's not quite exactly the same as the one in the book, but close enough so I doubt even I would notice the difference.


            1. re: JoanN

              Thank you! I've just added it to my word doc and promise to make and report back. Looks so delicious.

              1. re: onefineleo

                "promise to make and report back"

                Me too! Thanks for the reports Joan and LulusMom, and the recipe for your favorite JoanN.

                Hey onefineleo, how are you? Miss you and your cooking!

          2. re: JoanN

            I also made the Fragrant and Hot Tiger Prawns, although I made it from the link given, since I don't have RCC. I thought this was an absolutely lovely dish, although like JoanN I was surprised that it wasn't spicier. Still, very tasty. I also used (deep breaths aelph) sherry and sambal olek instead of the shaoxing and salted chilies. And, thanks to earlier posts suggesting it, I made it my dutch oven - what a great idea! Kept the splatter to a minimum. I used jumbo shrimp and did go ahead and take the shells off. One thing - if you use the link instead of the book to make this, note that somehow the instructions on when to add the wine/salt have been left out - I just added them along with the ginger/garlic/bean paste. If you assemble everything in advance, this is incredibly easy to make, and we loved it.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Fyi, in the book the wine and salt are tossed with the raw shrimp to marinate for a bit before draining them (that's the instruction in the second paragraph of the link that says to shake the shrimp dry) and tossing the shrimp into the hot oil. I can't imaging that adding those ingredients to the sauce instead made a significan difference.

              1. re: JoanN

                Aha! Thanks for the info. I can't really imagine it made much difference either, but I'll try it that way next time. And really, it was so easy that there will definitely be a next time. The link I had also said nothing about whether or not to peel the shrimp, which is why I went ahead and did so. That (shopping aside) was the most time consuming part of making this dish.

            2. re: JoanN

              I made this last night and we both loved it. I made it as written, using the salted chilies and marinated the shrimp with Shaoxing wine and salt. My arm slipped when I poured the wine in, so I probably had it marinating in about 1/4 cup of wine.

              I used smaller shrimp that I deshelled and deveined. I used much more garlic and ginger (probably 3T of each v. 1 T of ginger.). I also used significantly less oil to cook this.

              After the initial stir fry, that's when the condiments get added and the shrimp gets put back into the pot. Dunlop has you boil until the liquid is gone. Since my shrimp were smaller and I was worried about overcooking, I pulled it off the stove before the liquid evaporated. Plus, I like extra sauce.

              Bottom line - we LOVED this dish. True, it could have used a bit more heat but the flavors were delicious. The chile bean paste mixed in with my copious amounts of ginger just brought this dish to a whole new level. We were little piggies and ate the entire pound of shrimp! (and I had three other dishes + rice, that's how much we liked this dish.

              This is going in the rotation and could be my favorite recipe from RCC so far. Next time I have chinese chives though, I'm making the other shrimp dish.

              1. re: beetlebug

                I love both but those chinese chive ones are the ones that have made it into serious rotation. Very very good.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  It was your post about the shrimp w/chinese chives that prompted me to RCC. But, when I saw that I had all the ingredients for the fragrant and hot shrimp, well, that just pushed that in front.

                  1. re: beetlebug

                    Totally understand. It was finding out that I had a pot of chinese chives growing on my back porch that started me on that recipe.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      My pot of chinese chives has either disappeared or died or something, but I was surprised/upset to find that I didnt' have any. So ... I made the shrimp with chinese chives with regular old chives. While it did make a difference, I think anyone who is holding back because they can't find chinese chives should just go ahead and make with regular. It was still very, very good. My husband said he could eat this every week, and also said "If they had this on the menu at a local chinese restaurant, I'd never order anything else."

            3. Velveted Fish, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, Internet Version

              This was one third of a three dish meal we made last night (Saturday). The recipe calls for halibut fillets or any white fish. We used cod and did not have to substitute any ingredient. As usual we had all our bowls, whisks, and mise en place arranged before starting to cook. This makes the whole process very easy. The fish is sliced into 1/2" pieces and set aside to marinate with wine, egg white, potato flour, a little water and salt. Then the vegetables are prepared, stir fried in succession...very easy to do. DH has declared that he prefers wok cooking to any other method. In fact his words were, "I love it." This from a man who only entered the kitchen to grab another cup of coffee in the morning.

              The dish smelled wonderful, but the taste was less than the sum of it's parts. It was good overall but not as flavorful as I thought it would be. It's certainly easy enough to make again. Perhaps I will after trying others of the same ilk. I'll have to start taking photos.....

              This was the last time I have to use the internet version of any recipe this month. On a whim DH yesterday took himself to our library and asked for both COTMs. The reference librarian brought out Land of Plenty and has put in a request for RCC through the library network in the surrounding area. She'll phone us when it comes in probably early next. I Love our Library!!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                "The dish smelled wonderful, but the taste was less than the sum of it's parts." - I noticed that in another dish I made, and wondered if some more salt would have helped. Great that you are getting the books - beautiful and interesting reading in addition to the recipes.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  I was thinking that before I dismiss a recipe entirely it might be a good idea to make it again and really study the taste. Cooking a recipe for the first time and wanting to eat immediately doesn't really give one the opportunity to get the full essence and nuance of each ingredient. I don't mean to say we wolfed down the food, but eating slowly may help understand how to correct the seasoning to one's individual taste. We ooohhhed and aaahhhed our way through last night's dinner, so we must have liked something about it. This morning DH declared he did enjoy each dish. So tonight, when we make our planned meal, I'll be more careful with tasting and making sure it's what I think the dish ought to taste like. Taste is so subjective.....

                2. re: Gio

                  I made this last night, using Halibut. It was good, though I think I overcooked the fish a bit at the initial frying stage--Dunlop said to cook until "it changes color" but that instruction doesn't really work for halibut, which is a pale whitish-pink when raw which only slightly whitens when cooked.

                  I love the use of a little vinegar in this dish.

                3. Sweet-and-Sour Crispy Fish (LOP page 264)

                  Oh, man. This recipe should come with a warning. Do not attempt without professional supervision.

                  Where to start? Quickly, for those who don’t have the book, you marinate a sea bass, cover it with cornstarch, heat the oil in the wok to 325, cover the fish with a cornstarch paste, fry the fish for a bit, remove the fish from the oil and reheat the oil to 400, fry the fish again until brown and crispy, heave the oil, add new oil, and make the sauce.

                  All was okay until she said to smear the cornstarch paste on the fish while you’re heating the oil. My cornstarch paste was either too thin or lumpy—both in the same bowl. I couldn’t seem to get anything smearable. And attempting this very messy maneuver while watching the oil thermometer made me wish, a rare wish in my case, that I didn’t live alone.

                  Then you hold the fish by the tail, put the head in the hot oil, and pour the hot oil over the fish while you’re holding it somewhat upright. That was a little scary. Okay, time to lay the fish in the oil. Oops. Not enough oil. I could fry the body and the head or the body and the tail. Made do.

                  I removed fish from the wok as directed (the tail broke off), added more oil, and started to heat the oil to 400-425F. as directed but chickened out somewhere around 385 and put the fish in. That’s what the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth must have looked like. Even more scary, but still not quite enough oil, so I just ladled boiling oil over the top of the fish. Oh yeah. You’re supposed to fry the fish until the batter is crisp and golden. But my batter was mostly splattered around the kitchen counter rather than on the fish so I just winged it.

                  Dump oil, add new oil, and make sauce. After you add the aromatics, sauce ingredients, and everyday stock she says to boil it down until the liquid thickens. But mine wasn’t thickening. At least, not much. I gave up after about 10 minutes. I wish she’d said about how long it would take or about how thick it should get, but she didn’t.

                  Pour sauce over fish and garnish with slivered scallions and pickled chiles. Fuggedaboutit. Even if I’d had the pickled chiles, which I didn’t, I was done.

                  I almost hate to say this, because I doubt this recipe is going into regular rotation, but the fish was outstanding. Only parts were crispy, and those parts were a delight, but the fish was moist and not overcooked and altogether excellent. The sauce, thinnish though it was, was damned good, too. I wonder if anyone in Manhattan teaches a crispy sea bass class?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: JoanN

                    Gosh JoanN, I'm just glad you had no emergencies during that cooking session. I hate - Really Hate - to deep fry in my kitchen. You get mega points for your effort. I find that some of Fuchsia's instructions and directions are vague to say the least. I'll be posting my report about tonight's dinner tomorrow morning. We're still recuperating. LOL

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Up until the last paragraph, I was saying to myself "bless you Joan, I'm glad you took one for the team, I'm not trying that"...but then you used the words outstanding, excellent, and damned good. Troublemaker.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        Gee, JoanN, seems you're out of luck. There are 24 crispy sea BREAM classes and 12 crispy sea ANEMONE classes, but not a single crispy sea BASS class.

                        I wonder if I could hire somebody to make this for me? It's either that or get a hazmat suit. Hmmm, may be worth it.

                        PS: Is this yet another condiment we should be making? Pickled Chiles? Different from Salted Chiles?

                        1. re: JoanN

                          Sweet-and-Sour-Crispy Fish, Take Two

                          Call me stubborn, but this is a dish both my BF and I love in restaurants and I’d really like to figure out a way to do it at home without having me and the apartment covered in cornstarch paste. Having done this once, I thought I knew where the stumbling blocks were. So I bought a much smaller sea bass, one that would fit into the wok, and bought a new box of cornstarch. (I don’t know. Does cornstarch go stale? Mine had been around for a while. Thought it might make a difference. It didn’t.)

                          A few things went more smoothly. The smaller fish certainly helped. (Although I bought the fish in Chinatown for less than a third what I’d paid for the first, larger one at Citarella, but it wasn’t as well cleaned so I’ve now got dried fish scales twinkling at me throughout the apartment). But the cornstarch paste was still a b**ch, ending up on cabinets and the floor, and didn’t really turn golden as it was supposed to. The fish looked somewhat better than it did the first time and was every bit as good. The sauce was, again, terrific. I’m still determined, but I need to find another coating for the fish.

                          One of my Chinese cookbooks just uses a coating of cornstarch without the paste. Another covers the fish with a cornstarch paste, but it’s a much thinner mixture that you pour over the fish, let sit for 15 minutes, and then coat in flour before frying. And an online recipe, using fillets but not whole fish, has you dip the fillets in a batter. So I’m on a quest here. I’m going to try (but not any time soon, probably; that’s enough peanut oil consumption for a while) Dunlop’s marinade and sauce, but some other method of coating the fish for frying.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            I am in AWE, JoanN
                            and especially happy to learn from your experience
                            although I'm sure I won't attempt it until you've made it one more time
                            ; )

                        2. Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives, p. 177 (RCC)

                          Finally bought some chinese chives yesterday, so made this - using some wonderful shrimp that I also bought in Chinatown. No fresh red peppers so, again, I used a combination of one jalapeno and some slivered red pepper for color. While the jalapeno I used in a dish on Friday was very strong, this one was very mild, so the dish wasn't particularly spicy, but condiments helped that. I used a combination of 2/3 a T salted chiles, and 1/3 tsp dried chili flakes. I'd made spring rolls as well, and (hope this isn't terrible) just fried the shrimp the oil that was already in the wok. Though we really liked this dish - I love shrimp - next time I'd use less than the 3 T of peanut oil - it seemed a bit greasy to us. Will make again.

                          I served this with brown rice and Stir-fried peppers with Black Beans and Garlic (p. 201). Next time I think I'll serve it with some kind of steamed greens instead - it was a bit rich with the shrimp I thought, and I need to stop doing all stir fried dishes for each meal!

                          19 Replies
                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I agree about the Stir-Fried Peppers. They were perfect with the bbq lamb I made last night, but I think they'd overwhelm a dish with sauce.

                            I am addicted to them, though.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Last night I made the Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives (RCC p. 177). We loved this - huge, huge fans of it. I used much less oil than called for, and maybe that is why I feel like I like it more than previous posters. I had to use a serrano instead of a red pepper (none at the market) and realized at the last minute that I didn't have black rice vinegar (so used the other dark asian vinegar I had). Amazing, so full of flavor, nicely spicy. Served with rice and roasted eggplant that had been marinated in asian vinaigrette. This is going to go into heavy rotation around here.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Made this again tonight and again, totally fantastic. A huge hit with all. Very simple and even with some meds in my system (not martinis this time around, alas) I was able to do this kind of toss together at the last moment thing easily with it still tasting great. Side again was the coriander salad, and we couldnt' have been happier with the whole meal.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  I made the Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives (RCC p. 177) last night and we LOVED it. I used significantly less oil and it wasn't enough. To do the initial stir fry of the shrimp, I used less than a tablespoon, which just wasn't enough. The marinade kind of stuck to the bottom of the pan, which I attempted to scrape up. Also, I did the variation of garlic chives and ginger. Unfortunately, I didn't cut enough chives and many of my chives stuck to the other stuff that was already on the bottom of the pan (again, not enough oil).

                                  Despite all these oil issues, this was delicious. The marinade seemed to give the shrimp extra tenderness and flavor. And, the ginger, chives and salted chilies just kicked it up a notch. I honestly don't know if I like this shrimp dish or the fragrant shrimp dish better. They are both delicious and both going into the regular rotation. I still want to try this dish with the chinese chives though. Next time...

                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    So glad you tried and loved it. My husband has decided this is his favorite shrimp dish - period, not just chinese.

                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                    Just a quick thanks to LLM mentioning this dish in the EGOR thread. I've been meaning to make this for some time, but never got around to it. I used the full amount of oil to fry and then used about a 1/2 T to stir-fry. Next time, I will follow JoanN's lead and skip the extra oil altogether and just use whatever is leftover in the wok. Both of us enjoyed this for dinner yesterday and would gladly make this again.

                                    1. re: BigSal

                                      Thrilled to hear that you liked it.

                                  3. re: MMRuth

                                    Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives, p. 177 (RCC)

                                    Can't believe it took me so long to get around to trying this. Oh. That's right. I only got the book fairly recently so I wasn't paying close attention to RCC reports. My loss.

                                    I made this with half the amount of shrimp but the full amount of everything else. Maybe even double the chives since they'd been in the fridge a bit long already. I used close to the full amount of oil for frying but then dumped all of it and used only what clung to the sides of the wok for stir-frying. Worked just fine and will do that again. My new batch of salted chiles was 10 days short of ready, but I used them anyway. Wonder if I'll notice the difference when I make this again.

                                    I really loved this. If I didn't have to travel quite so far to get the Chinese chives, I'd be making it all the time.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      one of my favorite shrimp dishes. I made this for my parents over the xmas break and they went nuts over it. Traveling with salted chilies is a bit nerve wracking.

                                      This dish is even better with yellow chives. More tender. I always put more chives then called for.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        I'm not familiar with yellow chives. Do they look like the green ones?

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Yes, but thinner in diameter. So, they are flatter. Does that make sense. More delicate and a better flavor. They are a pale golden yellow. They also come in smaller packages and are probably more expensive by the lb. But, even 3-4 oz will be a couple of bucks.

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            Now that you describe them as "flatter," I think I do recall seeing them and not knowing what they were. I'll keep an eye out for them. Was thinking it might be fun to try this with garlic scapes when they're in season.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Oh my gosh! I get so many garlic scapes from my CSA and just can't think of enough ways to use them! Bookmarking this one in EYB this very minute!

                                              Also, would you gals think less of me if I confessed I never tried to make my own salted chiles. Am I really missing out? How difficult is it?


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I wouldn't think less of you but you are really missing out. Unlike other hot condiments, this can't be bought in a store. And, it really is the universal condiment. I especially like putting the salted chilies with my dumplings. Plus, you are missing out on super delicious dishes, like the above shrimp dish and the cilantro salad (somewhere on the Dunlop threads).

                                                The salted chilies are not difficult, just kind of a pain. You have to wash and dry all the peppers and then cut the heads and tails off before putting them in the food processor (I'm not hand chopping all those peppers). After a couple of whirls, mix with salt, put it in a jar, and then sprinkle more salt on top. Stick in a cabinet for a few weeks.

                                                Be sure to wear gloves when you are cutting the peppers. Even just cutting the heads and tails, my gloves are slick with hot pepper oil.


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I made salted chilies for the first time earlier this year. I did it in September or October when the farmer's markets are full of fresh, hot, ripe red chilies. I only made a quarter recipe because I didn't anticipate using them that often. It wasn't that much work because I only had a quarter of the chilies to deal with, and I didn't need to drag out the FP. (IIRC, BB makes a triple batch!) I love them! They do not taste "chinese" or "asian" but simply like chopped fresh red chilies -- fresh, fruity and just a bit tangy from the salt. They are completely neutral so you can use them in any dish from any cuisine that would benefit from the taste of fresh red chilies. Just reduce the salt component of your dish a bit because the chilies themselves are salty. The best part of this condiment is that when you make it from fresh, ripe farmers market chilies, you can then have that fresh chili flavor all year long, instead of having to use the sad-sack chilies otherwise available at the grocery store throughout the winter and spring. So I would encourage you to try it this fall. And, yes, given that life often gets in the way of cooking dinner, 1/4 recipe is enough to last me the year.

                                                2. re: JoanN

                                                  Scapes. What a great idea. Spring seems so far away.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives [Garlic Scapes] (RCC, page 177)

                                                    So, three-and-a-half years later, I tried making this with garlic scapes. It wasn’t a success, perhaps because I cut them, as I would the chives, into one-and-a-quarter-inch lengths as the recipe directs. In the dish they were flavorful, but woody. Not a pleasant texture. Perhaps if I’d chopped them finely I would have preferred it. As it is, I’ll stick with either flowering or yellow chives. (Interesting to me to see that it was only three-and-a-half years ago that I didn’t know what yellow chives were, and now I buy them whenever I see them, more often than not for this dish. Thanks, beetlebug.)

                                            2. re: JoanN

                                              I'm lucky enough to have chinese chives growing in a pot on the back porch during the warm months, but in a pinch in the winter i've used regular chives. Still fantastic.

                                            3. re: MMRuth

                                              Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives, p. 177 (RCC)

                                              I can't believe it took me this long to make but now I'm a fan too, especially since I love Chinese chives. I made the recipe as is with the full amount of chives, but less shrimp since it was just me.

                                            4. Fishernan's Shrimp with Chinese Chives....Like minds MM!

                                              We used half the oil called for and still found the finished dish too oily. A jalepeno pepper was used instead of the fresh red chili and a half of a red bell pepper to compensate for the color, just as MM did, only our jalepeno was hot. ( Did you know that you can freeze fresh peppers? They don't seem to lose any flavor or texture. A quick swipe under running hot water refreshes them) The other substitution I made was red pepper flakes for the salted chilis... 2 teaspoons. The finished dish was very tasty but the next time we make this even less oil will be used. We served this with Dan Dan Noodles....report on the appropriate thread coming up.

                                              We're finding that the amount of a serving is just enough for two people with no leftovers. Much to DH's chagrin.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Gio

                                                Fisherman's Shrimp w/Chinese Chives - Revolutionary Chinese, p. 177

                                                Unlike Gio and MMRuth, we did not think this was too oily and I'm pretty sure I left about 3 Tbsp of oil in the wok, after frying the shrimp. It did sort of have a glisten about it, but certainly didn't taste oily.

                                                We really liked this dish. It was my Salted Chiles' debut (they were made with red chiles labeled "hot chinese chile" at Super 88) and a very successful one at that. The chiles were zippy without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the shrimp and I used a hefty Tbsp. This dish was a teensy bit salty, I thought, but that was one of the things my husband liked about it.

                                              2. Hot-and-Numbing Crispy Shrimp (LOP page 280)

                                                I combined two recipes to make an accompaniment for cocktails. The master recipe is Hot-and-Numbing Tiny Fish and is made with frozen whitebait or frozen tiny shrimp. The variation is Crispy Shrimp with Salt and Sichuan Pepper. She doesn’t say what size shrimp to use for the variation, but I used jumbos. For both recipes, you marinate the shrimp with ginger and scallions for a short bit, toss the shrimp in unseasoned AP flour, and deep fry. Instead of just sprinkling them with salt and Sichuan pepper, which is what the variation called for, I decided to make the seasoning from the master recipe since I thought I’d prefer it spicy. The seasoning is ground chilis and ground, roasted Sichuan pepper heated up in oil into which you toss the fried shrimp and stir quickly to distribute the spices. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of oil and I used 1 teaspoon instead, which was probably a mistake. There really wasn’t enough “sauce” to coat the shrimp.

                                                These looked great and my friends gobbled them up. They *are* fried shrimp, after all. But they didn’t have much additional flavor, just the taste of the shrimp and the numbness from the Sichuan pepper. And I really don’t think they’d have been much improved by following either recipe as written. No need to revisit this one, either the master or the variation.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  You're right, though, they sure do look stunning!

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Hot-and-Numbing Crispy Shrimp

                                                    Well, even though Joan N didn't love this, her picture looked so good that I had to add it to the list!

                                                    Since there were comments on flavor, I marinated the shrimp longer (I used shelled medium shrimp), for about an hour, and really smashed the garlic and green scallions for the rice wine marinade. Still, I agree with Joan - this didn't seem to contribute much flavor so I might skip that if I was making this again. As Joan says, it's really just fried shrimp with some spice from the Sichuan pepper and chilis. However, since we love fried shrimp, I can see why these were so popular at a party. It was a nice variation, and I would make it again. E would have eaten it all if he could, and I liked the technique of frying first, and then stir-frying them in spicy flavored oil (I also used the main recipe with fresh-ground dried chilis and Sichuan pepper). The spices really coated the shrimp, yet they stayed nice and crispy. I did end up sprinkling more of the ground chilis and pepper on the shrimp, along with some sea salt, though, so would use more to flavor the oil next time. I served them with a flavorful and spicy salad - Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing (p. 158).

                                                  2. Fish Soup with Pickled Greens (LOP pg. 263)

                                                    Wow, wow, wow. This soup is a keeper and unbelievably filled with umami goodness. Incredibly easy, especially with my shortcuts and so satisfying.

                                                    I didn't use a whole fish, I used a 1 lb cod fillet instead. I also used boxed chicken stock, the whole packet of pickled mustard greens (10.5 oz) and I added rice vermicelli.

                                                    The fish is sliced to about 1/4 inch thick and marinated with Shaoxing rice wine and salt. Then, stir fry garlic, ginger, sliced pickled thai peppers, and the pickled mustard greens. Add boiling chicken stock, and if you have fish parts, add them now. The broth is rapidly boiled for 10 minutes.

                                                    Even though I didn't have fish parts, I still boiled rapidly to get all the flavors to come together. I probably did it for longer than 10 minutes because I was steaming buns, which took considerably longer than expected.

                                                    Right before service, add corn starch and a bit of egg white to the fish pieces. Then add them to the stock and boil briefly until finished. At this point, I also added pre soaked rice vermicelli noodles.

                                                    There are also variations to make it spicier but I saw no need. Right now, this soup has the perfect balance of sour, spice and salt. Plus, the contrast between the crunch of the veggies and the softness of the fish makes my mouth sing.

                                                    I'm so happy I finally tried this recipe. It had been on my to try list but my usual chinese store (Super 88, Allston), didn't have the right kind of pickled mustard cabbage. This is one of my favorite soups when I go to a Sichuan restaurant and I'm thrilled that I can easily make it at home.

                                                    14 Replies
                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                      Quick question for beetlebug or anyone else with an informed opinion. I don't have the pickled mustard greens, but do see a small can of pickled cabbage in my pantry from a previous trip to the local asian store. Would that be an ok sub? And does adding the rice vermicelli make this enough for a main course for 2 and a half? Any thoughts? Thanks very much in advance.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        I'm not sure what the pickled cabbage is but I don't see why it wouldn't work. It's the crunchy pickly flavor that makes this stand out. If the package is small, maybe throw in a bit of the pickly juice if there is any in the package as well as some other greens.

                                                        For us, adding the rice vermicelli made it a nice light meal. It should work for 2.5 people. But, if you want to be on the safe side, you can always serve with white rice as well.

                                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                                          Wow, thanks beetlebug ... I sort of thought this one would get lost in with all the other posts. My pickled cabbage is in a can, not a plastic package. Maybe I'll swing by the asian store again in the next week and see if I can find the other stuff, but if not, I'll give it a try with what I have. And a big salad on the side might fill this out a bit more. My husband has been complaining about an extra 20 pounds the scale found, so he can't complain too much.

                                                          thanks again for your input. Appreciate it!

                                                      2. re: beetlebug

                                                        Crazily enough, I did find a plastic container of pickled mustard (I assume this is the greens?) in my cabinet. And rice noodles too! Thanks again beetlebug, I plan on making this next week, and will let you know how it goes.

                                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                                          OK, as the time grows nearer, I'm getting nervous about my pickled mustard. In looking through her pantry section, it seems that this is different from pickled mustard greens and is more like a turnip. Am I crazy to be subbing it? Should I go with the picked cabbage in a can instead? Should I, come hell or high water, make sure that I get to the asian store tomorrow (I"ve got a pretty full-looking day) and try to find what is called for? My gut tells me it won't be a huge difference, but I still get nervous. Any advice?

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            I'm not at home right now so I can't check anything--book, notes, pantry--but I recall that when I first started shopping for Dunlop ingredients I had a helluva time finding pickled mustard greens and ended up buying picked cabbage instead. I know I used it for at least one recipe, probably two, and was perfectly happy with the results. Again relying on what may be less than perfect memory, I believe the pickled cabbage was less salty than the mustard greens (which I did find eventually). But then, I suspect there's a good deal of variation in the saltiness of all preserved vegetables as you go from vegetable to vegetable and brand to brand. I'd use the cabbage, tasting it first to see whether or not you think it needs to be rinsed and if so how much, and then use it with full confidence.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              You're a life saver yet again JoanN. I was frantically trying to get Lulu to rush through lunch on the hope the Asian store might be open, but this saves us a bit of a fluster. Thanks so much.

                                                              Was your pickled cabbaged canned, like mine is? That part strikes me as fairly different from the plastic package.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                Yes, the pickled cabbage was in a can. But the preserved mustard greens that I found eventually came in sort of a squat crock jar rather than in a plastic package.

                                                            2. re: LulusMom

                                                              I think either pickled ____ will be fine. What wouldn't work are the preserved greens. To me, the beauty of the Dunlop recipes, is that substitutions and additions always seems to work.

                                                              Hope you enjoy the soup.

                                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                                Thanks to you both. Without the help of valium or booze, I came to the realization that I was being overly nervous. I've only had one Dunlop recipe that didn't work out for me, and I have a strong feeling this will be just great. Certainly I doubt the difference in pickled stuff will make the difference. Anyway, thanks so much.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  Actually, thank you as well. You reminded me about this recipe and it's going on the list for later this week.

                                                            3. re: beetlebug

                                                              Fish Soup with Pickled Greens

                                                              Thanks to beetlebug's report, I made this. Like bb, I just used cod fillets - about a pound, and I also bit her style by adding rice noodles. I liked this very much. My husband, however, was a bit turned off by the pickled cabbage (which I subbed for the mustard). I dont' think it was the cabbagey-ness of it so much as the pickled-ness. That said, he went back for a second Big bowlfull. Even with him having seconds we did have a little leftover (I served salad on the side) so this was just the right size meal for us. This was good and easy, and I'd make it again if he wasn't going to be around. Thanks bb for your post (I think I would have passed this recipe right by if I hadn't read it) and your advice.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                I think there is something addicting to the taste of the soup. To me, it's the pickledness, while first a shock, brings me to eagerly spoon more into my mouth.

                                                                I'm making this for dinner tonight...

                                                                1. re: beetlebug

                                                                  Very much so. I'd never had this before, and I really liked it. And it is so easy! And so low-cal! I also liked the sour pickley flavor - as the Brits say "very more-ish."

                                                                  Enjoy tonight.

                                                            4. Fish Braised with Bean Curd in Spicy Sauce (dou fu shao yu), LOP, page 269

                                                              So, for New Year's Eve, we decided to recreate at home this braised fish dish, which is one of our favorites from a local restaurant. Dunlop calls for carp or seabass--we used whole trout (one of her suggested substitutions) instead. Basically, she has you slash the outside of the fish with a knife, then soak the fish in a marinade of Shaoxing wine and salt. Then, whip up a sauce of chili bean paste, ginger, garlic, scallion whites, stock, dark soy sauce, sweet bean paste, Shaoxing wine... Separately, you slice and simmer the tofu (we used "lite" silken tofu) in salted water. Then, fry the fish, set aside. Discard oil, wipe out wok, and start frying up the ingredients for your sauce, in various stages. Eventually, you add in the fish and simmer in the sauce for about 10 minutes, then add in the bean curd and simmer a little more.

                                                              At the end, you're supposed to add in some corn starch (which we forgot to do--I had potato starch measured out and ready to go) and scallion greens and serve.

                                                              We loved this. It was perfect for New Year's Eve--had a bit of yin and yang look to it in the cast iron skillet (I don't have a wok), which was kind of neat. I'm sure we could have presented that way at the table, too, but I was too tired for that. I'm not really sure it needed the potato starch as the consistency of the "sauce" seemed about right compared to how we normally experience it at "Little Szechuan".

                                                              For an "every day" meal, we'd probably fillet the fish. Less dramatic a presentation, and probably a little less flavorful, but a heck of a lot easier to eat. The silken tofu was probably a little too delicate for this dish, but I liked it anyway. It did break up at the end, but, frankly I think it's because our cast iron skillet was too small and we didn't have enough room to fish it out (no pun intended) carefully.

                                                              We served this over a little bit of steamed brown rice (thank heaven for my trusty rice cooker--as there were no burners free on my stove), and with a side of traditional dan dan noodles (LOP, page 87), and dry-fried green beans I (LOP, page 289). And with champagne!

                                                              It took me about 3 hours to prepare these 3 dishes, including having help when it came to the final cooking step. I am amazed at how much more comfortable I am cooking from Dunlop than when I first started. I seem to be able to stage everything better, and since I'm more familiar with the ingredients (for instance, now I know that the tian jin pickled for the beans and the dan dan noodles vegetable must be rinsed, chopped, and rinsed--then squeezed dry...) Also, when I was doing my mise en place, I ran out of little dishes, even though I was combining in the little dishes things that she has you add at the same time (for instance, if she has you had soy sauce and wine at the same stage, I combine them in one dish while doing my mise en place). Normally, I use my itty bitty juice glasses, but I ran out of those, so, had to use my little ramekins. I found some Norpro silicone flexible mini-pinch bowls on Amazon I might try to use next time.

                                                              Since I've reported on dan dan noodles (EDIT: though I suppose I should mention I didn't know how to cook the fresh rice noodles I picked up at the Asian market and had to seek advice http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5841...) and dry fried green beans in the past, I won't report on them again and, it felt, very "New Years'ish" even though it's not exactly Chinese New Year... Still delicious!

                                                              Now, on to Zuni and Lucques!


                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                Hi TDQ, not totally environmentally friendly, but saves a lot of dish-washing, which might (*might*) make up for it, but I use little torn up bits of wax paper to put different things on after chopping. A little square with the green onions, a little square with the garlic, etc. Easy to dump in when the appropriate time comes for each.

                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                    I do the same. I find one strip of wax paper can give me 4 little squares. sometimes I use leftover foil or parchment paper as well.

                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                      Clearly this is something I need to consider. Don't you find that, in the chaos of your kitchen, the little pieces of paper get knocked or blown around?


                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        Another option is to use a baking sheet or cake pan, and put little piles of things in them.

                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          Oooh! I love that idea, too. Combined, they seem like a fantastic solution.


                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            I use school lunch trays for this. Lighter than a baking sheet and has low sides.

                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          Never happened and I'm clumsy too. Generally, the weight of the item keeps the wax paper down. Also, my counters are always slightly damp (I'm always wiping them down) it creates kind of a water glue to the wax paper.

                                                                          I like the foil as well, because I can make little edges around the sides. I don't know why since stuff never falls off the edges.

                                                                  2. Steamed Fish with Purple Perilla (RCC)

                                                                    I made this using a Branzino, which is one of my favorite fish to cook whole. I followed the directions strictly except that: (1) I subsituted green jalepenos for fresh red chiles; and (2) after steaming for 8 minutes and plating, the fish wasn't fully cooked so I put it back in to steam for another few minutes. It was delicious, the hot oil, pungent black beans, crunchy peppers and the ginger blended into a truly addictive topping for the moist and tender fish. Easily the best Chinese finfish dish I've tried. Although the branzino was only $10/lb, the recipe calls for any "bream", so I'd try porgy or ocean perch too.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: equinoise

                                                                      equinoise: You don't say whether or not you used purple perilla. Since that's in the name of the dish, I'm wondering how you liked it.

                                                                      When I searched for it online, I found this interestingly quirky description having nothing to do with cooking: The herb is pungent in flavour, warm in the nature and acts on the lung, spleen and stomach channels. Pungent and warm for dispersion and aromatic for enlivening the spleen, it can disperse pathogenic wind-cold from the lung channel, disperse the lung to arrest cough, and promote the Qi flow in the spleen and stomach to regulate the function of the middle Jiao and arrest vomiting. It is often used to treat wind-cold type of common cold. It is particularly suitable to treat common cold accompanied by cough or stagnation of Qi.

                                                                      So you not only had a delicious dinner, you revved up your Qi so it wouldn't stagnate!

                                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                                        I definitely did use perilla. It added another sharp, pungnet dimension to the dish. Thanks for pointing that out.

                                                                    2. Braised Sea Bream (RCC p. 156)
                                                                      I used a fresh Porgy which retained its sweetness, otherwise followed the instructions.
                                                                      This an unqualified success. I had it with rice only, which was fine, but I can see this would be great with several side dishes.