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Shuizhuyu 水煮魚 Sichuan spicy water boiled fish

I was in Sichuan, China for a while and became enamored with this dish. But every time I try the dishes of the same name in the US, I am disappointed. Let me explain.... The version I recognize is like the one in these photos:


the fish is presented in a large pan-- like a basin, completely covered in liquid with floating chillies. You dig in, and there are tons of veggies (napa cabbage), mushrooms/woodear, lily and sometimes even clear noodles to be found,

However, every Sichuanese place I've tried in the states serves it like this:
(click the third photo from the left, for "Fish in Spicy Soup Base, xiao la jiao)

The fish is served in a shallow dish, and looks essentially like it was stir fried and sitting in a puddle of oil. It's basically slices of fish in some hot sauce. So far I've tried Grand Sichuan (125 Canal) and Wu Liang Ye, and both were like this, in a shallow disappointing plate.

What is going on? I think the two versions are so different, it's not even a question of "lost in translation".... Does anyone have any suggestions on where to go to eat this dish? Are my expectations whacked? I even welcome suggestions for other cities in the US, if there is none to be found in New York City.

thanks for the help.

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  1. Might this do?


    That is, the third photo from the bottom, "fish filet in spicy chili hot." I've had a similar version at the Grand Sichuan on St. Mark's, too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DaveCook

      Thanks very much for this suggestion! I haven't had the chance to try it yet, but it does look much more authentic than what I've seen thus far in NYC. Also, I believe the fish might actually be grass carp, rather than tilapia.

      1. re: ctnyly

        they serve something like this - in a big tureen, pieces of fish and lots of vegetables - at the Sichuan restaurant in Bay Ridge. I think they serve it in both red and white versions - we had the red and it was excellent.

    2. Little Pepper serves it up in Flushing - delicious. Have not had Szechuan Gourmet's version yet.

      1. The best shuizheyu I've had in New York--and some of the best I've had anywhere in the world--was at Ollie's (better known by its Chinese name, Chengdu Yinxiang), on 42nd street and 9th avenue. A little pricey but delicious, and exactly like in the photos you posted above.

        1. If you make it to the SF Bay area, Trend Restaurant, 400 Moffet Blvd., Mountain View, has two versions--the original Spicy boiled fish and their Trend Special Buried in Chili Pepper fish. I recommend both and have to go for my fix periodically.

          1. I know this is an old thread, but I had an amazing version of this a couple of days ago at the Sichuan stall in the Golden Mall, at 41-28 Main Street, Flushing.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Peter Cuce

              Undoubtedly, 成都天府 (Cheng Du Heaven) @Golden Mall. Unfortunately, they can be inconsistent. If you don't feel lucky on a particular night, head on to the #2 place: 小辣椒 , or The Little Pepper ;-) Their Shui Zhu dishes are specacular.

              1. re: Peter Cuce

                I had this dish recently at Yi Lan Halal Restaurant on Main Street, either Flushing or Queensborough Hills, depending on your perspective. It's not a Sichuan restaurant, but many of the dishes are Sichuan. It's pricier, not quite as spicy, but better quality, much nicer surroundings, and some of the friendliest service of any restaurant ever.

              2. Have moved back to my native Minnesota from the SF Bay area and am delighted to have found this dish at Szechuan in Roseville (suburban St. Paul.) Szechuan's is top-notch, as good or better than what I've had in CA.

                Trend in Mountain View, CA, which used to have a killer version of Shuizhuyü, has changed hands and the food isn't quite as good as before.

                1. This is a really late response but there is a great new place in Flushing called New World Mall and at the basement level they have a really nice food court that serves authentic chinese cuisine. Their sichuan food stall serves the shui zhu yu that you've been searching for at dirt cheap prices. It's always sold out by the end of the day :)

                  Its right next to Macys and the 7 train station. If you get out at the right exit, you wouldn't even have to cross the street.

                  Hope this helps.

                  1. Five years after this thread started, shuizhuyü is all over the country. I know of several places in the Bay Area that serve it, and at least two (and probably more) here in the Twin Cities in Flyover Country. The menu item labeled Shuizhuyü is often the "puddle of oil" item. I've had better luck with restaurant specialties labeled things like "Ma La You Huo Boiled Fish" or "Spicy fish slices buried in Chili Peppers." Ask the server for the soupier version, usually covered in peppers.

                    1. You can find it in Tulsa. Though I'm sure you could find the water-boiled fish you like in Flushing even in 2008, you ask for suggestions from other cities and I'm pleased to report that something beyond my wildest dreams has happened here in Tulsa. We finally have a Chinese population large enough to support a restaurant worthy of a place in Flushing or Manhattan. Here's a photo of the fish. For 19 other photos of the incredible dishes you can find, some of which I never saw in NYC, including pig brains and tofu, check out this. http://tulsafood.com/reviews/pig-brai...