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Jul 30, 2008 08:12 AM

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. The original comment has been removed
      1. 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.