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china: dried fish

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I live on the East coast of China, and am trying to work out what to do in home cooking of the produce in the local markets. This produce is partly what I'd expected from Chinese cookbooks --- fresh meat and fish, veg, fruit, noodles, tofu products, grain, beans, tea, etc. The surprise has been mountains of dried fish, veg pickle, seaweed, and dried mushrooms.

Can anyone advise on what to do with dried fish, and the salt in it? I was an anchovy fan already, and there's also a salt issue there --- how to get the salt out and leave the goodness in? I guess that dried fish could be used in stock/soup/stews and would appreciate any tips.

(It's the same with local veg pickles --- they grow on you, but the salt content is high for daily consumption.)

Thanks,

Umamihound.

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  1. I would imagine that you could follow a number of Portuguese recipes for salt cod which usually start with soaking the cod in multiple changes of water. I find that the fish has little salty taste when soaked. There are also some very good casseroles containing cod, potatoes and onions and fantastic cod fritters.

    4 Replies
    1. re: NE_Elaine

      Many thanks! --- I see from one recipe that salt cod spends 24 hours in the fridge, with 3 changes of water. The local Chinese dried fish are mostly small, so maybe the time is shorter. Anyway I'll experiment.

      1. re: umamihound

        Change of water helps, or you can cut down the amount.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Many thanks for both replies. --- I see in some recipies that dried fish is 'dry roasted till fragrant' (I guess to remove mustiness). Is this done before soaking?

          1. re: umamihound

            The dry roasted til fragrant also add fragrances, much like some of my recipes call for baking almond or roasting coriander seeds. Just my guess. I would do the roasting after the soaking, but depending on the recipe, I may do a light-soaking one last time after the roasting. The reason is that some recipe actually require soften (soaked) dried fish.

    2. Hmm, isn't the goodness with Chinese dried the salt itself? If you soaked or rinse it out, you're sort of left with soggy bland fish?

      Instead, might I suggest using the dried fish the same way you would with spices or seasoning -- that is, as an addition to a dish and not the main item? This way you still get the goodness of the dried fish and still reduce your overall salt intake.

      After all, this is usually how most Chinese folks use dried fish. Usually minced and incorporated in fried rice, mixed into congee, or as a seasoning in soups and broth (sort of like miso in a way).

      1 Reply
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Hi --- thanks, that's really helpful. I'll try using it this way and experiment. As you say, miso works like this --- a little is great, and adds little salt. From what you say, the soaking is for larger fish like salt cod.