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Sliced Fish Szechuan Style - Gourmet Dumpling House

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I have been reading CH forever, but never felt the need to post...until now. In 33 years of eating in Boston, in having my wedding at L'Espalier, in eating throughout Chinatown, I have never had a dish in Boston that was such a revelation as the Sliced Fish Szechuan style at GDH. I know Ming Tsai recommended the dish on food network, so I was hesitant to fall in love with it, but, oh my, was it ever great. There was more flavor and more spice than any other dish I can recall ever having. It was spicy to the core, but never too spicy to enjoy. I didn't even come close to finishing it (but I ate all of the fish, which was quite a victory for me), but I couldn't have been more happy when I left. The XBL (soup dumplings) were the best dumplings I have had in Boston, but they were overshowed by this wonderful dish. It goes to the top of my list in Boston (over the Chicken at Hammerley's, the Soft Shelled Crab at Locke Ober, the Butter Soup at Menton, the Lobster Roll at Neptune and the Lobster Roe Noodles at ICOB)

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L'Espalier
774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

Menton
354 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

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  1. Nice first post. Keep em coming....

    1. if you like soup dumplings, try the ones at Jo Jo taipei, Winsor, Dumpling Cafe, Taiwan Cafe (all juicier and more delicate than the ones at GDH)

      1. Welcome to Chowhound! Do you know what kind of fish it is? I'm not a huge fan of tilapia, and that's often what restaurants use.

        Formosa Tai Pei, a takeout place in Lexington, has a delicious Szechuan Flounder Filet. The GDH version sounds great, too.

        6 Replies
        1. re: bear

          Not sure what type of fish. I thought about asking but the place was overflowing with people, so I didn't bother. The fish meat was white in color. Seemed too thick to be the kind of tilapia I see in the super market, but I am rarely confident of what fish I am eating at a Chinese restaurant (or any restaurant after the Globe report) unless I see the whole fish.

          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            Thanks. Sounds like it's worth the risk. I have a hard time getting past the often muddy taste of tilapia.

            1. re: bear

              Deifinitely worth the risk. It is a very tasty dish. The fish is called Swai - a Vietnamese farmed catfish. The Boston Globe did a 5-month investigation on mislabeling of fish on134 restaurants and markets in the Boston Area and did DNA testing on the fish they serve and sell. The title of the piece is "On the menu, but not on your plate," October 23, 2011. The link is:

              http://www.boston.com/business/articl...

              They tested the Gourmet Dumpling House's Sliced Fish Szechuan Style and found that it is not flounder that the staff and owners say it is. Knowing this info, I still order and enjoy this dish. Besides, their menu did not identify the type of fish.

              1. re: dsar284

                Interesting about the Swai. I recently tried the House Special Fish at Mulan in Waltham and was told they use sole when I asked. It did seem like sole or flounder to me. Very clean, delicate and fresh. I also really enjoyed the Szechuan fish dish from Formosa Taipei in Lexington. Again, fresh, clean-tasting and delicious.

                I wanted to like the boiled fish dish from Qingdao Garden, but the flavor of tilapia muddied the dish for me. I'll stick with either Formosa Taipei or Mulan for my spicy fish craving takeout.

          2. re: bear

            Everytime I see this thread title I think of the Formosa version. I don't know what it was ... the silky texture, the perfectly balanced sauce, the deep fried doug? Dunno but I need to scratch this itch STAT.

            1. re: yumyum

              Totally agree. The light (rice?) flour coating, the deft fry job, super fresh fish and that killer sauce make it quite a dish.

          3. Thanks for the post!

            I am pretty sure the dish you're talking about is often called "water boiled fish" - it looks somewhat like this, with lots of chilies? http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_L6nbVvIj2Ec...

            I've had the version at Gourmet Dumpling House, and agree that it's quite good. Probably one of the better things I've had at GDH, actually. If you like this dish, you should also try the versions at New Shanghai in Chinatown, and at Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline. I'm curious to know how you think they compare!

            Dave MP

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            New Shanghai Restaurant
            21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

            Gourmet Dumpling House
            52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

            Sichuan Gourmet
            1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

            17 Replies
            1. re: Dave MP

              Looks somewhat like that. I found a picture of it here:

              http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/v0lHRV...

              1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                The red oil running down the side of that bowl probably looks like the drool running down the side of my mouth. So good. Also good with other meats, such as beef.

                1. re: emannths

                  I love the beef version of this dish at New Shanghai in CTown.

                  Fuloon in Malden and SG in Brookline Village also do a great version.

                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

                  -----
                  New Shanghai Restaurant
                  21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                2. re: ScotchandSirloin

                  Yeah, that picture is better. And that's also what it looks like at New Shanghai and the other Sichuan places I've been to in Boston.

                  My friends who love this dish came with me to New Shanghai, and felt that the version there was a bit less spicy, but flavor was a bit better. So you should definitely try that. And as emannths says, the beef version can be great too. I think they also make it at Gourmet Dumpling House.

                  Dave MP

                  -----
                  New Shanghai Restaurant
                  21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                  Gourmet Dumpling House
                  52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    I don't see this on the menu at New Shanghai (fish or beef). Do you know what they call it?

                    -----
                    New Shanghai Restaurant
                    21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                      The beef is "Boiled beef filet w red pepper + bean sprouts." B125 on their online menu.

                      1. re: 9lives

                        At Sichuan Gourmet the dish is called beef (or fish filets) in spicy chili sauce, and looks like this:

                        It is indeed delicious, in both beef and fish versions. The fish appears to be flounder filets.

                         
                        1. re: justbeingpolite

                          Gorgeous! I want :)

                          1. re: justbeingpolite

                            The online menu for SG Framingham comes up empty. Could it be JinGu Fish Filets?

                            1. re: trufflehound

                              If you go to the Chinese version of the Framingham Sichuan Gourmet online menu, you can see both English and Chinese characters (sorta silly that they don't do this on the English version too!)

                              Anyway, #54 is the dish in question: 水煮魚片 and the English translation is "Fish Filets & Napa Cabbage w.Spicy Chili Sauce"

                              I think JinGu fish fillets is something else? But I'm not sure what

                              -----
                              Sichuan Gourmet
                              1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                              1. re: Dave MP

                                Yeah, on all the online menus (Brookline, Billerica, Framinham, Sharon) under Fish they have either Fish Filets with Spicy Chili Sauce or Fish Filets with Napa Cabbage and Spicy Chili Sauce. That's the dish. Had 'em last night in Billerica, really good, as always, piled with chilis and grated garlic, yum! I haven't tried the JinGu fish yet, I've been scared off by the three chilis, as the two chili dishes are plenty hot for me, but....sometime soon.

                            2. re: justbeingpolite

                              I ordered the fish fillet dish at the Framingham outpost this past weekend. The menu indicated the fish was sole. Also ordered double cooked bacon, shredded duck with fresh bamboo shoots and dandan noodles. Truly an outstanding meal.

                               
                               
                            3. re: 9lives

                              Yeah, I sort of remember this - not seeing it on the online menu. But I'm pretty sure it is included on the menu at the actual restaurant. If you can't find it, ask your server and refer to the beef version, and say you want it with fish. They definitely make it.

                              Someone else should confirm, but I think written out in Chinese, the dish should be:
                              水煮魚

                              which replaces "fish" for "beef" in the Chinese listed for B125.

                              B125 (the beef version) is: 水 煮 牛 肉

                            4. re: ScotchandSirloin

                              FWIW, I believe the literal translation of this family of dishes is "water-cooked [meat]." I've never had a problem ordering it using that phrase if I couldn't find it on the menu.

                              Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuizhu

                              1. re: emannths

                                I think that's what Fuloon in Malden calls it...water cooked.

                                1. re: emannths

                                  This looks like the proper name. At Sichuan Garden, I was told that JinGu is actually pronounced something like "schwee jzou" so Shuizhu looks like a much better spelling of Jin Gu.

                                  It is one my favorites too and something I always order to test a Sichuan restaurant.

                                  Some mental notes: Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline does it with American broccoli. Sichuan Garden in Woburn does in with cabbage, which seems a better fit to me. I have also seen leeks mixed with cabbage, which is delicious, and broccoli with cabbage, which is not bad.

                                  As much as I love straight up authenticity, probably one of my favorite variations is MuLan Waltham's "House Special Fish". It is similar, but actually very different. It starts out with the lightly starch coated fish fillets, but the sauce has some broad bean paste too, so it has that deep flavor like Ma Po Tofu. The vegetable bed are leeks and cabbage, which is ideal for me. Finally it's topped with sichuan peppercorn and slivered scallion. It is a shallow bowl, and not really swimming in the fire, so to speak. It is so delicious you will be tempted to clean the dish with your rice to get every last bit and drop. Probably my favorite dish at MuLan. It is like Shuizhu, but the leeks, scallions and broad bean paste turn it up to 11!

                                  I know others on here have had this, so I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned yet.

                                  -----
                                  Sichuan Garden
                                  295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

                                  MuLan
                                  228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  Sichuan Gourmet
                                  1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                  1. re: tatsu

                                    A quick check of the "Sichuan Gourmet" online menu [and my recollection of "Golden Garden"] will reveal two dishes on the menu, one called 金骨鱼 (gin gu fish) which I had recently at GG and a very long time ago at SG, as well as the much more common 水煮魚 (shui zhu) commonly translated as "with napa in fiery sauce" but whose literal translation is water-cooked, and which is often described with a postfix 片 (sliced.)

                                    These two dishes are broadly similar (some fish, lots of fiery broth) but noticeably different in flavor. And as Hargau knows, there's a third variation, 沸腾魚 which he enjoyed at "Top Garden" in Tewksbury, that contained thin clear noodles. I tasted it (thanks Hargau) and it didn't seem very different from 水煮魚 You can also get 水煮 beef, pork, rabbit, and probably many more things, but I haven't seen the others served with anything but fish.

                                    I haven't tried MuLan in Waltham; I tried the original only a couple of months ago. It was excellent and I'm looking forward to going back. The dish with a topping of chopped dry soybeans, in particular, is calling my name despite being mostly tofu.

                        2. szechuan gourmet in bilerica has an outstanding version of this dish as well. delicate savory and very spicy without overwelming the fresh fish. yum

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: rich patina

                            I have enjoyed the dish twice at GDH. It is excellent. The fish is not tilapia. The waiter who first recommend the dish told me it was sole. I suspect that it is Pacific sole, inexpensive and widely available in Boston,

                            1. re: VivreManger

                              Just found this link where Ken Oringer (whose food I really like) says it's his favorite dish in Massachusetts. I guess I am just a bandwagon fan and not nearly as cool as I thought. Oh well.

                              http://www.travelandleisure.com/artic...

                              1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                You're in good company..:)

                                1. re: 9lives

                                  that's because "Clio" is shorthand for "C(hi)LI O(il)"

                          2. Well RATS guys! I had a real hankering for this dish after drooling over the thread since it started. I called in my order to Mulan in Cambridge and raced over to find a completely OTHER fish filet dish in my bag when I got home.

                            I had ordered the 66. Fish filet with chili pepper and had asked the guy "is this the one with szechuan pepper and lots of oil?" and he said it was. What I got was a light garlicky fish and tofu dish with a nice kick of heat from peppers and a thin clear sauce. It is DELICIOUS (especially the soft tofu!) but not what I wanted. Does anyone know which is the correct item to order from Mulan if you want the dish that the OP posted about?

                            Here's a picture of the alternate dish. It's very good and I'd definitely recommend it. So I guess it's not a total loss. But still I'm haunted by the fiery fish filets of yore.

                             
                            1 Reply
                            1. re: yumyum

                              Looking at their menu online...maybe the Hot and Spicy Fish Filet Hot Pot (#150)?

                            2. Sounds like digga just had this dish at Thailand Cafe near MIT. See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6363...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dave MP

                                Finally got to New Shanghai to try this dish. Admittedly, it wasn't a direct comparison because I went with the beef version "Boiled beef filet w red pepper + bean sprouts." While the dish was quite good, it didn't compare to the GDH version. It had approximately 1/5 the red pepper and 1/5 the Sczechuan peppercorn as the GDH version. It also seemed like there was a thickening agent in the dish which had a phobia of oil, so there was a lot of thick red sauce and plain clear oil. Don't want to make it sound bad, because it wasn't, but not the amazing flavor of the dish at GDH. That being said, I had never been to New Shanghai before and overall it was one of the better meals I have had in Chinatown. In particular, the Sliced Pork with Minced Garlic & Chilli Sauce had a nice lite (given it looked like bacon) flavor with lots of aromatics and the Szechuan prawn was full of flavor and came with some type of very tasty aspargus and had a nutty flavor that was new to me. Definitely will go back there, but the Sliced Fish Szechuan Style at GDH still reins as the best dish in Chinatown in my book.

                              2. I had this yesterday (D28 on the take out menu). It was delicious. I ate it with a spoon. My only problem with GDH is the wait. Is there ever a time during the day when there is NOT a line? Really cramped in there.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Guinness02122

                                  Just waited 30 minutes for a table at lunch. The fish was worth it once again. Almost half the tables were eating it. All the publicity seems to be uping the interest in the dish.

                                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                    Everything I've had, and watched others have, looks and tastes great. I plan to drop by around 2:30pm or so for something new. Might try the Spicy Salt & Pepper Pork Chops.

                                2. So DOES Gourmet Dumpling House do a similar non-fish dish, or no? I'm a little confused.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: FinnFPM

                                    Yes. They do it with beef as well.

                                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                      Sliced Beef with Szechuan Sauce -- is that what the dish would be?

                                      1. re: FinnFPM

                                        I believe so. Sometimes when I order the sliced fish, the waitress calls it Fish with Szechuan sauce, despite the name on the menu. There is a picture of the beef dish here:

                                        http://www.foodspotting.com/places/71...

                                        1. re: FinnFPM

                                          There are also two Szechuan chicken dishes on their menu, Chicken szechuan Style (which I would guess is the analog) and Fried Chicken Szwchusan Style (which I believe is similar to what other places call Chongqing chicken). I have never had these and can't find a review or picture of either dish. I would love it if a hound would try one or both and let us know. I always think of getting something instead of the fish, but I really think fish works perfectly in the dish and get nervous that other proteins would throw the whole thing off. I have had the beef dish at New Shanghai and thought it didn't work as well. Not an apples-to-apples comparison though.