Fish cooked with sweet wine and lettuce

Fish cooked with sweet wine and lettuce

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

This soupy, stewy dish utilises an interesting ingredient that comes from Shanghai — sweet glutinous rice wine. Cooks there make it at home (although you can easily buy it in Chinese grocery stores) by adding a special starter yeast ‘pill’ to jars of cooked rice and water, which is then left to ferment for about 30 hours. The rice is usually used for sweet dishes but its boozy ‘punch’ is interesting when teamed with delicate white fish and lettuce.


Quantity Ingredient
700g red snapper, skinned
2 heads baby cos lettuce, tough outer leaves removed
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
300ml glutinous rice wine
170ml Chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
5 teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
ground white pepper, to taste

Velveting mixture

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg white, beaten well
1 1/2 tablespoons clear rice wine
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. To make the velveting mixture, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine well. Cut the fish fillets into 3 x 2 cm pieces and add to the velveting mixture, then use your hands to turn the fish in the mixture, coating well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Trim the bottom 2 cm off the cos lettuce and remove the leaves. Finely chop the stems and place in a bowl along with the garlic and ginger. Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside.
  3. Combine the glutinous rice wine, stock and sugar in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Put the cornflour in a small bowl, then add enough of the rice wine mixture to make a smooth, thin paste.
  4. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Carefully add the fish, stirring gently with a large slotted spoon to keep the pieces separated. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer the fish for 1 minute, then drain into a colander.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat, then add the chopped lettuce stems and garlic mixture and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until softened slightly. Add the leaves and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes, or until wilted. Add the remaining rice wine mixture and bring to a simmer, then add the fish and cook, tossing the wok occasionally, for 2–3 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Add the cornflour mixture and bring the sauce to the boil, swirling the wok to incorporate the cornflour mixture. Cook for 1 minute, or until thickened slightly, then season to taste with white pepper and serve immediately.
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