Whole barramundi with garlic and chilli

Whole barramundi with garlic and chilli

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

With extensive river systems and with much of China a decent distance from the sea, much of the fish eaten in China has been plucked from fresh waters, not the sea. Catfish, carp, tilapia, roach and perch are common, with regionally specific species popping up too. Barramundi works beautifully here; its soft, mild, flaky flesh is the perfect foil for the sweet nubs of garlic and thick, spicy sauce.


Quantity Ingredient
800g whole barramundi, cleaned
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon clear rice wine
500ml vegetable oil
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
60ml sichuan chilli bean paste
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
250ml Chicken stock
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornflour


  1. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes on each side of the fish, taking care not to cut through to the bone. Place the fish on a large plate and sprinkle each side with ½ teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons rice wine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at cool room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain the fish well and wipe dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok over a medium–low heat, then add the garlic cloves and fry for 7–8 minutes, or until softened. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Increase the heat to medium–high, then add the fish to the wok. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, taking care when turning so as not to break the fish. Carefully remove the fish from the oil and place on a plate.
  3. Pour off all but about 60 ml of oil from the wok. Add the ginger and chilli bean paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the soy sauce, stock, sugar, the fried garlic cloves and fish and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8–10 minutes, spooning the cooking liquid over the fish occasionally, until the fish is cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the cornflour with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste, then add to the liquid in the wok, shaking the wok to combine the cornflour paste with the simmering liquid. Cook for 1 minute, shaking the wok, until the liquid has thickened slightly. Transfer the fish and sauce to a platter and serve immediately.
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