Chinese Szechuan Spicy Fish Soup

Chinese Szechuan Spicy Fish SoupLast week, my husband treated me to dinner at a Szechuan (also known as Sichuan or Szechwan) restaurant in New York City called Wu Liang Ye, that serves authentic Szechuan cuisine. In the town that I live in, there are no authentically Chinese restaurants, let alone Szechuan. For anyone who is familiar with Szechuan cuisine, you know what I'm talking about when I tell you that Szechuan food is spicy hot and bold in flavor, leaving your mouth tingling with the after effects of Szechuan peppercorns lingering on your tongue. Some people say it leaves a numbing feeling in your mouth. Szechuan cuisine uses a lot of garlic, chili peppers and Szechuan peppercorns. I love spicy food and I don't mind the numbing sensation, so I couldn't wait to see what was on the menu.

One of the dishes we ordered was a spicy Szechuan fish soup, which came highly recommended. When it arrived, even I was a bit intimidated. The entire top of the casserole dish was covered with hot dried chili peppers! The soup was aromatic with Szechuan peppercorns and it was spicy, although not as spicy as I would have thought given the number of hot chili peppers floating on top of the dish. After I got home, I couldn't take my mind off of that Szechuan Spicy Fish Soup. I wanted to try making it at home. It's really not difficult to make; you just need the Szechuan peppercorns, some dried chili peppers, and Szechuan hot bean sauce, all of which can be found in Asian markets and the ethnic section of some supermarkets. Penzeys also carries Szechuan peppercorns.
Szechuan Hot Bean SauceI used Angie's recipe as a guide, but in the end, decided to make this Szechuan Spicy Fish Stew the way I remembered it.

Chinese Szechuan Spicy Fish SoupThis is spicy! Reduce the amount of Szechuan hot bean sauce and hot chili peppers if you like, but for the full efffect, I recommend using all the spices. I used barrimundi fish, which is a mild white fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Printable Recipe

1 pound white firm flesh fish fillet (barrimundi, tilapia, catfish or flounder would work)
Fish Marinade:
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons rice wine 
1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon Szechuan hot bean sauce
One 1" piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 scallion, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 cup Szechuan dried red chili peppers
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 cups fish or chicken stock
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup napa cabbage, cut up

Cut fish into 2" pieces. Mix Fish Marinade ingredients and toss well with fish fillet. Set aside to marinade for 20 minutes.

Heat oil in a large pot. Add hot bean sauce and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ginger, garlic, half of scallions, Szechuan peppercorns, and dried chili peppers. Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn the peppercorns or chili peppers. Add rice wine and soy sauce and stir another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil.
This spicy broth has such rich flavors!Place celery and napa cabbage in a clay casserole. Lay marinated fish on top.
I used barrimundi, but any firm white fish will work.Pour soup on top of fish. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Serve over steamed brown rice.

Serves 4.

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