It often happened that when I told friends and family that I would do my two-year masters in Beijing, they would react amazed, carefully telling me that two years is a long time and that it would be hard; being away from friends and family, in a country with a completely different culture and language and.. the list goes on and on. Every time this happened, I would react totally casual, like I knew what I was in for. Oh boy, what was I naive. Looking back on last year, on my preparations for the big trip and the expectations I had, there isn’t anything that turned out like I had expected. The experiences I gained during my first semester have learned me a lot about myself and of course I’m still learning more every single day. There are parts of me that I’m proud of, I’m doing things that I never thought I would be capable of, but I also discovered parts of me that I’m not too pleased about. We (except for Hermione of course) might not be able to turn back time and make things undone, but we can learn from our mistakes and make sure to never make the same mistakes again.
In case you’re wondering why I’m being so dramatic instead of just telling you how incredibly flavorful this fish is – no, I’m not drunk and it’s not the time of the month – it’s because the first semester has come to an end, there are two big trips coming up in the next three weeks (more on that another time) and I have all the time in the world to think about all my sins and fortunes.
One of my favorite experiences in Beijing so far has been learning to cook Chinese food. Firstly because food is such a big part of Chinese culture and secondly, who am I kidding here, because I love eating it and I want to be able to cook it myself. Before attending the cooking class, I thought this fish would be difficult to make, but just like so many other things in life, you just have to give it a go and you’ll see that it isn’t as hard as you thought it would be.
Recipe adapted from Hutong Cuisine.
Recipe for 1 person.
Even though the fish is smothered in chili, it is really not that spicy. Not sure why this is, my guess is that it’s because it’s a pickled chili, but if anyone knows the real reason, please share your knowledge.
250 g river bass
4 tbsp minced pickled chili from Hunan province 湖南剁辣椒, probably (hopefully) available in an Asian/Chinese supermarket
1 tsp minced ginger
1 piece of spring onion (only the white part), finely chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 piece of spring onion (only the green part), chopped
2 tbsp oil
Make slices, about 0,5 cm deep and 1 cm apart, in the skin of the fish*. This ensures the fish to steam very quickly and evenly and helps the flavors of the marinade and seasoning to get into the fish.
Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a little bowl and rub it all over the fish. Do the same with the ingredients for the seasoning. Leave for half an hour, turn the fish after 15 minutes to make sure that both sides are being seasoned properly.
Boil water and put a steamer over the pan. Place the plate with the fish in the steamer and steam for 4-6 minutes, depending on the size.
Take the plate (be careful, it is hot) out of the steamer and scatter the spring onion (green part) over the fish.
Put 2 tbsp of oil in a pan or a big metal spoon and heat over medium heat. When the oil begins to smoke pour it over the fish.
*You can use fish with or without skin – both are fine.