“Disappearing Fish” With Black Bean Sauce

There are things that I love about food descriptions and things that I hate. In Oriental cookery, many of the descriptions are truly evocative and allude to history and culture in equal measure. Great examples include “General Tso’s Chicken”. This evokes thoughts of the great Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. That’s as far as it goes as there is no known connection to him or the dish in his home province of Hunan. This dish is punching above it’s cultural weight as it really is just a sweet, sticky American chicken with rice. Then we have “Man and Wife Beef”, “Squirrel Fish” and the classic “100 Year Old Egg”. Great names all. But, sometimes possibly going wide of the trade descriptions act.

With all of that in mind, I have devised my “Disappearing Fish With Black Bean Sauce”. It differs from the above as it is a truly accurate description. I could have called it “Wok Fried Sole With Black Bean Sauce” but, where’s the fun in that. I also truly HATE the type of descriptions that include “Oven Baked” and “Pan Fried” monikers. What else would one bake in but an oven? I have to admit that ‘wok fried’ is descriptive, but what the hell!

Anyway, on to the ingredients:

  • 1 large black sole (enough for two people)
  • 1 tablespoon of fermented black beans
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon or so of corn flour to dust the fish
  • 2 red chillis (1 if you are a bit heat averse)
  • 5cm piece of root ginger
  • 5 or 6 spring onions

Add some hot water to the black beans to reconstitute. When they are cool, drain them. Chop the onions into small rounds as shown in the picture.

The spring onions work very well with chilli and black beans

Slice the chillis into rings, again, as shown in the picture. We want them to be about the same size as the onions for texture and visual appeal.

My favourite shot from this post. I love the shadows and bright red highlights.

Chop the ginger into small pieces. Dust the fish with the flour. Heat a wok and add some cooking oil (about 100 ml). When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the ginger and stir to flavour the oil. Gently slide the fish into the oil. Ladle the oil over the fish as it cooks. Don’t try to turn the fish as it will fall apart. Cook for about 5 minutes or until you are confident it is cooked.

One needs a big wok to make this work. Either that or a small fish.

Remove the fish and drain on kitchen paper. Pour off most of the oil and return the wok to the heat. Add the onion and stir until soft. Add the chilli and black beans. Stir before adding the rice wine. Flame this off before adding the soy sauce. The sauce will thicken up nicely from the residual corn flour.

This is a delightful, punchy, thick sauce.

Pour the sauce over the fish and serve it whole between two people. A big bowl of rice or noodles goes well too.

The meaty fish is a lovely contrast for the strong sauce.

You will see where the dish gets it ’s name. it is a simple Oriental inspired treat. Now, disappear to the fish shop and get a sole. It’s a delight.

Proof, if it were needed. Disappearing fish!
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Latest comments
  • I agree with you on the favourite photo: I especially like the red chilli reflected in the cleaver blade. Exquisite and faintly menacing, like a puddle of fresh blood 🙂

    • If a puddle of fresh blood is faintly menacing, I wonder what would be truly menacing for Kate…

  • Wow, that is one heck of a cleaver. I love the photos and the recipe.

  • Your disappearing fish with black bean sauce would disappear on our table right quickly. As always, well described and well photographed.

  • So true about oven baked, etc. I love the heat in this dish. I love using our wok, so versatile for a lot of different dishes. Just hate the clean up as it’s heavy but well worth the dishes.

      • That’s my struggle with the cast iron. I should do some research on lighter options.

  • Another masterpiece, Conor. I really like the name, the sauce, the photos, your story. I just won’t attempt to cook a large whole fish in a wok. Kudos to you for managing that. You should include the Chinese characters for the name 🙂

  • What is this TWO servings of which you speak? I could totally devour the entire recipe!

  • Am not being very imaginative in my descriptive abilities this morning . . . so shall echo Ron to say this will disappear in this household also, methinks with a great deal of enjoyment, using whichever flatfish I can find . . . Am afraid you nearly failed to get me reading past ‘General Tso’s Chicken’ on this port tho’ . . . I am an army brat and I know this concoction is a favourite at West Point, but really . . . . oh well. methinks we are on the same page . . .

  • Gorgeous. I could eat the whole thing as well. And I do love bean sauce. Are you talking fermented bean sauce?

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