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Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce

Learn to cook Chinese pan-fried fish fillet with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and scallion. Follow my easy tips to get that perfectly crispy pan-fried fish.
Ingredients for Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.
Ingredients for Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

Pan-fried fish with soy sauce is one of the most classic Chinese recipe to enjoy white fish. Chinese restaurants love to serve their fish whole, and only sometimes thinly sliced, or in fillet form.

This recipe with fish fillets is the easiest and most straightforward, and you can have a really nice fish dish for lunch/dinner in 30 minutes, including prep time. ♥

Which fish is commonly used in Chinese cooking?

Most Chinese fish recipes call for whole fish, and some of the more popular fish we use when cooking Chinese dishes include red snapper, rock rish, pomfret, flounder/sole, sea bass/striped bass, tilapia, and cod.

If you are using cod, we usually use cod fillets/steaks only and not the whole fish since cod is a very large fish.

The best fish to use is live fish

I prefer using whole fish when I can buy them still living and kicking in their tanks, which you should be able too if you have access to a big Chinese/Asian grocery stores.

In almost every store that I have visited in the US, most will happily clean and cut the fish for you if you ask, so you can save some prepping time.

Be sure to ask for ice if you do this to keep the fish as fresh for as long as possible.

Also, cook the fish on the same day you buy it, preferably immediately once you reach home. :)

Ingredients for Chinese Pan-Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.
Ingredients for Chinese Pan-Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

What if I can’t find live fish?

You can still use whole fish, even when you can’t find live ones. Be sure to select very fresh fish. It should have clear eyes, shiny scales, and fresh smell of the sea, not fishy or stinky.

Can I use fish fillet instead?

If your grocery store doesn’t sell live fish and the whole fish selection is not great, you can use fish fillet too. In fact, I develop this recipe around fish fillets, though you can definitely use this recipe to prepare whole fish too. :)

Please make sure that your fish fillet has firm flesh, and if possible, with skin on so you get to enjoy the contrast between crispy skin and tender flesh.

Feel free to use frozen fish fillets as those can oftentimes have higher quality than the ones already sitting for hours in the meat section.

Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.
Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

How to prepare fish fillets so they will be crispy.

First, let’s prepare the fish fillet for pan-frying so you will end up with perfectly crispy pan-fried fish fillets. :)

1. Pat dry each fish fillet with really well.

This step is super important, especially if you use thawed frozen fish.

2. Salt, pepper, starch/flour.

Sprinkle each side of the fish fillet with salt and pepper, then dust with corn starch. If you don’t have corn starch and you are not aiming for a gluten-free dish, you can also simply dust the fish fillet with all-purpose flour.

3. Shake off excess starch/flour.

You want to coat your fish well, but not excessively. Too much starch/flour will actually lead to less crispy fish.

Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.
Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

How to perfectly cook a pan-fried fish fillet.

Once you do all the steps above, your fish fillets are ready to be cooked. Here are the steps to follow to ensure crispy fried fish:

1. Use a heavy pan/skillet.

My preferred choice is a cast-iron skillet, and you really don’t need a non-stick pan to cook a perfect pan-fried fish.

2. Hot pan and cold oil.

Always heat the pan first before adding oil. So what you want to do is to heat the pan until you start seeing thin smoke, then add oil and swirl to coat the pan, then proceed with cooking.

3. Let the fish fillet releases itself from the pan.

Almost 100% of the time, the fish fillets will initially stick to the pan. But, once the surface is cooked and becomes golden brown, the fillets will release itself naturally from the pan.

So have patience and don’t try to move your fish in its early stage. You should at least wait until the edges of the fillet are golden brown before you try nudging it.

Chinese pan-fried fish with soy sauce, using rock fish fillets.
Chinese pan-fried fish with soy sauce, using rock fish fillets.

Sauce for Chinese pan-fried fish

This dish is all about enjoying the fish with as little seasoning ingredients as possible. And you can see that we use only garlic, ginger, and scallions for our herbs/aromatics.

As for the sauce, it cannot get any simpler than this. You will only need three ingredients: water, light soy sauce, and sugar. For most people, that’s practically just soy sauce, right? :)

For light soy sauce, I usually either use Pearl River Bridge or Kimlan.

What is a good substitute for light soy sauce?

The best substitute is regular soy sauce, such as Kikkoman soy sauce, preferably reduced-sodium soy sauce as I find the regular version too salty.

Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce

5.0 from 53 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Serves: 2

Print Recipe


  • 250 gram firm white fish fillet, such as red snapper, tilapia, rockfish, flounder, cod, etc.
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • corn starch, to dust the fish (Note 1)
  • 2 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into small pieces (or roughly minced)
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, sliced diagonally
  • Sauce for Chinese fried fish
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (Note 2)
  • 2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Pat dry the fish really well, especially so if you use thawed frozen fish fillet. Scatter a pinch of salt and ground pepper on the fish. Dust with corn starch (or all-purpose flour) to coat the fish so it won't stick when fried on the pan. Shake to remove excess starch/flour, and set aside.
  2. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat frying pan on high heat until you see a thin wisp of smoke. Add oil and swirl to coat the pan, stir fry garlic, ginger, and scallion until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, fry the fish for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the fish once at the end of 5 minutes, or once edges of the fish have browned. Otherwise, the fish will stick to the pan. Set the fish on a serving plate.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the sauce into the pan. Once it bubbles a bit, return the garlic, ginger, and scallion into the sauce. Cook for a minute. Pour the sauce onto the fish. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.


  • (1) You can also use all-purpose flour to dust the fish if you don't need the dish to be gluten-free.
  • (2) You can also use regular soy sauce, preferably less-sodium version, if you don't have light soy sauce. If you must, you can also use dark soy sauce but do add salt to suit your taste since dark soy sauce is less salty compared to light soy sauce or regular soy sauce.
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  • Puni Puni says:


  • Chris Chris says:

    Beautiful pictures there. Will be cooking this! Thanks for the recipe, Anita :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks Chris. I hope you will like this one as well :)

  • Daniekray Daniekray says:

    I love this recipe, it'll be my second time using it.....thank you Anita......much love and thanks from my picky family ,lol..

  • Daniel ray Daniel ray says:

    Oops its Daniel ray,,,sorry

    • Anita Anita says:

      I am happy you and your family love the recipe :)

  • teo ai li teo ai li says:

    Hi, may I know do you use light soya sauce or dark soya sauce? Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      I use either regular soy sauce or light soy sauce, but not dark soy sauce.

  • Nes Nes says:

    Can I use kembung fish for this sis? Is that ok?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hm.... I am not so sure, usually I use red snapper/rock fish/tilapia.

  • Himanshu Himanshu says:

    Hi, Can we make this recipe using Basa fillets

    • Anita Anita says:

      I think basa would also be a good choice :)

  • Swen Nater Swen Nater says:

    Made this last night. Very good. Very good. Suggestion: Fry in two batches. Fish will brown better. Suggestion: Make twice the sauce; it's not enough. Suggestion: Salt fish immediately after frying. Use a wok. Keeper.

  • Max Max says:

    Can I use dark soy sauce?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Yes, but Chinese dark soy sauce is generally less salty, so you may want to adjust by adding a bit of salt to taste. If you have regular soy sauce like Kikkoman, you can also use that. :)

  • Jane K Jane K says:

    Ive tried this recipe today and have received great feedbacks from my guests! thanks !

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks for the feedback Jane. I am glad your guests love this dish. :)

  • Christine  Christine says:

    How do you make the sauce without Soy sauce? Do you add other liquid. I've eaten it where the sauce is clear and wondered how that was made. Can you tell me?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Christine, the sauce has light soy sauce in it. Plus, I have also written in the recipe that you can use regular soy sauce if you don't have light soy sauce at home.

  • Tisha Tisha says:

    This looks absolutely amazing! We usually fry fish on the grill will have to try it in the pan!

    • Anita Anita says:

      I love grilled fish too, especially when the weather is nice like summer. :) For a colder time like now (winter-spring transition), it's more convenient to just do some pan frying.

  • Natalie Levin Natalie Levin says:

    I love Chinese fried fish! Looks so delicious and I love how easy it is to make!

  • Dannii Dannii says:

    That looks so lovely and light. I really need to start cooking more Chinese meals at home.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thank you, Dannii. I hope this recipe will inspire you to prepare more Chinese dishes.

  • Noelle Noelle says:

    Love the chinese inspiration to this recipe, soy sauce is my favor flavor! Thanks for the share :)

  • Adrianne Adrianne says:

    I love eating seafood and this seems like a simple and easy recipe, thanks for sharing, I can't wait to give this a go! Cheers

    • Anita Anita says:

      We are a family of seafood lovers too. And since I am the one who does all the cooking in my home, it's a bonus since seafood usually is a snap to prepare. :D

  • Ceciel Ceciel says:

    Thank you for the recipe! it was delicious and simple to make. I will definitely make it again and again.

    • Anita Anita says:

      I am super happy you love this recipe Ceciel. This is definitely one of the most requested recipe at home, and I make this weekly for my family. :)

  • Darnell Tuason Darnell Tuason says:

    Thank You so much! A big help to me since I recently switched to pescetarian diet. Cheers 😃

  • Genevieve Genevieve says:

    This recipe looks super interesting!

  • Calleigh Calleigh says:

    Very simple recipe but super delicious especially when you drench the ginger soy sauce on steamed white rice. Yummy!!

  • Tracy Tracy says:

    This was so great! My family absolutely loves it, thank you!

  • Tisha Tisha says:

    This chinese fried fish has so many great flavors! Definitely a dish that is going on my menu!

  • Jack Jack says:

    I'm a spearo so I get a lot of delicious fresh fish and have cooked this recipe a few times. If you wanna make it really extra, add a stalk of lemon grass, a small red chilli without most of the seeds, finely cut basil and finely cut coriander. The lemon grass being the main winner if anything!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks for sharing your modification. That lemongrass, chili, basil, and coriander combo sounds delicious. It's so awesome that you are a spearo, you must be eating freshly caught fish all the time. :)

  • Dannii Dannii says:

    What a lovely light meal. Looks like it has lots of flavour too.

  • Nicole Nicole says:

    Wow what a great dish, this is perfect for a week night dinner!! Thank you

  • Patty at Spoonabilities Patty at Spoonabilities says:

    I love finding great new fish recipes! Definitely this will be a favorite one in our house!

  • Kelly Anthony Kelly Anthony says:

    I've always been intimidated to buy a whole fish because I wasn't sure what to buy. Thanks for the tips.

  • Debbie Debbie says:

    What vegetable can you serve with this. My husband does not eat rice or pasta?

  • Sheila D Sheila D says:

    This was quick, simple, and delicious! Just the way I like it. A definite recipe to be kept, shared, and made many times.

  • Sarah Sarah says:

    Surprisingly delicious considering how easy it is to make. . Definitely a keeper. I reduce fat by using cooking spray. And I reduced and crushed the ginger since I only like it in small doses.

  • arpita arpita says:

    We are in the middle of preparing our Lenten menu and this is first on the list! So easy and so flavorful.

  • Leon Leon says:

    Loved it ❤️

  • Chris McMaster Chris McMaster says:

    I made this for dinner tonight with some fresh King Dory Fillets and it was amazing. Served it with steamed rice. So quick and easy to make and tastes restaurant quality.

  • Paula Paula says:

    This is so simple and incredibly delicious.

  • Stacia Stacia says:

    I hate fish. But this recipe is delicious. My husband loves fish and I try to prepare it but have had many failures. This was an absolute success. I will make extra sauce next time!

  • Timothy W Timothy W says:

    Hi, i am cooking this right now its very simple and looks amazing!

  • May May says:


  • Lany Susanto Lany Susanto says:

  • KW KW says:

    I don’t like ginger, will it be ok without?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi KW, it should be okay without ginger. You may want to increase the amount of garlic and scallions, each by 50%, to compensate for the lack of flavor from the ginger.

      • KW KW says:

        Thank you so much!! It was incredible - added stir fry veg for extra bite!!

  • Akash Akash says:

    Oh wow this is quick and easy and super great in taste! Had frozen Dory fish fillets and happened to find this recipe on Google. Talk about serendipity!

  • Rich Rich says:

    very good recipe

  • LeiLei LeiLei says:

    Lovely recipe. I didn't have fresh ginger so I used fresh chilies instead, really nice flavour. Tonight we will try with ginger & sole instead of cod.

  • Patricia Patricia says:

    Surprisingly delicious for such a simple recipe. I used yellow-bellied perch because I had it. I’d recommend this recipe to anyone.

  • Tina Tina says:

    What a fantastic recipe! I just finished making and eating this dish! Easy and fast to make and very forgiving. I didn't have any corn starch so I used plain flour and panko crumbs and seasoned with salt and pepper - then pan fried with peanut oil. The sauce which I thought was going to be really salty - turned out really lovely. The husband came back for seconds :)

  • Barry Barry says:

    Delicious! I used swai and it came out great, nice and crisp, and the sauce complimented it perfectly.

  • Kerry Kerry says:

    This is excellent, been cooking this for years since I first saw it. It's great on white rice, simple, fast, delicious.

  • Tamar Tamar says:

    Made this as written (used potato starch and pollock for fish). It was delicious. Next time I will double the sauce part. I will be making this frequently. Thank you.

  • KT S KT S says:

    Some of the best fish I've ever made!

  • Da Da says:


  • Joanne Joanne says:


  • Saira Saira says:

    Love it! ❤

  • Lorraine Lorraine says:

    Delicious, I added 1tsp of hoisin sauce to the sauce portion plus used honey instead of sugar (to taste). Will definitely make again.

  • Valerie Valerie says:

    Absolutely the best way to make fish! Thank you so much for this recipe. It is so perfect and so tasty, especially for tilapia and cod. Mmmm.

  • Jenny Jenny says:

    I cooked this last weekend. Whole family loved it. Will cook it again this coming weekend. Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe. ❤️

  • Jodi Ann Jodi Ann says:

    Easy to make and was delicious. Thumbs up.

  • Valerie Foster Valerie Foster says:

    omg this is soooooo good. this is now a staple recipe in our house. great job!

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