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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.

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. ♥

Ingredients for Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

Ingredients for Chinese Pan-Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

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
  • rockfish
  • pomfret
  • flounder, or sole
  • sea bass, or striped bass
  • tilapia
  • 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. And 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. :)

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, and it should have these characteristics:

  • clear eyes
  • shiny scales
  • 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 these characteristics:

  • firm flesh
  • 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 and cook your fish fillet perfectly with a pan-frying method.

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.

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.

Chinese Pan-Fried Fish with Soy Sauce.

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:

For most people, that’s practically just soy sauce, right? :)

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.

Originally published on September 16, 2013. Updated on February 25, 2019 with new photos.

Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Soy Sauce


4.9 from 17 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson

Categories:

Cuisine:

Ingredients:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 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 (*)
  • 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 (**)
  • 2 teaspoon sugar

Instructions

  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 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 each side. Only flip the fish once at the end of 5 minutes, or when you see that the edges of the fish has 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 to the pan. Wait until it bubbles a bit, then return the garlic, ginger, and scallion into the sauce. Cook for a minutes. Pour the sauce onto the fish. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Notes

  • (*) You can also use all-purpose flour to dust the fish if you don't need the dish to be gluten-free.
  • (**) 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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Comments

  • Puni Puni says:

    Yummy,thanks

  • 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!

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