Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish

There are many signature dishes of Suzhou that make up a formal banquet Suzhou style and which are renowned throughout China. Among these dishes, Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin fish is the most famous, legendary both home and abroad. The Mandarin Fish is characterized by its lack of bones and the softness of its meat. The head of the fish, its mouth positioned wide open, and the tail bent upwards, gives the overall look of a squirrel. The fish is also cut into spikes resembling the fur. It is finished with shrimp, dried bamboo shoots and a sweet-and-sour sauce and thus the Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish is complete in color, shape, and flavor.

The Origin of Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish recipe:

Squirrel Mandarin Fish is the magnum opus from Huaiyang(Suzhou, Yangzhou) cuisine, This exquisite fish dish is very good in shape, color, flavor and taste. It’s also a well-known Chinese disd at home and overseas.

The oldest documented age for Cooking of Squirrel Fish is more than 1,400 years in Sui Dynasty, The Emperor Tang of Sui order the chef to made special meals as all visited places during his whirlwind tour of south China. The Yangzhou is rich in fish by a picturesque lakes setting surround by hill.

The chef was catered a sweet and sour sauce with local ingredients, a fried & finely cut fish hisses when the hot suace was thrown on it, the particular & strange ‘hisses’ just like a characteristic call of a squirrel, So local people named this to Squirrel Fish. nowadays, this cooking could with many kind of fishes, such as carp, crucian, grouper, etc. The Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish is most delicious and popular for many people.

Recipe: Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish

Chinese : 松鼠桂鱼

Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish

Features: It beautifully resembles the shape of a squirrel.

Ingredients for Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish:

1 freshwater fish (preferably mandarin fish) of about 750 grams (1.65 lb)
30 grams (1 1/15 oz) shrimps
20 grams (2/3 oz) diced bamboo shoots
15 grams (1/2 oz) green peas
20 grams (2/3 oz) diced mushrooms (originally dried mushrooms that have been soaked in water)
150 grams (11 tbsp) sugar
100 grams (6 tbsp) vinegar
20 grams (4 tsp) cooking wine
100 grams (5 1/2 tbsp) tomato sauce
500 grams (1.1 lb) dry cornstarch (only about 100 g or 0.22 lb to be used)
100 grams (6 tbsp) water
35 grams (2 tbsp) mixture of cornstarch and water
10 grams (2 tsp) sesame oil
1,000 grams (4 cups) oil (200 g or 4/5 cup to be consumed)

Directions to cook Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish:

1. Clean the fish, cut off the head near the belly fin, but do not throw it away. Cut open the fish along its back until the cut reaches its tail. (Do not cut off the tail.) Cut out the backbone and remove the side bones (ribs). Make several cuts with 1 cm spaces in between, first vertically and then horizontally on the inner side of the fish to create a diamond-shaped pattern. (Do not cut open the skin.) Marinate the fish with 10 g (2 tsp) of cooking wine and 5 g (5/6 tsp) of salt for 5 minutes. Dust the dry cornstarch on the fish body and head. Hold the fish tail to shake off unnecessary cornstarch.

2. Heat the oil until it is about 200-220ºC (390-430ºF). Roll the fish to keep the skin inside. Hold the fish tail with one hand and the top end of the fish body with chopsticks and gradually release it into the oil. Now place the head into the oil also. When both are done, take them out and place them on a plate, putting the head and the body together to create the concept of a whole fish.

3. Mix the tomato sauce, water, sugar, 10 g (2 tsp) of cooking wine and 2 g (1/3 tsp) of salt into a sauce.

4. Keep 20 g (1 1/2 tbsp) of oil in the wok. Put in the shrimps, diced bamboo shoots, mushrooms and green peas and stir-fry. Add in the mixed sauce. When the sauce is boiling, put in the cornstarch-water mixture to thicken it. Sprinkle some sesame oil and pour the sauce right onto the fish.

Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish have a test of sweet and sour, crispy outside and tender inside. The dish has been savored all over the country, and can be ordered in any reputable restaurant.

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