← Back to Search Results
stir-frying Asian, Chinese, Sichuan
Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers Recipe-15143

Photo by: Tara Fisher
Comments: 0


The so-called fish-fragrant flavor is one of Sichuan’s most famous culinary creations, and it epitomizes the Sichuanese love for audacious combinations of flavors. It is salty, sweet, sour, and spicy and infused with the heady tastes of garlic, ginger, and scallions. The hot taste comes from pickled chiles, which also stain the cooking oil a brilliant orange-red. The most classic fish-fragrant dishes are based on pickled chiles chopped to a puree with the blade of a cleaver, although some versions use Sichuan chili bean paste instead, which is made with pickled fava beans as well as chiles. This delicious combination of flavors is thought to have originated in traditional Sichuanese fish cooking, which would explain why other ingredients prepared in the same way would have instantly recalled the taste of fish to those who ate them, hence the name. Some food experts, like the famous chef Xiao Jianming of the Piaoxiang Restaurant in CHengu, say the flavors conjure up the actual taste of tiny crucian crap (ji yu), which are widely eaten in Sichuan – another explanation for the title. The term may also be connected with the fact that whole crucian carp, which are particularly delicious, are sometimes actually added to vats of pickling chiles to improve their taste. Everyone agrees that the fish-fragrant style grew out of home cooking and was only later adopted by professional chefs.

Fish-fragrant dishes have been one of Sichuan’s most successful culinary exports, but the strangeness of the term has led to a great variety of translations on English-language menus: “mock-fish”, “sea-spice” (a great misnomer in inland Sichuan) and “fish-flavored” among them. The two Chinese characters literally mean “fish” and “fragrant”, which is why I prefer my translation.

Fish-fragrant pork slivers is the most famous of al Sichuan’s “fish-fragrant” dishes. Sichaunese chefs tend to use fine strips of lettuce stem (wo sun) as a crunchy element in this dish, but I’ve written the recipe using the more easily available bamboo shoots or celery. This dish should be cooked very quickly, to preserve the tenderness of the pork.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main course with one vegetable dish and rice, 4 with three other dishes


  • A small handful of dried cloud ear mushrooms
  • 10 ounces boneless pork loin (the meat from about 2 pork chops), preferably with a little fat
  • 2/3 cup fresh or canned bamboo shoots or 2 celery stalks
  • Salt
  • Peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons pickled chili paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, very thinly sliced

For the marinade:

  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon potato flour or 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry

For the sauce:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon potato flour or 1 1/8 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock of water


1. Cover the cloud ear mushrooms in very hot water and soak for 30 minutes.

2. Cut the pork into thin slices (ideally about 1/8 of an inch thick), and then cut these into long, fine slivers. Place in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients, and stir in one direction to combine.

3. Blanch the bamboo shoots in boiling salted water for a minute or two. Rinse in cold water; then slice thinly and cut the slices into very fine strips to match the pork. If you are using celery, cut them into thin strips. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and let them sit for 15 minutes or so to drain out some of their water content.) Thinly slice the cloud ear mushrooms, discarding any knobby bits. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

4. Season the wok, then add a ¼ cup of cool oil to the wok and reheat over a high flame.

5. When the oil is beginning to smoke, add the pork and stir-fry briskly. As soon as the strips have separated, push them to one side of the wok, tip the wok toward the other side, and tip the chili paste into the space you have created. Stir-fry very briefly until the oil is ready and fragrant, and then add the garlic and ginger and mix everything together, tilting the wok back to normal. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so until you can smell the aromas of garlic and ginger. Tip in the bamboo shoots and mushrooms and stir-fry briefly, until just hot.

6. Stir the sauce in its bowl, and then add to the wok. Stir quickly to incorporate, throw in the scallions, toss briefly, and turn onto a serving dish.

© 2001 Fuchsia Dunlop

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

This recipe serves 4, and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.

268kcal (13%)
17mg (2%)
4mg (7%)
7mcg RAE (0%)
47mg (16%)
929mg (39%)
4g (20%)
19g (29%)
1mg (5%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.

Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

new-american-table New American Table
by Marcus Samuelsson, Marcus Samuelsson
arthur-schwartzs-new-york-city-food Arthur Schwartz's New York ...
by Arthur Schwartz
rosas-new-mexican-table-friendly-recipes-for-festive-meals Rosa's New Mexican Table: F...
by Roberto Santibanez
ice-creams-and-sorbets-cool-recipes Ice Creams and Sorbets: Coo...
by Lou Seibert Pappas
living-raw-food Living Raw Food
by Sarma Melngailis
le-bernardin-cookbook Le Bernardin Cookbook
by Eric Ripert, Maguy Le Coze
sunday-suppers-at-lucques Sunday Suppers at Lucques
by Suzanne Goin
the-whole-beast-nose-to-tail-eating The Whole Beast: Nose to Ta...
by Fergus Henderson
a-new-way-to-cook A New Way to Cook
by Sally Schneider
once-upon-a-tart-soups-salads-muffins-and-more-from-new-york-citys-favorite-bakeshop-and-cafe Once Upon a Tart: Soups, Sa...
by Frank Mentesana, Jerome Audureau
the-sweet-life The Sweet Life
by Kate Zuckerman
cooking-for-friends Cooking for Friends
by Gordon Ramsay
david-rosengarten-entertains-fabulous-parties-for-food-lovers David Rosengarten Entertain...
by David Rosengarten
julias-kitchen-wisdom Julia's Kitchen Wisdom
by Julia Child

Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive an activation email in your inbox shortly. Don't forget to click that link and activate your new Cookstr.com account!

Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up for Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?