Ingredient Feature

Whole Fish – Tips from Foodstander Cathy Erway

May 13, 2015

Yes, eating nose-to-tail is a great way to limit how much of our food goes to the landfill. But what do you do with the nose… or the tail? If you are working with fish, try prepping a whole fish. It can be a bit intimidating, but a whole fish is usually is cheaper by the pound and most fishmongers will clean and gut the whole fish first to take care of the dirty work! You can pan-fry a whole fish for a quick, one-pot meal. We love this post from fellow Foodstander, author, and radio show host Cathy Erway, author of The Food of Taiwan featuring her pan-friend whole fish recipe from her latest book. 


Yes, you can try this with ramps too! Pan-fried whole fish with ginger and scallions from #thefoodoftaiwan.

Yes, you can try this with ramps too! Pan-fried whole fish with ginger and scallions from #thefoodoftaiwan.


Give this a try and let us and Cathy (@cathyerway) know how you did. 


This is Taiwan’s style of pan-frying a fish: with copious fresh herbs, and plenty of sauce. Salty, pungent, and slightly sweet, the sauce is made just after pan-frying the fish in the same pan, to drizzle liberally on top. It’s a one-pot dish fit for the finest banquet tables, but also commonly served up at seafood market vendor stands.

Ingredients (Makes 4 to 6 servings)

  • 1 (1 1/2- to 2-pound) whole white-fleshed fish (such as black bass)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 4 whole scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly score the fish with 2 slashes on each side (not deep enough to hit the bone). Rub the salt and white pepper across its surface and inside its cavity.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok big enough to fit the whole fish over medium-high heat. Once the oil is very hot and beginning to pop and sizzle a little, carefully place the fish on one side in the oil. Cook undisturbed until gently browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip the fish over (with the help of two spatulas if necessary). Brown the opposite side of the fish for another 2 to 3 minutes. Touch the top of the fish to check if it feels firm, and peek inside the slash to ensure that the flesh appears to be entirely opaque and not clear white toward the center. Once fully cooked, transfer the fish carefully to a serving platter.

To the same pan, add the ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the rice wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar and soy sauce until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Stir in half of the scallions and remove from the heat. Pour the sauce over the plated fish. Garnish with the remaining scallions and serve immediately.

Recipes and photography from THE FOOD OF TAIWAN by Cathy Erway. Copyright © 2015 by Cathy Erway. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.



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