Chinese Food In Minutes

Sweet and smoky 'hong sao yu'

Ready in minutes, this is an elegant dish for entertaining.

Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes, cook in: 10 minutes

‘Hong sao yu’ in Mandarin means ‘red-cooked fish’ – ‘hong sao’ describes the deep brown colour that comes from combining soy, sugar and spices. Ready in minutes, this is an elegant dish for entertaining.

350g/12oz cod fillet, skin on
1 tablespoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
1–2 tablespoons potato flour or cornflour
sea salt
1 spring onion, sliced, to garnish
sweet potato jasmine rice to serve

For the sauce
200ml/7fl oz water
2.5cm/1 inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinkiang black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

• Rinse the fish in cold running water and pat dry with absorbent kitchen paper, then cut into 5cm/2inch chunks. Place in a bowl with the rice wine or sherry and leave to marinate for a few minutes, then pat dry.
• Heat a wok over a high heat and add the groundnut oil. When the oil starts to smoke, dip the fish slices in the potato flour or cornflour. Fry on a medium heat until crisp and the flesh has turned opaque and flakes when poked with a knife. Leave the fish in the wok and turn the heat down to very low.
• Heat another small wok over a medium heat, add all the ingredients for the sauce and cook for about 4 minutes to reduce the sauce by half. Sieve the sauce over the fish in the other wok (retaining the sieved spices), then turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce bubbles. Spoon the sauce over the fish, coating it well.
• To serve, transfer the cod to a serving plate and pour the sauce over it, then sprinkle the spices sieved from the wok around the plate. Garnish with the spring onion and serve immediately with sweet potato jasmine rice.

Ching’s Tip
• You could also cook beef, pork or chicken slices in the same way.


Mum's sweet potato jasmine rice

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook in: 30 minutes

My mum loves cooking us various different rice dishes, and this is one of my family’s favourites. It makes a great side dish and an alternative to plain jasmine rice.

300g/11oz jasmine rice
600ml/1 pint water
400g/14oz unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into 1.5 x 1.5cm/5/8 x 5/8 inch chunks

1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Put into a pan with the water and sweet potatoes and bring to the boil. Once boiled, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes.
2. Take off the heat, fluff up the rice and serve immediately.

Ching’s Tip
• To turn this into sweet potato congee, double the amount of water. Or if you have plenty left over, you can turn it into congee – add enough water to cover the rice and bring it to the boil, then turn the heat down and cook to a watery porridge consistency.