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Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker

A classic and well-liked Huai Yang Style Dish

by HomeNaturallyMade
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Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker {Traditional Huai Yang Style}

Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker {Tang Cu Xiao Huang Hua 糖醋小黄花鱼} is one of the most beloved Huai Yang style dishes. It features tender, flaky and delicious little yellow croaker pan fried using low heat first, and then flavored in a traditional Huai Yang style sweet and sour sauce. They are full of flavor, absolutely appetizing and mouth-watering.

sweet & sour croaker ingredients

Yellow Croaker Fun Facts:

Yellow croaker or little yellow croaker are native to the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. They have buttery tender meat that is naturally delicious.

Growing up in Suzhou, in the heart of China’s Yangtze River Delta area, sweet and sour yellow croaker has been one of my favorite hometown food.

cooking yellow croaker

I was absolutely overjoyed to discover yellow croaker in my local Korean grocery store. It turned out they are popular Korean food too.

How to cook Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker Huai Yang Traditional Style?

See the Recipe for the detailed step-by-step tutorial. A few highlights to mention:

1. Prep the fish

Wash and rinse the fish and then pat dry with a paper towel. Right before you are ready to pan-fry, coat the fish with a thin layer of arrowroot flour.

Coat Yellow Croaker with Arrowroot Flour
Coat Yellow Croaker with Arrowroot Flour

Arrowroot flour is my go-to superfood starch. You may substitute with the starch you have.

2. Traditional Huai Yang Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker uses Pan-Frying method to cook the fish

Turn the heat to medium. Heat a 12-inch hard-anodized fry-pan for 1 minute, and then add avocado oil or canola oil, along with sliced green onions and ginger, stir for 15 seconds or till fragrant.

Heat the Fry-Pan for Yellow Croaker
Heat the Fry-Pan for Yellow Croaker

Add yellow croaker into the pan, lay them flat, gently press down and cook for 2 minutes and then flip and cook the other side for additional 2 minutes.

After you have seared the fish, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 20 minutes, 10 minutes on low heat and 10 minutes on simmer. Flip the fish half way through.

Seared Yellow Croaker
Seared Yellow Croaker

3. Make the Sweet and Sour Sauce

While you are waiting, make the signature Huai Yang Style sweet and sour sauce made of these ingredients: Zhenjiang Vinegar, Naturally Aged Soy Sauce (Jiang You), Light Soy Sauce, Sugar, Arrowroot Flour, and water.

Sweet & Sour Sauce Ingredients for Yellow Croaker
Sweet & Sour Sauce Ingredients for Yellow Croaker

Add everything in a small saucepan or 8-inch deep fry-pan, mix very well using a mini whisk. Turn on the heat to medium-high, add a lid and bring it to a boil. After the sauce reaches a boil, turn the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, or till sauce thickens. Mix from time to time.

Sweet & Sour Sauce for the Yellow Croaker
Sweet & Sour Sauce for the Yellow Croaker

Zhenjiang Vinegar and Soy Sauce are among the cornerstone condiments for tasty, healthy Chinese cooking. They work extremely well together for meat, poultry, and seafood that cut down any unpleasant smell or taste and bring out the inherent deliciousness.

Naturally aged soy sauce is traditional or naturally brewed soy sauce, which may take years to age. This is the soy sauce Chinese people have been using since ancient times. I sometimes refer to them as regular soy sauce.

Dark vs. Light Soy Sauce is a modern time Cantonese invention. You can think of light soy sauce as not aged soy sauce. People extract them from the soy sauce brewing process as early as 30 days. You can generally substitute naturally aged soy sauce with dark soy sauce.

Sake becomes my go-to cooking wine for fish. It has a clear, refreshing, enticing taste, perfect for fish.

I use Shaoxing wine for cooking meat and poultry. They have a stronger flavor and taste, which is much needed for meat and poultry.

Garnishing and Adding Sauce to the Fish

Garnishing Items for Sweet & Sour Croaker
Garnishing Items for Sweet & Sour Croaker

Garnish the fish with cilantro and other optional garnishing items such as blanched edamame and carrot slices, pour the sauce in a circular motion onto the fish.

garnish pan-fried yellow croaker
Garnishing Pan-Fried Yellow Croaker
Sweet & Sour Yellow Croaker {糖醋小黄花鱼}
Sweet & Sour Yellow Croaker {糖醋小黄花鱼}

Huai Yang Style Sweet and Sour Croaker Fish Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use other fish to substitute Yellow Croaker for Huai Yang Style Sweet and Sour Fish?

Absolutely. Butterfish, perch and crucian are the ones that immediately came to my mind. Fish that has a tender, white and flaky meat, which also weigh about one pound, shall all work out fine.

Is there a shortcut to cook Huai Yang Style Sweet and Sour Fish?

You bet. This recipe cooks Huai Yang Style Sweet and Sour Fish via a traditional style, which is pan-frying fish first and then wrapping it up with the heated iconic sauce. Pan-frying gives the fish a firm bite of texture.

However, if you want a quick and easy version, you can do it in a simplified style using braising method. Check out Sweet and Sour Fish {Simplified Huai Yang Style} for details. Braising cooks fish faster in under 10 minutes but still delivers a super tasty fish. A method I often use.

Do you like Huai Yang Style food? Make sure you check out other classic Huai Yang Style dishes:

Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker {Traditional Huai Yang Style}

Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker {Traditional Huai Yang 糖醋小黄花鱼}

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Sweet and Sour Yellow Croaker {Tang Cu Xiao Huang Hua 糖醋小黄花鱼} is one of the most beloved Huai Yang style dishes. It features tender, flaky and delicious little yellow croaker pan fried using low heat first, and then flavored in a traditional Huai Yang style sweet and sour sauce. They are full of flavor, absolutely appetizing and mouth-watering.

Ingredients

For Pan-fry Fish:

  • 2 lb. yellow croaker, fully cleaned and descaled
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. avocado oil
  • a small piece of ginger, about 12 grams, thinly julienne sliced
  • 2 stalk of green onions, chopped

For Sweet and Sour Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Zhenjiang vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar, turbinado sugar or organic cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Naturally Aged Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp. Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sake
  • 1/2 tbsp. Arrowroot Flour
  • 1/4 cup of water

For Garnishing:

  • 2 stems of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup of thin layers of carrots, optional
  • 1-2 cups of frozen shelled edamame {young soybeans}, optional

Instructions


Prep Work:
sweet & sour croaker ingredients

  1. Fill a small saucepan with water, bring to a boil and then add the frozen young soybeans, bring to a boil first, and turn to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the edamame, and set aside
  2. Use a peeler, peel carrots, get a cup full of peeled carrots, and set aside
  3. Slice ginger, and cut green onions and cilantro

Pan-Fry the Fish:

  1. Wash and rinse the whole little yellow croaker inside out thoroughly, cut fins, pat dry with a paper towel
  2. Coat a very thin layer of arrowroot flour evenly over the fish, both sides. Gently pat to rub into the fish.
    Coat Yellow Croaker with Arrowroot Flour
  3. Turn the heat to medium, heat a 12" hard anodized pan for 1 minute and then add oil, green onions and ginger. Stir and mix for about 10 seconds or till fragrant.
    Heat the Fry-Pan for Yellow Croaker
  4. Add fish into the pan, gently press down and cook for 2 minutes. Then flip to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat to low, cover the lid and cook for 10 minutes, see notes.
    Seared Yellow Croaker
  6. Turn the heat to simmer, flip the fish, cover the lid and cook the other side for another 10 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat.

Make Huai Yang Style Sweet and Sour Sauce while waiting on the fish:

  1. Add everything under "For Sweet and Sour Sauce" into a small saucepan, use a mini whisk, whisk and mix well until all is fully blended
    Sweet & Sour Sauce Ingredients for Yellow Croaker
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high, bring it to a boil while stirring and mixing. Once it reaches to a boil, turn the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, or till the sauce thickens. Whisk to mix from time to time.

Garnishing and Adding Sauce to the Fish:

  1. Evenly sprinkle garnish items across fish in the pan
  2. Pour the sauce over the fish in a circular motion.
  3. You can also pace the cooked fish on a serving plate, along the garnishing items and then pour over the sauce.
  4. All done, enjoy!
    Sweet & Sour Yellow Croaker {糖醋小黄花鱼}

Notes

  • Get the Little Yellow Croaker if you can. They are smaller by size but has much tender and delicious meat.
  • For Little Yellow Croak (小黄花鱼), each about 6-8 oz. after gutted, descaled and cleaned, takes less time to pan-fry them. For a croaker that is about 1 lb each, it takes a little longer time to pan-fry them.
  • Garnishing item edamame is optional, but goes very well with the sauce and complement the fish. It is also a traditional way of Huai Yang style cooking.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 644Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 191mgSodium: 1801mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 4gSugar: 17gProtein: 45g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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