Video: How to make fish in quince and chilli sauce, Yunnan style

Xiaoyan Mu
Xiaoyan Mu
Xiaoyan Mu, from China, shows how to make fish fillets in a sour quince and chilli sauce, in the Yunnan province style.

Xiaoyan Mu came to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband in 2009 and to Dunedin in 2010 and they now have two young children.
Xiaoyan grew up in the mountainous Yunnan province in the southwest of China, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, and although she didn't cook much at home when she was a child, she absorbed knowledge from watching her mother.

Now, she cooks Yunnanese food often, even curing and drying her own pork in the special Yunnanese way.

People in her part of Yunnan, near Myanmar, eat a lot of rice noodles, and love hot and sour flavours, like the ones in this dish, she says.

Because of the mountains, valleys and plateaux, they grow a wide variety of fruits, from tropical pineapples and sugar cane in the hotter valleys to tamarillos and passionfruit in the cooler highlands.

In China, fish is auspicious and eaten especially at festivals.

Although her mother used to deep-fry whole freshwater fish caught from the Mekong River, Xiaoyan's prefers to use fish fillets which are boneless.

Sour quince is not the pear-shaped quince we know, but the Asian or Japanese quince, aka the japonica apple.

It is round in shape, hard and very astringent. Sprinkled with sugar and chilli powder, slices of sour quince or unripe mango are popular as an after-school snack, especially in summer heat.

She gets sour quinces from a friend's garden, but they can also sometimes be found at Hawarden Organics at the Otago Farmers Market.

The quince adds a lively astringent bite to the hotness of the chilli. You could substitute another fruit or souring agent, but it would be a different dish, she says.


Xiaoyan's fish fillets in sour quince and chilli sauce. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
Xiaoyan's fish fillets in sour quince and chilli sauce. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
Fish fillets with sour quinceand chilli sauce 
Serves 4


400g fish fillets (white fish such as gurnard, sole, blue cod)
cornflour, salt and white pepper for rubbing on fish
oil for frying
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
a piece of ginger root, about 15g, cut into thin strips
1 large Asian sour quince peeled and thinly sliced (about 100g quince flesh)
6 chillies, 3 red and 3 green, sliced diagonally (or to taste)
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 Tbsp Chinese light soy sauce
about ⅓  cup cold water



Rub a little cornflour, salt and pepper into the fish fillets. Don't use too much salt as the soy sauce is salty and more salt will be added later. Leave the fillets to marinate for a few minutes while you prepare the other ingredients and heat some oil on medium heat. The oil should be hot or the fish will not be crispy.

Shallow-fry the fish about 3-5 minutes on each side until cooked through. The time taken will depend on the thickness of the fillets.

When they are just cooked, remove carefully from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.

Pour most of the oil from the pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Turn the heat up to high until you can just see faint smoke rising from the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Add the quince slices and stir until they start softening and the flavours integrate with the garlic and ginger. Then stir in the chilli and shortly afterwards the spring onion.

Add the soy sauce and let it bubble up, then add the water to thin it. Add a little more salt and pepper to taste, then return the fish to the pan and simmer so the fish absorbs some of the flavour from the sauce and warms through.

Serve with steamed rice.

• Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.

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