Fish, rice paper, cilantro/coriander, Chinese Five Spice and oil. That’s all you need. What a way to get your midweek fish fix – on a budget!
I saw this on a Chinese cooking program years ago. I can’t remember what the show was, but I do remember being dubious. Just 5 ingredients? How good can they be?
I frequently see cooking hacks with very few ingredients and often they are made using cake mixes or store bought sauces. Which I have no problem with per se, it is just not my way of cooking because I like to cook from scratch as much as (practicably) possible.
But this caught my eye because rarely do you see 3 or 5 ingredient recipes for Asian dishes. And even more rarely from cooking show presenters! (Who, who, who was it?? Does anyone know??!!).
I tried it out of curiosity and was astonished at how good it was! Fundamentally, the secret is the Chinese Five Spice Powder which is a mix of a number of spices. Plus also the crispy rice paper wrapped around the juicy fish. Those little factors really make this simple dish into something that is so tasty I would proudly serve it at a party!
Have you seen rice paper at the supermarket and wondered what to do with it? Here in Australia, it’s sold in all the major supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths) and of course Asian stores. They cost $2 or so for a pack of 20 – dirty cheap!
So here’s a unique way to use the rice paper – wrapping fish in it, then pan frying it so it becomes beautifully crispy while retaining the juices of the fish so it cooks in its own juices.
I know some people are afraid of working with rice paper because it can be hard to handle if you don’t know the tricks of the trade. There is only one key tip: do not over soak it! Dunk it in warm tap water for 3 seconds, then place it on your work surface. It should still be a bit firm when you place it on the work surface and in seconds, it continues to absorb the water so by the time you start wrapping the fish, it is soft and pliable. 🙂
See how easy this recipe is? Cut fish, sprinkle with Five Spice + salt, top with cilantro/coriander, wrap, pan fry until crisp.
A few reasons why this recipe works so well include:
- You do not need expensive fish for this! Between the flavour of the Five Spice and the fish cooking inside the rice paper cooking in its own juices plus the crowning glory (the crispy rice paper), you will not know whether you’ve used a $40/kg ($20/lb) freshwater barramundi or $10/kg ($5/lb) fish fillets. I make this most frequently with Basa Fillets which is the cheapest fish fillets you can get at supermarkets and fish mongers.
- You get extra flavour oomph by cooking the fish in its own juices and it keeps it extra juicy.
- The crispy rice paper is just divine. You will want to eat way more than you should!
So the next time you wheel your trolley past the Asian section in your supermarket, grab a package of rice paper and try these! – Nagi x
PS I made these bite size but you can make larger ones. Just overlap 2 or more rice papers on your work surface and enclose larger pieces of fish!
PPS Ordinarily I make this with 1.1lb/600g of fish which is enough to serve 4. But I dropped a fillet and DOZER (my abnormally large 80lb/40kg retriever) got to it before I could rescue it! So what you see in the photos is less than what the recipe makes.
- 1.1 lb / 600 g firm white fish fillets (Note 1)
- 2 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder (Note 2)
- 3/4 - 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 1/4 cup coriander/cilantro leaves
- 15 to 18 rice paper rounds , 22cm/9" diameter (Note 3)
- 2 to 3 tbsp cooking oil
Cut the fish into 2"/5cm long x 1"/3cm wide pieces, about 16 pieces. (Note 4)
Combine Chinese Five Spice Powder, salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with with spice mix.
Fill a large bowl with hot tap water. Dunk the rice paper into the water for 3 seconds, then transfer it to a work surface. (Note 5)
Place a piece of fish at the bottom of the rice paper, per the photo below. Top with 2 coriander leaves, then roll up to enclose the fish with the rice paper. Repeat with remaining fish.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the fish and cook for 2 minutes or until dark golden brown and crispy. Turn and cook the other side. Repeat with remaining fish (I cook them in 2 batches).
Transfer to a paper lined plate.
Serve immediately, while hot and crispy!
1. This is a recipe that works with almost any white fish fillets. You don't need to get expensive fillets for this - even frozen (thawed) works great. Tilapia (for US readers) will be great for this.
2. Chinese Five Spice Powder is readily available at major supermarkets nowadays in the herb and spice aisle. They do not cost anymore than other herbs and spices. It is a blend of spices used in Chinese cooking.
3. Nowadays you can get rice paper at all the major supermarkets in Australia (Coles, Woolworths) in the Asian section - and of course at Asian grocery stores. They cost around $2 for 20 to 25.
4. Fish fillets tend to vary in width. For the thinner parts of the fish, I stack them on top of each other to make the pieces around 1cm / 2/5" thick.
5. If you do not have a bowl big enough to fit the rice paper - like me - then dip half in for 3 seconds, then dip the other half in for 3 seconds.
6. Dipping sauce: A classic simple Chinese dipping sauce is to combine 2 tbsp soy sauce with 1 tbsp of white vinegar + chili paste or sriracha OR chili oil. Adjust the amount of vinegar to your taste. If you have Chinese black vinegar, then that + chili paste is also a fabulous dipping sauce (Chinese black vinegar is similar to soy sauce + white vinegar).
7. Nutrition assuming 4 servings.