Green Sichuan Pepper Fish, Hotpot Style
This dish, 藤椒鱼, called tengjiaoyu in Chinese, is fish filets in a sea of green vegetables, green chilies, green Sichuan pepper and green Sichuan pepper oil. If you’ve met and liked red Sichuan pepper, then you have to meet its green cousin, which is a different species and has an altogether different aroma and flavor. It’s more floral and fresh tasting, more spring and summer, vs. red Sichuan pepper’s earthy and warming, fall and winter taste.
Tengjiao, sometimes called vine pepper or rattan pepper in English, actually refers to a slightly different green-colored Sichuan pepper than qinghuajiao and is usually eaten fresh. In Chengdu itself, you’d find a branch—or five—of fresh green tengjiao on top of this dish (and many others). It would be just-picked if it was the summer harvest season. You rarely if ever see fresh tengjiao in the U.S., however, because the only good preservation technique is freezing and, even then, it’s really not the same as fresh tengjiao.
Fortunately for us, the other way that tengjiao can be preserved is in oil. Our Yaomazi tengjiao oil is made from just-picked tengjiao, the essence and numbing potency nicely preserved in the cold-pressed rapeseed oil. So we use both dried green Sichuan pepper and tengjiao oil to top this dish and make it taste of Sichuan.
Some of you may remember that I originally published this recipe in 2017, trying to replicate Chengdu Taste's beloved Boiled Fish in Green Pepper Sauce. But I since realized that I took too many shortcuts with that dish—which, when it comes down to it, is basically shuizhuyu with green chilies and tengjiao oil vs doubanjiang and red huajiao. The recipe now more closely follows the method for making shuizhuyu and is all the better for it.
Plus, I've added alternative instructions for serving it hotpot style, over a flame (or induction) burner so the stock stays hot over a leisurely dinner spent fishing out the delectable morsels of fish and veg.