Chinese spicy fish Hunanese style


This right here is a fish. This fish is adorned with everything chili. The reds and the greens are just variants of chili.

Before I begin this post, let me tell you exactly why there are so many chillies in, and on the fish. I live in the wonderful Hunan Province in China, where the food is soul witheringly hot. It’s so spicy that your intestines beg for mercy, your tongue commits hara kiri and your lips give up on you. It’s so maddenigly hot that the tears from your eyes are just the beginning. It’s the food that all Hunanese people take pride in and the unbelievable part is that it is absolutely addictive. Once you’ve eaten a tear inducing morsel, you wouldn’t stop. You would be in danger of being disoriented but you will keep shoveling it in your mouth. It’s a perfect blend of extreme spice, vinegar, salt and LOVE. Of course you’d hate your macho instincts next morning.. just saying…

This fish and a lot of other Hunanese speciality was  prepared by my dear friend ‘Nana’ and her husband ‘Mr. Ye’ who always invite us (i.e le moi and the vegetarian husband) to treat us to some of the most extreme yet exciting and delicious food.

DSC_0072My friend Nana

DSC_0088her husband Mr. Ye aka the talented cook

DSC_0099the poor dead fish that was to be cooked. It was a huge monster really.

DSC_0095industrial quantities of dried red chillies (incidentally also the name of this blog)

DSC_0094Enough garlic is also not enough. as many garlic cloves you can find

DSC_0090Green chillies, as many as you can feats your eyes on. this recipe has no moderation. You can make it as spicy or as non spicy as you want. Though the spicier the better.

DSC_0102the fish had to be cut, because it was too big for even the big wok.

DSC_0103Into a very hot wok with a generous amount of oil.

DSC_0104It sizzled I tell you, it sizzled so loud I couldn’t her my phone ring. This was cooked for about 5-7 minutes per side

DSC_0112Cooked side up. All this was happening pretty fast though. The wok was being shaken, the fish being rotated, the sizzling and the smoke and the typically Chinese expertise in lifting the wok every some time from its extremely high flame.

DSC_0116The fish is almost done on both sides.

DSC_0118The mangled fish. Admittedly not so pretty but this isn’t nearly done. The tail is given the same treatment and removed on a plate.

DSC_0124This is the seasoning, the spice, the soul of the fish.

Once the fish including the tail was entirely cooked, it was removed to a plate and into the remaining hot oil some water was added along with the dried red chillies, salt, some chicken stock granules and garlic

DSC_0126A good stirring and some soy sauce, vinegar

DSC_0127back in with the fish and the tail

DSC_0128making sure the fish is well rested on the chillies.

DSC_0129 Mr. Ye added a big of glug of ‘baijiu’ which is a Chinese alcohol (it’s 51% alcohol), extremely strong and crazy. He told me Vodka would work just as well, and I believe a man who handles a wok on fire with such grace.

DSC_0130Soon enough the lid was clamped on for about a minute, nothing more.

DSC_0135Unveiling of the done fish. He didn’t think there were enough chillies, so he added another 30 grams worth vinegary red chillies.. For aesthetic purposes you see.

DSC_0136This is the fish now done. Oh so spicy, so colourful, so wonderful, so bold and so addictive.

This recipe is really nothing defined, once can actually prepare according to your love for the spices. In case if you’re not into chillies then really this isn’t for you at all. However if you happen to love the hot stuff, by all means make it and you will not regret it.


whole fish of your choice. (cleaned and deboned mostly)

dried red chillies chopped coarsely 20-25 pieces

garlic crushed and sliced thin 8-10 cloves.

green chillies sliced thin 10-12 in nos.

Spring onions cut thinly 2-3 in nos.

oil at least 40 mls ( roughly 2.5 tablespoons)

salt to taste

water or chicken stock 100 mls

Chicken stock granules 15 gms (omit if using chicken stock)

vinegar 10 mls (2 teaspoons)

soy sauce 10 mls

baijiu or vodka 30 mls

Recipe:  in a large wok enough to accommodate the fish, heat the oil on a high flame. The oil should start smoking, then add in your fish and cook both sides until almost done.

remove the fish on a plate and in the oil add the chillies followed by the water or chicken stock and let it heat. Add in the garlic, salt and chicken stock (if you are using water). Stir around and don’t let the heat drop, the wok should be fairly hot at all times. If the water evaporates add in more but keep enough to not let anything burn.

Put the fish you’d removed back into the wok, placing them atop the chillies and the thin coating of sauce.

Pour in the alcohol and let it bubble and catch fire.

Clamp on the lid for roughly 1 minute, throw the spring onion on top and serve hot and eat with rice.

Disclaimer: Prepare this fish at your own peril, for this is ferociously hot. Keep a very cold beer upon your person while feasting on the beast. A tub of ice cream is highly recommended post this debauchery.

– Also you can adapt this recipe to suit your spice needs, you can go for mellower chillies, reduce the quantities of chillies etc., but for the full on flavour and a kick to your senses prepare it just the way Mr. Ye did.


Pretzels with beer cheese sauce


Not exactly a revelation but a suggestion from my dear friend Aarti who replied to my desperate tweets on a Sunday afternoon, answering my “what should I eat today” question. She sent me this beautiful link from Curvy Carrot adding that If I was up for something elaborate then this is what I should make.

Looking at the blog’s beautiful pictures and totally mesmerized by the words ‘Pretzels’, ‘beer’ & ‘cheese’ in one sentence I knew this is what I would make.

I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit whatever ingredients I had handy that afternoon, but the results were nothing short of ecstatic. Once the pretzels were hot out of the oven and the beer cheese sauce gooey and warm, I nestled myself on the couch in front of the television, refusing to acknowledge this world or any other existence. For 20 minutes until there were but crumbs on my plate did I lift my head up to realize, the television was on, playing something absolutely unnecessary.. but did I care? No!!!.. this sauce is a fuzzy warm beery heaven, a grotto of pleasure worth visiting every time you can make any excuse for a dip.. at least I do..

I adapted my earlier Pretzels recipe already on this blog and instead of making miniatures, made two fat patties and continued with the recipe here

as for the beer cheese sauce…

Ingredients for the beer cheese sauce (adapted from curvy carrot)

6 tbsps butter (I used salted)

1 cup spring onion

1 bay leaf

4 tbsps flour

1.5 cups beer (any beer is fine)

3/4 cup cream (I used single cream)

1 tsp fresh ground pepper (not so fine pieces)

1/4 tsp allspice

nutmeg (a pinch)

1 cup cheddar cheese

1/2 cup cream cheese (room temperature)

Salt to taste

a dash of cayenne

Making this sauce wasn’t difficult at all. In fact I started making it once the pretzels were popped in the oven.. working fast I melted the butter on medium heat in a pan of choice.

Add the onions and salt and cook until translucent. Add in the bay leaf, pepper and mix for a couple of minutes.

Add the flour and mix for a bit, the roux will look all sorts of lumpy and dry but really it’s a good thing.

Slowly start adding in the beer, and keep mixing constantly to remove any lumps and, watch it all thicken.. apart from the beer facial you will get when you keep smelling it constantly. I did this for a couple of minutes .. kept smelling along with mixing.

Now add in the cream and stir as usual. add in the nutmeg, allspice and cayenne. Cook and stir and mix and let it lightly simmer. ensure that this mixture thickens as you’re cooking it on slow heat. Mine took about 15 minutes.

Just as it has thickened add in the cheese, turn off the flame and let it all melt and meld together.. of course keep whisking and stirring and mixing until all cheese has melted in it.

Serve warm ..

This is it.. beer cheese sauce. You can adapt, make changes to suit however you want your dip or a sauce to be. you can use all cheddar or any other cheese you fancy. I used whatever I had on me that time and it turned out fabulous.

The point is, when you have beer, cream and cheese all together you can’t really go wrong with it.

Enjoy !!!




Cheesy pizza.

Excuse these latest pictures, and feast ye eyes on this hunk of a cheesy pizza. Hot out of the oven and made from scratch. It’s fresh and it’s fast and it’s a feast.

This dainty little thing fed about 5 people. It’s not exactly thin crust, though you could make that if you wished. This was a fat, almost focaccia like base with tons of toppings and cheese.


for the dough base:

500 gms strong flour

1 packet active dry yeast.

230 mls lukewarm water

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

20 mls olive oil.(regular olive oil)


300 gms of good mozzarella cheese

diced and chopped vegetables/meats of your choice.(billions of combinations, have fun with your food)

– I used peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, chillies diced thin.

Pizza sauce- my recipe

4-5 medium-sized blanched tomatoes.

1 tsp oregano

1 small chopped onion

3-4 garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil (regular not extra virgin)

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup red wine (any good red wine)it really brings in the flavours.

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper.


Firstly dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water and keep aside.

Sift the flour, salt and add in the yeast. mix well. gradually add in the warm water to the flour and knead well to make a smooth, stretchy dough. If you need a mixer for the this, go ahead and knock yourself out. I love a bit of intense labour work and made a dough simply using my hands.

Once the dough is nice and smooth, and I kneaded for a good 10-15 minutes, add in the oil and knead again. Once done, leave it to rise in a warm place, cover with a well oiled cling film or moist tea towel. This rising will take about an hour.


in a food processor give the tomatoes a few pulses so that they size down a bit and are quicker to cook.

In a saucepan, heat oil and butter and add the minced garlic cloves and onions. add a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Tip in the tomatoes and cook until softened and thickened about 10 minutes. Once the gloopy sauce has turned into a thicker paste and you see bits sticking into the saucepan add in the wine stirring continuously ensuring that all the caramelized pieces are deglazed and mixed into the sauce. Once the wine starts bubbling out and reducing, start adding in the oregano, salt and pepper. Let it all cook till it’s no longer watery and looks spreadable.

Leave it to cool, and check out your pizza dough. give it a couple of good punches, once you see it has doubled in size and let it deflate. Leave it to rise again for another 15 minutes and get on with the pan/tray you want to make your pizza in.

I used a jelly roll pan which was about 12X12X1 inch and generously oiled it.

Tip in the dough into the pan and start stretching it to fit completely. It might not look like it will fit, but yes it will. make sure that it’s not uneven. keep smoothening it out and make it fit well.

Once done spread the pizza sauce leaving at least 1/2 inch along the border of the pizza. sprinkle with half of the grated mozzarella cheese and adorn with toppings. Mound the remaining cheese on top and bake for 25 minutes in a  hot 200℃ oven.

Slice it into the pan, don’t even bother taking it out. Feed as many or reserve for a delicious cold breakfast next day.

Buttery Vanilla Cake.

Not the best picture, I know. This cake was made on a special request, fairly late in the evening, for my younger brother. His demands were simple. A very unpretentious, basic, spongy, no frill vanilla cake, which is easily wolfed down.

This is a recipe I have on my finger tips and it’s so buttery, so luscious and spongy that you don’t feel the need to slather any icing on it. Tea cake, breakfast cake, anytime cake- this will fit the bill.

My photographs have to be excused, I clicked them without any natural lights and edited them a bit on instagram.


Butter 150 gms

flour 250 gms

sugar 180 gms

2 large eggs

milk 200mls

1.5 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

It’s fairly simple as cakes go. Sift the flour and baking powder and keep aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (I used a hand mixer for this). Crack in the first egg, beat until well incorporated, now crack in the second egg and mix well.

Add the vanilla extract, keep mixing all through. It’s this addition of air that makes this batter so light and spongy.

add the flour mixture and milk, in 3 alternating additions. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl. The batter is done.

Transfer into a well greased baking pan and smoothen the top. I also tap it a bit on the surface so there are no air bubbles and it doesn’t result in a dome shape.

bake at 170℃ for 35 minutes. Ovens may vary sometimes, so you need to check with a toothpick for doneness after 30 minutes.

This cake though easily eaten just as it and in fact tastes best that way can also be iced, filled, frosted to your liking.