Hong Shao Yu (Red-Cooked Fish)

Named for the Chinese braising technique, this special-occasion dish stews whole snapper with soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    25 minutes


By Tony Tan

Published on March 28, 2024

Red-cooking (hong shao) is a popular Chinese cooking method that uses dark soy sauce, crystallized rock sugar (bīngtáng), and rice wine to create a reddish-brown hue. Malaysian-born chef and author Tony Tan cooks this dish for special occasions. According to him, a typical red-cooked dish with pork or beef requires a long period of simmering, but with seafood, the flavors blend quickly. Tan says, “My mother added star anise and cinnamon stick, or sometimes both, to create more flavor. It was one of her favorite dishes to serve on fish Fridays, because whole fish is always a symbol of wellbeing, togetherness, and prosperity.” Bīngtáng can be sourced at most Asian grocers.

Featured in “Fish Friday Around the World” by Shane Mitchell.


  • 1 whole red snapper (about 1½ lb.), cleaned and patted dry
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • One ¾-in. piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 scallions (4 sliced into 4-in. lengths and 1 thinly sliced on the bias for serving)
  • 1 cup chicken stock, or water
  • 3 Tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp. bīngtáng rock sugar (or substitute raw sugar)
  • 1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • One 2-in. cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • Steamed white rice, for serving


Step 1

Using a sharp knife, cut three diagonal, parallel slashes crosswise on each side of the fish.

Step 2

To a wok over medium-high heat, add the oil and ginger. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the ginger starts to brown, 5 minutes. Transfer the ginger to a bowl and set aside. 

Step 3

Add the fish to the wok, tilting the wok so the oil glides around, and cook, turning once halfway through with a fish spatula, until the fish is browned, about 16 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 

Step 4

Add the scallion lengths and reserved ginger to the wok and cook until the scallions begin to wilt, 20–30 seconds. Add the stock, rice wine, rock sugar, soy sauce, cinnamon, and star anise. Bring to a boil, then return the fish to the wok. Turn the heat to medium and simmer, spooning the sauce over the fish occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half, 15 minutes. Transfer the fish to a platter and top with the sauce and remaining scallion. Serve immediately with rice.

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