Fish Fragrant Sauce (Chinese Mother Sauce #6)

April 19, 2017

Author Notes: There is absolutely nothing subtle at all going on here. This is pure edible fireworks! It is called yuxiang in Chinese, which literally means “fish aroma,” because the traditional recipe calls for chiles that were fermented with crucian carp, which gave it a deep anchovy flavor, much like the Vietnamese fish sauce called nuoc mam. Always added to a stir-fry, this sauce can be combined with any number of delicate proteins, including shelled prawns, cubed chicken meat, julienned pork, or bean curd. To read the full article on Chinese mother sauces, go here,Madame Huang

Makes: around 2 cups


  • 4 fresh or frozen water chestnuts (please don’t use canned)
  • 4 black mushrooms or wood ear fungus, fresh or dried and plumped up
  • 2 to 8 pickled red chiles (storebought or homemade)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 5 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons black vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons regular soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound protein of some sort (see headnotes)
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan hot bean sauce
In This Recipe


  1. Trim the water chestnuts, and then remove and discard the stems and hard bits from the mushrooms or wood ears. Chop these ingredients into fine (1/8-inch) dice and place them in a small work bowl. Slice the pickled chiles into thin rings and add these to a small bowl with the garlic, white parts of the onions, and ginger. Keep the greens of the onions in a separate pile, as they will be added at the last minute.
  2. Mix the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, water, and cornstarch together in a small bowl, but don’t add the bean sauce yet.
  3. Place a wok over high heat, add the oil, and when it shimmers, swirl it around and then add whatever raw protein you like. Stir them in the hot oil for a minute or two until everything is about half cooked, and place them in a work bowl.
  4. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok. With the heat still on high, add the chiles, garlic, whites of the scallions, and ginger and stir-fry them for a few seconds to release their fragrance. Toss in the Sichuan hot bean sauce and mix everything together for a few seconds until the sauce boils and cooks through. Add the water chestnuts and mushrooms or wood ears. Quickly toss these until the mushrooms start to look cooked, then add your proteins and sauce. Working very fast, stir them over the heat until the sauce thickens, which should take only a couple of seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the green parts of the scallions, toss once, and serve.

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