West Lake Vinegar Fish, a Sweet and Sour Dish | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly of Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong

West Lake Vinegar Fish, a Sweet and Sour Dish

West Lake Vinegar Fish, Sweet and Sour Style 西湖醋鱼

I suppose the traditional Chinese recipe would make this with a whole fish, which is usually fried.

In my kitchen, as always, I like leaning toward a simple, almost foolproof way of cooking – poaching than frying in this case, and with the sauce made from the stock saved from poaching. But, following what the original recipe does, I use fresh fish, though it is only a cut of it. And the result is equally bold on taste and flavor. If you are forced to use frozen ones, do make sure they do not smell fishy.

West Lake Vinegar fish (Xi Hu Cu Yu 西湖醋鱼), a popular Zhejiang dish, is actually named after the beautiful lake in the city of Hanzhou, Eastern China. Sweet and sour as many of its counterparts do, it is appetizing too. So my hatred toward this dish is that it often makes me eat more rice.

Fresh fish, good Chinese black vinegar would definitely add merits to the dish. Yet, there is a trick to do it even better, infusing a beautiful aroma to the dish.

West Lake Vinegar Fish, Sweet and Sour Style 西湖醋鱼

How to make the stock / sauce flavorful
All you need is to splash some wine against the side of wok in which the ginger shreds are being sauteed. As soon as the wine sizzles, pour in the stock or water reserved from poaching. With this simple trick, a tasty sauce can be easily prepared by adding a few more seasonings – vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and thickened a bit.

Julienned ginger and green onions, topped the fish at the end, shall provide some more refreshment

The portion of this simple protein dish should be enough for two, if serving with one or two more mains. Otherwise, you may need to consider doubling the amount.

West Lake Vinegar Fish, Sweet and Sour Style 西湖醋鱼

  • Ingredients
  • 300g grass carp 鯇魚with bone
  • Poaching fish
  • 2-3 slices ginger, crushed
  • 2 sprigs green onion, sectioned
  • 1 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • Sauce and garnishing
  • 1/2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp julienned ginger, divided
  • 1 tbsp julienned green onion
  • 1/2 tbsp wine, I used Shaoxing Hua Diao
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar, Zhejiang type preferred
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch paste (water:starch ~ 1:1; I sometimes use water chestnut powder)
  • pinch of sea salt to taste


Scale, rinse the fish and pat dry.

In a wok, pour in water with salt, ground white pepper, ginger slices and green onion. Bring them to a boil. Add fish, skin side down. Cover; adjust heat to medium. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until done (when buying the fish, I double-check with the fishmonger as how long it needs to be poached). Check doness – whether or not a chopstick can pass through.

Dish up fish and arrange it on dish. Reserve water, discarding ginger and green onion.

Heat oil in wok over medium heat, and sauté half of the ginger shreds until light brown. Splash wine against side and pour in reserved water. Add in vinegar, sugar, soy sauces, sesame oil, stirring to mix well (add some green onion to your liking). Thicken with corn starch paste or water chestnut paste to form a sauce. Check taste and add a pinch of salt (or adjust the sweetness and sourness) as required.

Pour sauce over poached fish. Garnish with ginger and green onion. I actually enjoy every bite of the fish with both ginger and green onion shreds in it than merely having them as garnishes. And, of course, also with the sweet and sour sauce.

Serve hot with rice.

West Lake Vinegar Fish, Sweet and Sour Style 西湖醋鱼


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  1. Juliana

    Wow, this fish looks so fresh and so tasty…I like the “lightness” of this dish…the sauce will be delicious on the rice 🙂
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a wonderful week!

  2. Stephanie

    Oh wow, the sauce looks so fresh and tasty! Great idea to use the poaching stock

  3. Caroline

    Hi, thanks for another lovely recipe. Can you please recommend a good chinese black vinegar?


  4. TasteHongKong

    One of the black vinegar I use is Gold Plum 金梅, labeled as “Chinkiang Vinegar 鎮江香醋”. Or, look for those that are traditionally fermented and with no additives.
    Good luck and enjoy!

  5. mycookinghut

    This looks really good! I have never done fish this way, thanks for sharing!

  6. Mai gek

    Yummy, I made this tonight. But I pan fried the fish to give it a bit of a crust. Sauce is delicious!

  7. TasteHongKong

    @Mai gek,
    Great! And thanks for telling me that you find it delicious.

  8. Lori

    I can almost taste the sweet and sour flavor of this dish. It sounds so great! I don’t eat nearly enough fish like this. Perhaps a resolution for 2013! 🙂

  9. tigerfish

    Black vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar are just what I have to make this dish! Yes, it is a go for me….when I buy a suitable fish, that is. 🙂

  10. Lena

    you know maureen, tho i;m chinese, i;ve never tried cooking fish like this, the poaching method . I hope to try it out too some day, that sauce sounds very tasty to me!

  11. Mary Moh

    Ooooh….love the look of your fish dish. It looks like steamed. It’s a long time I have not eaten such a dish. I am not too good in cooking fish. Very often baked it with sauce. Just bought a piece of fish today and made fish paste out of it. Going to have fish balls tomorrow…..mmmm. Hope to have fish balls with noodles in soup. Nice for this cold weather.

  12. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    I love the idea of ‘poaching’ instead of ‘frying’ in this vinegar fish. It is so much healthier and as the fish looks so FRESH, bet it tastes GREAT.

  13. vic

    Your dish looks delicious! Would be possible to see a picture of the bottle of black vinegar? I can use the picture as a guide at the shop. Thanks.

  14. TasteHongKong

    Thanks! Just managed to google a picture of it here. Good luck!

  15. kristy

    Ooooo…the sauce sounds wonderful here. Love it too!