How to make stir-fried fish like they do in Chinese restaurants?

I know this should go to a cooking board, but I think it may get a better response on the LA food board, so starting here… At many Chinese restaurants, you can order stir fried fish fillets, which are thin pieces of some white fish that are typically 1.5" across in size. The fish is very light tasting and prepared well has great texture and really soaks up sauce.

My question is I’ve never been able to figure out what type of fish this is? Have tried swai, basa, sole, flounder and none of it is quite right. Anyone know and do you buy this as fillets or does it come prepped in those bite-size pieces?


Why do you think it’s not basa?

I believe it’s typically sole or catfish.

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Maybe tilapia?

Yep, a lot of it is tilapia.


The frozen tilapia filets we have (had) do look and taste a lot like the stuff we see at some Chinese restaurants. Partner thinks we got the filets at Ralphs or TJ’s (we’re out of them right now, so I don’t have any on-hand to photograph).

Basa is catfish but it can’t legally be called that in the US.

I wonder if it’s my prep? I just can’t get it cooked to the right texture, which is very frustrating, lol. I’ve always assumed it was basa / catfish bc that was the closest I’ve gotten texturally…

How are you cooking it?

I generally just try to stirfry the pieces, but I suspect 1) my flame isn’t hot enough so the fish ends up more “steaming” in liquid than actually stir frying and 2) i don’t do the cornstarch wash.

We’ve gone through a summer of mostly eating out but with school back in session, it’s time to start home cooking again and I’d love to figure out how to get the fish fillets right, if it’s possible at home.

You probably need to “velvet” to get results like in restaurants.


Agreed re: velveting. I’ve found that the water velveting laid out in this old Serious Eats article works pretty well with more delicate proteins. It’s not the most traditional way to do it as far as I can tell but it has a good result with fish and it’s a lot less messy than oil blanching (at least for me)


Thank you. Gotta try this. When you stir fry though, do you have to let the protein rest to room temperature? Otherwise, I feel like the cold just zaps the pan of all heat and you lose the stir fry aspect. Super helpful!

What cold?

I was just talking to my brother about this as he’s been working his way through Kenji’s Wok cookbook and unfortunately that can be an issue with the comparatively low temp you get from a home stovetop.

There are a couple ways around it but all seem a bit kludgy in my opinion:

  • Let it come up room temp as you mentioned

  • Oil or water braise as mentioned in the velveting article - the heat capacity of that large a volume of oil or water won’t drop significantly for such small pieces of protein (at least not to the same degree as putting it directly in the pan)

  • Use a heavier gauge wok - I can’t honestly recommend this idea. We have a cast iron wok that was gifted to us and we don’t love it but it’s got a ton of volumetric heat capacity. That said, I don’t think it has the same benefits as a decent lower gauge carbon steel wok

  • I haven’t tried this myself but if you have a gas burner you can try taking the round diffuser cap off off the burner. I saw Kenji do this in a video a while back and if the burner still lights the normal diffuse circle of flame becomes a single intense flame hitting the center of the wok. It’s kind of like a low rent WokMon hack. You could also get a WokMon but I don’t personally know anyone who’s used one


from taking the protein straight out of the fridge.

but the par boiling basically addresses that issue. Gonna try this!

'xactly! I don’t use it for everything but I like it for fish and sometimes pork or chicken

Did u end up getting the wokmon? Always wondered if he ever got it to ship to customers. I ended up getting an outdoor propane wok burner as I prefer to wok outside anyway.

Finally working on the deck and outdoor kitchen part of the house and i might not have room for the wok burner now! :sob: :sob: :sob:

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