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Catfish Recipe

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Dr. Jimbob's Recipe for Catfish à la Mom

This is a recipe for cooking catfish that my mother improvised, based on a traditional type of coastal Chinese cooking called braised or red-cooked. It gets the latter name (a literal translation of the Chinese hong shao) from the way that the fish simmers in soy sauce until the fish and sauce both develop a brownish color. It uses old Chinese tricks - ginger, garlic, scallions, and cooking wine - to remove the fishy flavor.

To make this work, catfish is the best fish that I've come across so far. I also know that tilapia will work in a pinch, and that it works miserably with monkfish. I don't know the connection between all these things.


  • catfish, I usually get 1 to 1.5 pounds, which is 3-4 steaks
  • soy sauce, about 3-4 tbsp
  • sherry or rice wine, about 1/3 cup
  • (optional) You can substitute a small amount of balsamic or sherry vinegar for some of the soy and sherry to give it a little tanginess.
  • garlic, one complete bulb (two if using small bulbs), all cloves peeled and shucked
  • ginger, about 1 teaspoon, minced
  • sugar, about 3 teaspoons
  • scallions, usually 4-6 (or one bunch)
  • mushrooms, usually 3-5, washed and sliced into relatively thin slices
  • (optional) Chinese chili death sauce from the hell of the burning tongues


  1. Wash and cut the scallions into halves or thirds. Arrange the scallions on the bottom of a chef's pan, large frying pan, or large wok.
  2. Place the peeled garlic cloves and minced ginger among the scallions.
  3. Pour the soy sauce, sherry, and sherry vinegar or chili sauce if you're using it on top of the mix.
  4. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes as you prep the catfish.
  5. Slice the button mushrooms and throw them in the pot also as the mix simmers.
  6. Wash the catfish, cut into appropriate serving slices, and place it on top of the scallions.
  7. Sprinkle half the sugar over the catfish.
  8. Allow to simmer, covered, for another 5-7 minutes. Then turn over the catfish.
  9. Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar on the other side of the catfish.
  10. Simmer for another 5-7 minutes. It may require another turn, you want the fish to flake easily but not collapse under your tongs or spatula, and you want the garlic to be nice and soft.
Makes 4-6 servings.

NB: This is my mother's recipe. You're welcome to it (she says it's OK), but please don't take credit for it without citing her.

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Dr. Jimbob's Home -> Coooking -> Catfish Recipe

Last updated: April 12, 2004 by James C.S. Liu

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