Chilli fish recipe | Chinese style chilli fish recipe with gravy

Chilli fish recipe – Making a quick and easy Chinese-style chilli fish recipe with gravy, step by step with pics. Chilli fish is a hot and spicy fish starter cum perfect side dish for any Chinese main course like noodles or fried rice. One of the most popular Chinese recipes in Indian style Chinese restaurants. This dish is made by deep-fried crispy boneless fish cubes tossed in spicy red chilli sauce cooked with half fried crunchy veggies(onion & bell pepper).

In Indian-Chinese restaurants, this chilli fish dish is served in two ways, a crispy dry version and a gravy one. Dry chilli fish is the most popularfish starter/appetizer in Indo-Chinese cuisine. It is made in the Chinese hakka style method by tossing the fried fish cubes & a few veggies in different Chinese sauces. That remains the fish & veggies crispy and best to serve as a starter/appetizer. On the other hand, the gravy based chilli fish is made to serve as the sides of the Chinese main course. Chinese fried rice or noodles are its best accompaniment. Just like, today I made that gravy based chilli fish recipe for serving with egg noodles at dinner.

chilli fish is served in white bowl with egg noodles chilli fish is served in white bowl with egg noodles

What is chilli fish? Chilli fish is a slightly spicy, slightly sweet & tangy popular Chinese dish prepared with fish. Basically boneless fish fillets(preferably basa fish fillets) are cut into cubes, fried and cooked with soya sauce, red chilli sauce, tomato sauce, bell pepper, green chillies, onion, ginger, garlic, salt & pepper seasoning. 

How to makeIndo-Chinese restaurants style chilli fish?

For making the restaurant-style chilli fish, a few steps need to follow:

Step 1: First, try to use basa fish fillets( I used the frozen basa) for making this dish. Because basa does not have any smell thus perfect for making chilli fish recipe. Though fish like tilapia, pungus or catfish fillets are commonly used in Indian Chinese restaurants for making such recipes.

Step 2: You can use any other boneless fish fillets but never make this recipe with bhetki or bekti fillets(Indian sea bass). Due to its strong smell, bhetki may spoil the taste of this dish.

Step 3: To make the fish soft and juicy as well as to reduce its smell must keep the fillets in vinegar with lukewarm water. 

Step 4: Marinade the fish for at least 30 mins in a ginger-garlic paste with egg, salt and pepper to remove its smell too(if exists any).

Step 5: Mix the marinated fish with flour and cornflour mixture(as described in this recipe). Then deep fry these batter coated fish cubes until gets crisp & golden brown in colour. 

The rest of the steps or method of this dish is almost the same as chilli chicken recipe. Just instead of fried chicken pieces, toss the fried fish cubes almost in the same Chinese sauces with onion, bell pepper, ginger-garlic and green chillies. That is the way of making a dry chilli fish recipe.

However, If toss the veggies in sauce, then make a gravy by adding little cornflour mixed water in it. Then add the deep-fried fish cubes into the gravy, make the gravy version of this dish. So this cornflour mixed water added portion makes two types of chilli fish recipes. Sothe base of these two chilli fish recipes are the same, with just a little change we can make two different versions. That is the interesting part of such chinese recipes.

Chilli fish is a spicy dish as its name is proof itself, but the spice level of this dish is up to you. Make it more or less spicy as per your spice level. As my kid can not have more spice, so I make it medium spicy by using red chilli sauce and green chillies. However, you can use chilli flakes, green chilli sauce, spicy schezwan sauce or red chilli powder too for making its spice level up.

You can easily make it at home especially if you are familiar with making Chinese style chilli chicken recipes. However, if you are a beginner then must follow my step by step method without making any changes.

Try this recipe at home and please let me know your valuable feedback about this recipe. Just write down your valuable feedback in my comment section below.

You can check a few more popular Chinese recipesChilli Chicken, Chilli Prawns, Baby Corn Manchurian recipes.

You may even try this dish with some of my Chinese main courses, i.e, Chinese Veg Fried Rice, Veg Noodles, Egg Noodles recipes.

Chilli fish recipe | Chinese style chilli fish recipe with gravy 

Ingredients of chilli fish

  • 450 gms Boneless Fish Fillets(preferably basa)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 3tsp Vinegar

For Fish Marination

  • Fish fillets(weight explained before)
  • 1 tsp Ginger
  • 2 1/2 tsp Garlic
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Eggs

For Chilli fish batter

  • 3 tbsp Cornflour
  • 3 tbsp Plain flour/Maida

For deep frying

  • 1/2 cup Oil 

For making gravy

  • 2 tsp chopped Ginger
  • 3 tsp chopped Garlic
  • 3 medium-size Onion(cube cut)
  • 2 green bell Pepper(cube cut)
  • 3 tsp Soya sauce
  • 1 tsp Vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Tomato ketchup/ tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp Red chilli sauce
  • 4-5 Green chillies
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 tbsp Cornflour 
  • 1 1/2 cup of Water
  • Crispy fried fish fillets 
  • A handful of chopped spring onion

Prep time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 15 mins

Total time: 35 mins

Served for: 4-5 people

Course: Main course

Cuisine: Chinese/ Indo Chinese

Author: Moumita Paul

How to make Chinese style chilli fish recipe with gravy step by step with pictures


Prepare the fish

  • Take the boneless fish fillets (preferably basa), wash and drain well.
  • If it is fresh, then immediately cut it into small cubes as shown in the pic.
  • If using frozen fish fillet like me, then keep it out of the freezer before 3-4 hours of cooking. Allow it to get to normal temperature. Then cut it into pieces.
cut this basa fish fillet into cubes for making this chilli fish recipe
  • Take a wide bowl, and add 3 cups of lukewarm water and 3 tsp of vinegar to it. Stir it well.
  • Then Pour the fish cubes into it for 20- 30 mins. (This step is mandatory as it will help to reduce the raw smell of fish. Though basa doesn’t have any smell).
fish cubes are soaked in vinegar added lukewarm water to remove the raw smell of fish for making this chilli fish recipe
  • After 30 mins, drain the water and make sure fish cubes must not contain a drop of water. 
draining the water well from the cube fish fillet to make the fish fillet dry for making this chilli fish recipe

How to marinade the fish

  • Then transfer the fish cubes to another mixing bowl, and marinate it with ginger-garlic paste, salt, pepper and 2 well-beaten eggs. Mix it well.
  • Then cover the bowl with a plate and leave it for a minimum of 30 mins for perfect marination.
  • This Marination is one more important step to get rid of the raw smell of fish.
step by step marinating basa fish fillets with ginger-garlic paste, pepper and eggs for making this chilli fish recipe

Making chilli fish batter

  • After 30 mins of marination, add 3 tbsp of cornflour and 3 tbsp of plain flour with the marination and mix it well for making its batter. Keep it aside by covering it.
flour and cornflour added with marinated fish fillets for making this chilli fish recipe batter

Frying the fish

  • In the meantime, heat the pan (deep fry pan or wok) with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil on medium flame.
  • Once the oil gets hot, leave the coated fish cubes in hot oil one by one.
  • Fry it in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan. Otherwise, the fish will stick to each other and their cover can be removed.
  • Fry until it gets golden and crispy. As shown in the pics.
  • Remove them from the oil, and keep them on a paper-lined plate to remove their excess oil. 
making batter coated crispy fried fish cubes with step by step pics for making this chilli fish recipe

Cooking chilli fish gravy

  • After frying all the fish cubes, keep them aside for later and start to make the gravy.
  • First keeping 6-7 tbsp of oil, transfer the excess oil from the pan.
  • Fry chopped ginger-garlic in that oil for a few secs, then add a tables spoon of sliced spring onion (white portion of spring onion) to the pan, stir it well and slightly fry. 
for making this chilli fish recipe sauteeing chopped ginger-garlic-white bulb of spring onion in oil for making this chilli fish recipe sauteeing chopped ginger-garlic-white bulb of spring onion in oil
  • Then add the cubed onion(after separating its petals) to the pan, Stir it well until get a little translucent, add the bell pepper(cube cut), saute for a min. 
sauteeing white onion petals and green bell pepper in oil for making this chilli fish recipe with step by step pics
  • Next, add the sauce mix (made of soya sauce, red chilli sauce, tomato sauce or tomato ketchup and vinegar) to the pan.
  • Then add the chopped green chillies (even add red chilli powder or chilli flakes too) to it.
  • Stir it well to a perfect mix with the veggies(as shown in the pic).
tossing green chilli-white onion-green bell pepper in red chilli sauce mix with step by step pics for making this chilli fish recipe
  • Add salt and pepper, a little saute till the raw smell of the ingredients goes off.
  • Then add the cornflour added water (cornflour mixed with water) to the pan. Give it a good stir.
adding salt-pepper and cornflour added water for making the perfect gravy of chilli fish
  • Let the gravy starts boiling. Sprinkle a little spring onion over the gravy(not mandatory).
  • When the gravy reaches to a perfect consistency, then add the fried fish cubes to the gravy.
  • Nicely mix the crunchy fish into the gravy & quickly coat it.
adding crispy fried fish fillets into the chilli pepper gravy for making this chilli fish recipe
  • Let the gravy boil for 1-2 mins. Sprinkle some chopped spring onion once again (from the top), mix it well and turn off the heat.
  • Our Indo Chinese restaurant-style soft and juicy chilli fish is ready to serve. Serve it with any Chinese fried rice or noodles.
chines style chilli fish recipe is ready with gravy with the sprinkle of chopped spring onion

Tips for making perfect chilli fish recipe

  • Chilli fish does not taste great when made with bhetki fish. That is because the strong smell of bhetki does not go with this recipe. Even that smell exists after cooking (whether using all sauce and little more garlic too) and that spoils the taste of this dish. I’m telling it from my personal experience. As a Bengali initially, I could not think of the fish fillets except bhetki, as which is commonly used in Bengali cuisine (the key ingredient in making all Bengali fish cutlets). So naturally boneless bhetki(also called bekti/Indian sea bass) fillets are easily available in local markets (in Kolkata, West Bengal). So due to its availability earlier I mostly used bhetki fillets for making my continental recipes too, however, got disappointed many times because of its existing strong smell.
  • Generally, wok (a lightweight deep fry pan used in cooking Chinese food) is used to toss the food, a common method used in Chinese recipes. However, tossing is a little difficult with regular used deep fry pan, but enough for applying stir-frying method. As I’ve used my non-stick deep fry pan. 
  • If you want to make chilli fish dry then add a one-fourth portion of cornflour mixed water, a little dry up the gravy and then add the fried fish with slight stirfrying or tossing. However, to retain its crunch don’t cook it for long. 
  • If you don’t want it to make it more spicy, then except red chilli sauce, don’t add the extra green chillies.

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