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Chinese Roasted Fish Is Your Perfect Cold Weather Dish

CHINESE ROASTED FISH lead
Chinese roasted fish is an excellent cold weather dish that can be found at many restaurants in Southern California, especially in the San Gabriel Valley.
(Fish photo by Gregor Moser/Unsplash. Background chili photo by Peijia Li/Unsplash.)
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A roasted black cod crowns a vat of fiery broth bubbling with Sichuan peppercorns, red chilis and lotus root. The server places the roiling pot on a cart and carefully rolls it to your table. Once secured on the lazy susan, the Chinese roasted fish remains searingly hot as you flake off the delicate flesh with your chopsticks.

A specialty from Chongqing, in the Sichuan region of southwest China, Chinese roasted fish involves marinating then roasting an entire fish before placing on top of a large rectangular pot of soup filled with vegetables, meat and tofu.

"Since the fish is marinated in advance, it has more flavor built into the flesh," says Mike Chen, owner of Delicious Chengdu. "As it continues to cook at the table, it develops even more layers and textures of flavor and features the salty flavor palate of Sichuan." It's rich and satisfying but not too heavy and you can customize it the way you would a hot pot.

Since the cold spell in Los Angeles looks like it's here to stay, this is the perfect time to try Chinese roasted fish. These four restaurants do a spectacular job with the dish.

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CHINESE ROASTED FISH Delicious Chengdu
Chinese roasted fish at Delicious Chengdu in Temple City.
(Kaila Yu for LAist)

Delicious Chengdu

Delicious Chengdu is an intimate restaurant dedicated to authenticity (all furniture and tableware have been flown in from China). Head chef Libing Yu is passionate about sharing lesser-known Sichuan dishes such as the restaurant's House Special Wok-Fried Spicy Chicken Stew. The entree is served in a large wok over an open flame and finished with housemade buns decorating the inner sides of the wok.

The roasted fish is the real star. Listed on the menu as Szechuan Grilled Whole Fish, it's available in three flavors: hot spicy, spicy bean paste and pickle ($34.95 each). If you prefer your fish fileted, get the popular House Special Fish Filet in Pickle Broth, which lets you choose between swai ($18.95), tilapia ($26.95) and snakehead ($23.95). Add-ons include tofu, yam, clear noodle, bamboo, potato, tofu skin, kombu and SPAM ($2.95 - $3.50). If pickle broth doesn't fit your fantasy, swap it out for Szechuan green pepper broth, hot spicy broth or tomato broth.

Delicious Chengdu also has a secret menu. Check if they're offering the Lǔ Wèi Roasted Fish, a more intense version of the dish because the fish spends more time marinating and braising before it's roasted. It's served with a generous side of egg noodles, potatoes, lotus root, broccoli and more. We also recommend the following dishes: Savory Country Style Pork with Shishito Pepper, the Tea-Smoked Duck and the nourishing Porkbone, Radish and Sweet Corn Soup.

  • 9679 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City. 626-988-0754.
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CHINESE ROASTED FISH Liu Roast Fish
Chinese roasted fish at Liu Roast Fish, which has a location in City of Industry and another in San Gabriel.
(Kaila Yu for LAist)

Liu Roast Fish

At Chinese roast fish specialist Liu Roast Fish, your options include catfish, black cod, red grouper, yellow croaker and tilapia. If you're not feeling fishy, try their crawfish or prawns. The base price of roast fish ranges from $45.99 to $99.99, and it has eight potential sauces including San Francisco-style spicy, Chong Qing-style pickled sauerkraut and double hot pepper.

This spot has the largest selection of add-ons ($2.99 - $6.99) including fresh squid, fish maw, beef tendon, Chinese yam, crab sticks, Napa cabbage and several tofus. We recommend ordering four to five sides. Liu Roast Fish also boasts a sizable skewer selection ($2.99 - $16.99) of meat, seafood and vegetables. Our favorites are the mini lamb skewers, fresh oysters, sweet corn and shiitake mushrooms.

Liu Roast Fish has two local outposts. The San Gabriel location is tucked into the corner of a popular Valley Blvd. strip mall packed with Chinese restaurants. Inside, it is red-walled and contemporary with brown chestnut tables and chairs mottled with streaks of honey.

  • 227 W. Valley Blvd., Ste 128., San Gabriel. 626-413-6888.
  • 18207 Gale Ave., City of Industry. 626-731-3939.
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Xiang La Hui

Opened in 2019, Xiang La Hui is an Alhambra-based Sichuan restaurant with stunning dishes. Their popular Toothpick Lamb is served atop a woven mat encircled by four polished bamboo stalks. Their version of roasted fish is served hot and bubbling in a sturdy rectangular trough customized with the restaurant's Chinese name on the side: 香 辣 汇. The base price of the dish is $27.99 and it has two sauce options: rattan pepper and red pepper. There are also eight add-ons: soft tofu, potato slices, yam noodles, lotus root, Chinese yam, enoki, crab sticks and ham sausage.

Other recommended dishes include the Kung Fu Boiled Beef served in a bubbling vat of peppers over an open flame, the Mapo Tofu, the Chongqing Fried Chicken and the Mao Xue Wang, a chili-laced stew of duck blood, tripe, and gizzard. Expect a modern aesthetic with dark chocolate tables and interlocking panels of wood lining the walls.

  • 621 W. Main St., Alhambra. 626-703-4165.

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Sichuan Kungfu Fish

This China-based chain, which also specializes in roasted fish, has more than 50 locations worldwide. Its first U.S. outpost, in Arcadia, is an upscale spot with signs illuminating the kitchen and bar, chandelier lights in black cages and greenery towers lining the walls. This aesthetic extends to dishes like the roasted fish, which is served in a custom fish-shaped metal hot pot.

Unlike other roasted fish restaurants, Sichuan Kungfu Fish doesn't offer whole fish, only fileted. You can also order individual portions of roasted fish ($15.99 - $35.99), an option you won't find at similar restaurants. The larger order ($29.99 - $67.99) feeds two to three people and includes yellow croaker, swai, cod or turbot. Sauces include peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn, chopped chili, black bean, sauerkraut, tomato and hot pot tofu. You can also opt for custom dishes like the Peppered Fish Filet or Professor's Longli Fish Special with preset sides. Choose among 23 add-ons such as Chinese cabbage, tofu, beef and Argentine shrimp.

  • 400 S. Baldwin Ave., Ste 2360., Arcadia. 626-461-5300.
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