Stovetop Smoked Chinese Fish

I’ve been cooking a recipe recently of my own creation that I really like, and there isn’t much similar on the internet, so I’m sharing the recipe here. It’s a combination of two great things – hot-smoking fish with wood chips in a stovetop smoker, and the fermented flavors of Hunanese cuisine.

After smoking.

Smoked fish and duck are common flavors in Chinese cooking. Tea-smoked duck is common on Chinese menus in America, and Chinese cookbooks have recipes like Steamed Smoked Fish with Black Beans and Chiles. But those recipes typically suggest purchasing a smoked trout or similar, and adding additional ingredients. I’ve had great luck starting with raw fish. There are a few examples of similar techniques, but not that many.

Here’s what I do. I’m not using my technique for rewriting recipes here, as I want to explain some of the details of the process.

Stovetop Smoked Chinese Fish

Serves 2-3, with other dishes. Takes 30 minutes.

Things You’ll Need

  • a stovetop smoker and wood chips – I have the mini Cameron’s smoker; oak chips are good for this
  • 1 whole fish of 1 pound or so, scaled and cleaned, or a meaty skin-on filet – trout is good
  • oil – scallion oil is highly recommended
  • Shaoxing rice wine

Some or all of:

  • scallions, in 2" chunks
  • fermented Chinese black beans
  • chopped salt-fermented Hunanese chiles, or dried whole red chiles
  • thinly julienned young ginger


  1. With a sharp knife, cut diagonal slashes through the skin of the fish. If needed for the fish to fit in the smoker, cut off the tail. Douse the fish with shao-xing wine, and let it sit on a plate. In Chinese cooking, this is common for reducing “fishy flavors”.
  2. Prep scallions, ginger, etc.
  3. Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly cover fish with oil. Lightly salt the inside of the fish (the outside will have plenty of salt from the black beans and chiles).
  4. Cover the smoker tray with aluminum foil, then put the grate on the tray. Put the fish on the grate. Put some of the scallion chunks inside the fish. On top of the fish, put more scallions, fermented black beans, and chiles. Drizzle with a bit more oil. (See below for what it looks like.)
  5. Put a heaping tablespoon of wood chips in the smoker. Put the tray of fish in the smoker.
  6. Put the smoker on a hot flame, with the cover cracked, just until wisps of smoke start to come out. Turn the heat to medium-low, close the cover, and set a timer for 20 minutes (for a whole fish; less for a filet).
  7. Serve family style on a platter, with rice and contrasting other dishes.

Before smoking.