This take on deep-fried fish, which I had in a rural market in a small Dong village in eastern Guizhou, is surprisingly easy. We use whiting, which looks similar to the local fish, long and slender (about 1 inch across at its widest point and about 10 inches long). If you have no access to whiting, use a slender fish or part of a fish, such as the tail end of a cod. The fish is cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces, smeared with chile paste, and quickly deep-fried. The fish is succulent and mildly hot. The deep-frying tightens the flesh, so it slides off the bone when you pick the fish up with chopsticks, making it very easy to eat.
Like many deep-fries, this can be a main course, but it also makes a great snack to serve with beer, especially, we find, if your guests are hanging around the kitchen waiting for supper. Put it out hot from the pan, perhaps with some slices of cucumber for a contrast of texture and temperature and some (nontraditional) lemon wedges if you wish: guests can eat with chopsticks or with their fingers. If you’re serving it as part of a meal, serve with rice, a cooling salad or mild soup, and a green vegetable.
Note on frying: Because some of the paste flavoring the fish will come off as it fries, you may want to skim the chile debris out of the oil partway through cooking. Use a fine-mesh sieve to clear it out of the oil, then discard it.
This right here was a stroke of genius on a lazy afternoon when my husband urged me to whip up a quick...