Living Off the Land and Sea: General Tsao’s Whole Fried Fish

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Everyone is familiar with General Tsao’s chicken, but why doesn’t anyone make General Tsao’s fish?
In this episode of Living Off the Land and Sea, OTW’s Andy Nabreski serves up one of the Northeast’s most under-utilized fish species, the mighty scup (A.K.A. porgy.)

These little fish are a blast to catch, and they’re also great eating. Andy’s favorite way to prepare is fried whole, and topped with an amazingly-tasty homemade General Tsao sauce.
Andy also delves into the fascinating history behind General Tsao’s chicken, and how it became the most popular selling Chinese food dish in America.

Gear Used In This Video:

General Tsao scup

RECIPE: General Tsao’s Whole Fried Scup

  • 4 whole scup (porgies), scaled, gutted, heads removed


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Peanut or Canola oil
  • Salt


  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot chili paste (to taste)
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 cloves, garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon MSG (optional but recommended)
  • 6 dried chili peppers (optional)
  • Sesame seeds


Blend together all the dry ingredients. Make a series of diagonal 1/2-inch deep cuts on both sides of the fish. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, then refrigerate for at least a half hour.
Add about a 1/4 inch of oil to an electric frying pan and heat to 350 degrees. Carefully add the fish and cook for about 4 minutes per side until it reaches 145 degrees in the thickest part. Remove to a wire drying rack, and sprinkle with salt.


Let’s start with the sauce. DO NOT walk away from it; it gets very hot and must be stirred constantly.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and warm water. Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, hot chili paste, MSG, minced garlic, and ginger. Set this mixture aside.
Next, add the sugar and water to a heavy saucepan, set the heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Use a spatula to stir it constantly to prevent the sugar from sticking to the pan.
Boil for about 15 minutes until it thickens and the color turns to a light amber and it starts to smell like caramel. DO NOT attempt to lick the spatula like I did – this stuff is like lava.
When it reaches this stage, reduce the heat to low, wait one minute, and add the other ingredients. Bring the heat back up to medium and cook until the sauce begins foaming up in a froth. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, then remove from heat and add the dried chili peppers.

Artistically arrange the fish on a platter and top it off with the sauce. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top, and serve with steamed broccoli.

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