Soy-Marinated Chinese-Style Tilapia with Fresh Ginger and Scallions

Ginger TilapiaMariel here. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chinese takeout. Too greasy, too slick, feels too much like lead in my stomach. However, that changed when I lived in Hong Kong for a year. Having skipped good old NYC in favor of the exotic Orient, it was time to bone up on the many faces of Chinese cuisine.

Much to my surprise – and delight – I fell in love with northern Chinese fare, specifically Manchurian-style food. Spicy “Tiger” salads with peanuts, red pepper and cilantro, and shredded “Beijing” pork wraps with ginger (and more cilantro) were among my favorites at a place called Bistro Manchu in the Soho section of Hong Kong. My mouth waters now.

Since returning to New York, I haven’t really found a suitable local substitute, so Chinese has been off the menu. But the other week it struck me: I don’t need takeout to enjoy Chinese-style cuisine. I can cook now.

While I don’t pretend that the below recipe is true to the wonderful, flavorful food I ate in Hong Kong, it incorporates many of my favorite Asian ingredients. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Oh, and normally this type of dish might be served with sea bass or black cod, but to save $$, I swapped in tilapia. It was on sale at Costco and proved to be an apt doppelganger. My mom whipped together a Crunchy Vegetarian Brown Rice Salad to be paired with this, so check it out if you need a side.

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Soy-Marinated Chinese-Style Tilapia with Fresh Ginger and Scallions
Serves 5

5 tilapia fillets – $11.00
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro – $1.49

2 Tablespoons soy sauce – stock
4 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated – $2.99
1 teaspoon sesame oil – stock

3 Tablespoons whipped light butter – stock
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated – calculated above
2 teaspoons minced garlic – stock
2 Tablespoons soy sauce – stock
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice – $0.39
2 teaspoons flour – stock
1 cup water – stock
1/2 cup chopped scallions – $0.69
Grand total assuming well-stocked pantry: $16.56
Cost per serving: $3.31

1. In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Marinade the tilapia fillets for 1-hour, uncovered at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees

3. Prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a skillet and then stir in the ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, flour and water mixing until it’s smooth. Add to the ginger/garlic mixture, stirring well – bring to a boil and then simmer immediately. Simmer until the sauce has thickened (approximately 2-4 minutes), then set aside.

4. In a glass baking pan, arrange the marinated fish and bake for 15-17 minutes until it’s flaky and golden brown.

5. Reheat the sauce on medium heat and add the chopped scallions, bring to a boil then immediately simmer for about 1 minute.

6. Spoon the sauce over the tilapia, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.


  1. Anthony says

    seriously that meal was delicious and fulfilling but at the same time i don’t feel guilty or unhealthy. I bought everything that wasn’t supposed to be in the pantry on top of drinks and it barely hit $21.00. Great job!

    • feastonthecheap says

      So glad to hear that! I LOVE that marinade and it works well on most flaky white fish. I’m also thrilled to hear it didn’t bust your budget either (fish can be tricky sometimes when it comes to keeping it affordable).

  2. rachel says

    i wanted to know how long this takes in full to prepare and cook i have a limited amont of time. Also how many this feeds something may say feeds 8 but then feeds three it is my mom lil sis and bro that normally eat a serving size but my older steo bro and step dad eat alot they are both6’5″ and over 250 and have the appitite of a horse could you tell me how many time over i need to complete the recipe as you can tell i need a hefty amont of food.
    —– Rachel

    • feastonthecheap says

      Hi Rachel – thanks so much for writing. This tilapia recipe makes five good-size servings (it estimates one tilapia filet per person dining). Although if someone has an extra large appetite, they may require 2 tilapia filets to fill them up, so you may want to consider doubling the recipe if your family is full of big eaters! As for timing, this takes about 1 hour to marinate. But when it comes to hands-on time, it’s rather quick. I haven’t made this in a little while but I recall it taking about 20-30 minutes once it’s done marinating. I hope this is helpful, please let me know if you have any additional questions.

    • feastonthecheap says

      Absolutely. It’s a fantastic salad, though we need to get a new photo of it since the one we have doesn’t do it any justice. We shot it way before we knew anything about food photography and lighting…I’ve been slowly re-photographing our archives…

      • says

        I actually taught photography in a former life, but you’d never know it from my work. I’m all about the iPhone camera these days. It’s that multi-tasking, immediate gratification lifestyle: the two minutes it takes to download the pix from the real camera drive me nuts!!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Alisa, we are so happy that we can help you with your feasting on a budget! It’s incredible how, with a bit of planning and an eye on sales, eating well suddenly becomes not only affordable, but fun! Great to hear from you. Best, M & M

  3. Neeta says

    This is a great recipe and very rewarding as well. Our family enjoyed this meal and it is going to be a regular for us now. Thank you so much.

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