Chinese Steamed Fish RecipeA Modern Technique for Restaurant
Quality Chinese Steamed Fish
If you’ve ever steamed fish Chinese style before or have read about
how to steam fish, here is a new technique for you that I’ve learnt from
my Mom and included a tip from Amy.
You’ll stuff the fish with scallions/ginger/cilantro and you’ll also lay
the fish on a bed of the same. After steaming, traditionally you would
just serve the fish with its cooking juices and all of the cooked herbs.
However, the cooking juice tastes very fishy (not in a good way) and
can be cloudy. The herbs have lost all of its flavor during the cooking
processes and just aren’t very pretty to serve. The secret for
restaurant-quality, clean, fresh tasting steamed fish is to serve the
fish with fresh herbs and clean sauce. By far, the easiest way to do
- After steaming, discard the cooked herbs and cooking juices in the
- In a microwave-safe bowl, add cilantro, chilli, soy, sugar, wine,
sesame oil, salt & pepper. Microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up
and release its flavors. Pour this on top of the cooked, steamed fish.
- In a small pan or wok, heat up some cooking oil until smoking hot.
Add scallion and ginger to the hot oil and fry for 10 seconds to "pop”
the flavors. Pour this hot oil over the fish just seconds before
Another secret to restaurant-quality steamed fish is to steam on
medium heat. You want to delicately steam the fish. A high rolling harsh
boil will tear apart the delicate flesh of the fish and finished dish
will not look as pretty (plus you run the risk of over cooking the fish)
1 pound whole fish (or fillets 1″ or thicker) yields the best results
4 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
3″ piece of ginger – slice into "coins”
small bunch of cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine to pour on fish prior to steaming (or
any cooking wine like dry sherry)
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons rough chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper if you
don’t have white)
fresh chilli – thinly sliced (optional)
2 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
2″ piece of ginger – finely julienned to the skinniest, thinnest strips
you can possibly manage without a microscope
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Equipment: shallow pan to hold fish & large pot or wok for
steaming. If you don’t have a fancy steamer or steamer insert, take a
shallow-ish bowl and invert to use as a stand. Or…3 shot glasses
1. Clean & Stuff:
Clean your fish, pat dry. Season generously inside and out with salt
and pepper. Take half of (A) and stuff inside the fish. If you are using
fillets, skip this.
2. Make your bed:
Take the other half of (A) and lay it in a shallow pan. If using
fillets, just use all of (A) for the bed. Lay the fish on top of the
bed. If fish is too long, cut in half. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing
wine on top of the fish.
3. Steam: Add 2″ of
water to your large pot, cover and boil. When it is boiling, uncover and
wipe the inside of the cover clean of any condensation (all this
condensation will drip back down on your fish, diluting the flavor) Put
your fish pan inside, propped up with a small inverted bowl. Steam the
fish on medium (see below for cooking times).
- Whole fish 1 lb: check at 12 minutes, add 2 minutes for every 1/2 lb
- Fillets 1″ and thicker: check at 10 minutes, add 2 minutes for every
1/2″ more thickness
- Fillets less than 1″: check at 7 minutes
- Super thin fillets: check at 5 minutes
Check to see if its done at the times indicated. Poke your chopstick
at the flesh near the top fin. If flesh flakes easily near the top fin,
then its done. If flesh sticks together still, then add 1-2 more
minutes to cooking time. For fillets, just gently poke at the flesh in
the middle. Timing really depends on the thickness of your fish. Also
check to make sure you haven’t run out of steaming water.
Towards the end of the steaming process, you’ll want to start preparing
the aromatics that garnish the finished dish. Take a microwave-safe
bowl, add (B) and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside. When fish is done
steaming, carefully lift the fish out onto a serving platter,
discarding all of the cooked cilantro/ginger/scallions and the fish
juice in the pan. Pour the hot (B) over fish.
Now we’ll work with (C): In a separate pan or wok, heat up cooking
oil until you see smoke. Add the ginger and scallions, fry for 10
seconds to "pop” the flavors. Pour this cooking oil + herbs over the
fish. You’ll hear a very satisfying sizzle!