Chinese-Style Steamed Fish
Chinese-style steamed fish is an incredibly simple and healthy dish that is a great alternative to greasier, fried dishes that tend to predominate Chinese restaurant menus. When my mom came to visit me in NYC, I asked her to show me how to properly steam a fish, including the process of selecting a fish in Chinatown. However, I was running late and my mother, being the caretaker she is, had already prepared the entire dish by the time I got home. Grateful as I was, I still had no clue how to make this dish. And this is why the first time I ever steamed a fish became such a culinary adventure…
I had some notes from my mother and this awesome Steamy Kitchen website to guide me to this culinary destination. The recipe from Steamy Kitchen is a lot fancier aka more work than the way my mom makes it, but I decided to try it anyway (mainly because I had too much cilantro and needed to get rid of it). My mom now uses an even simpler method of poaching the fish, and it tastes just as delicious without the need to prepare the steaming plate bed.
After work one day, I headed to Chinatown to check out the fish markets. Normally, I prefer to buy seafood from Chinatown on a weekend morning to avoid the items that have been sitting out on ice in the open air all day. However, since I was going for a live fish today, I just went to find the shops with the biggest fish tanks. It’s good to pick your own fish, just like you should pick an animal at a pet store; the staff will only exert enough effort to catch the slowest guppy that will die in a week… sigh… RIP Hugo. Then again, if you don’t want to meet your food before you cook it — put your trust in the shopkeeper.
After paying a whopping $5 for my 1 lb of fish, I made equally ridiculously cheap purchases of bok choy and ginger. Woohoo Chinatown! As I walked home, I was startled to discover my bag was moving. I freaked out — to put it mildly. The bag kept squirming and I ended up running back to the fish store. The shopkeeper looked up as I entered and all I did was hold the bag out to him.
“Still moving huh?” “Fix it please!” They all laughed at me, and then the guy took the fish out and just smacked it a couple times on the block. They made jokes about how fresh it was, but since they could see I was freaked out, they assured me they had killed the fish the first time and properly cleaned it, but sometimes the fish can spasm (like headless chickens or live sashimi). They handed it back to me and I asked timidly, “Are you sure?” The answer was another smack on the block and they sent me away.
The fancy process that Steamy Kitchen details involves stuffing the fish with scallions/ginger/cilantro and steaming it on a bed of the same herbs. Traditionally after steaming, you just serve it as is (mom style), but this recipe is more restaurant style. The soggy herbs and fishy juices will be discarded, and the fish will be served with fresh herbs and clean sauce.
Chinese-Style Steamed Fish (from Steamy Kitchen)
Yields: 3 servings
1 lb whole fish (** or 1″ minimum thick fillets)
4 stalks scallions, cut into 3″ lengths
3″ piece of ginger, slice into “coins”
small bunch of cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons rice cooking wine (or any cooking wine like dry sherry)
salt & pepper
2 tbsp rough chopped cilantro
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white or black pepper
fresh chilli – thinly sliced (optional)
2 stalks scallions, cut into 3″ lengths
2″ piece of ginger, finely julienned
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Clean your fish and pat dry. Season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Take half of (A) and stuff inside the fish.
Take the other half of (A) and lay it on a shallow pan or plate. Lay the fish on top of the bed and pour the rice wine on top of the fish. ** If using fillets, just use all of (A) for the bed.
Add 2″ of water to your wok or large pot and bring to a boil. Place your fish pan on the steam rack (or small inverted bowl). Steam the fish on medium heat, approximately 10 minutes ** shorter if using fillets. Poke your chopstick at the flesh to check if the flesh flakes easily; if so, your fish is done! Carefully lift the fish onto a serving platter and discard all the cooked herbs.
Mix (B) in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds. Pour hot (B) over the fish.
Now for the kicker (C). In a small pan, heat the oil on high until smoking. Add the ginger and scallions, and fry for 10 seconds to open up the flavors. Pour this over the fish.
Serve with rice and veggies. Ta Da!
Chinese Stir-Fry Bok Choy
1 lb bok choy, ends cut off
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp ginger, sliced
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Salt, ground pepper, red crushed pepper to taste
Boil water in a large pot. Add the bok choy until slightly tender, approximately 2 minutes, and drain.
Heat the oil in the clean pot or wok and add a dash of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Saute the garlic and ginger until slightly browned. Add the bok choy and stir fry for a couple minutes. Pour the sesame oil and oyster sauce over the vegetables and stir. Transfer to a serving platter.