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I love Chinese-style steamed fish–fresh-from-the-tank live fish steamed with soy sauce and topped with shredded ginger, scallions, and cilantro leaves.
To me, nothing tastes as satisfying as steamed fish with white rice, drizzled with the soy sauce from the steamed fish. Sometimes, I can just eat bowls and bowls of white rice with the soy sauce. Chinese steamed fish is just so delicious!
I am going to be biased on this: I personally think that fish is best eaten steamed. (Yes, sashimi and sushi lovers, you can protest now). It’s mostly a personal preference; I love the texture of a perfectly steamed fish–the flesh is tender, silky, and oh-so-delicate.
Certain kind of fish is highly priced for its exceptional steamed texture, for example: my favorite “Soon Hock” fish, a fresh water fish commonly found in Malaysia. To me, the best part of steamed fish is the two pieces of fish cheek. The slightly chewy texture of fish cheeks is simply divine.
As simple as it might seem, making a perfect Chinese-style steamed fish takes a lot of techniques and skills. I am very fortunate to have learned the secret recipe and tricks from a Cantonese chef that would turn your plain steamed fish to Chinese-restaurant worthy.
As you can see from the picture above, my steamed red cod (红斑鱼) looks like it’s straight from Shang Palace.
Secret Techniques for Restaurant-style Chinese Steamed Fish
- Fresh fish; preferably alive and swimming in a tank.
- 8-10 minutes steaming time. 8 minutes for a smaller fish or 10 minutes for a bigger fish. Use your best judgment, and don’t forget to set your kitchen alarm.
- Discard the fishy and cloudy fish “water” after steaming. Contrary to common belief, it doesn’t add flavors to a steamed fish dish. If any, it will leave a bitter–from the fish guts if the fish was not cleaned properly–and fishy taste.
- Rock sugar. Wonder why the soy sauce is so good that you can just eat plain steamed rice with the soy sauce mixture? Rock sugar is the secret.
- Use oil. Heat up some oil in your wok and pour it over the fish before adding the soy sauce. It gives your steamed fish that perfect sheen before you top it with the soy sauce mixture.
Below is my steamed fish recipe. Enjoy!
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Chinese Steamed Fish Recipe
Steamed fish, Chinese steamed fish recipe. Learn how to make restaurant-style Chinese steamed fish with this easy steamed fish recipe, with steamed fish pics.
- 1 live fish, about 1.5 lb or less
- 2 inches ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
- 1 stalk scallion, cut into 2-inch length, and then cut into thin silken threads
- Some cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine or rice wine
Clean the fish properly (remove scales, guts, gills, etc.) and pat dry. Blend the soy sauce mixture in a small bowl and set aside.
Lay the fish on a plate and drizzle 1 tablespoon shaoxing (or rice) wine on top of the fish. Top the fish with 1/2 of the cut ginger strips.
Heat up a wok with enough water for steaming. Wait for the water to boil. As soon as it boils, place your fish inside the wok, propped up with a small inverted bowl or a couple of wooden blocks (meant for steaming). Cover your wok tightly and set your kitchen alarm for 8 minutes.
As soon as the fish is done steaming, transfer it out from the wok. Discard the fish water and ginger strips. Lay the remaining ginger strips on top of the fish.
Heat up a pan over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, swirl around until it's hot. Pour the hot oil over the steamed fish. Put the pan back onto the stove, add the soy sauce mixture and stir well. As soon as the sauce bubbles up and boils, pour the soy sauce over the fish. Topped with scallions and cilantro leaves and serve the steamed fish immediately with white rice.