Steamed Fish 蒸鱼
Updated: Feb 2
In China, the head of the fish is seen as something of a treat - so it’s always more fun to eat this at home, where you can pick at the delicious, succulent morsels around the skull without having to be polite. The best bits (cheeks, lips) are even more delicious when you’ve wrested them away from your siblings - this is a fact!
This recipe is traditionally made with a whole fish, which can be purchased from a good fishmonger - just ask them to scale and empty the sides for you if you don’t want to do it yourself.
1 whole white fish, such as daurade
3 Spring Onions
Ginger, 1 thumb-sized piece
50 ml vegetable oil
50 ml light soy
15 sichuan peppercorns (optional
Dried chilli (optional)
First, make sure you have a pan large enough to fit a steamer basket over, full of simmering water. Prepare your steamer basket, by lining it either with perforated steaming sheet or a leaf of cabbage or salad.
Peel the ginger and slice into thin strips. Slice the spring onions as thinly as possible on the diagonal.
Take the scaled and emptied fish and lightly pat dry with some paper towels.
Using a very sharp knife, make a cut into the fish, stopping when you hit the bone. Do three or four of these on each side.
Carefully open up each cut and fill with some sliced ginger and scallions (see the picture above), reserving a handful for later.
Gently place the fish in the steamer basket, cover it and place on top of your simmering water. Steaming time will vary depending on the size of the fish, but it usually takes about 12-15 minutes for a fish of about 1 kg.
It is fully cooked when it is still slightly translucent but flakes easily from the bone. When it’s done, allow to cool for a minute and gently remove to a serving plate and scatter the rest of the ginger and scallions over it. Drizzle with the soy sauce and a little salt. If you’re using dried chilli’s, sprinkle them over now.
Gently heat the oil in a small saucepan with the Sichuan peppercorns. Once they smell fragrant, remove with a slotted spoon and continue heating the oil. As soon as it starts smoking, carefully pour it all over the fish. The hot oil sizzling on top of the aromatics will make them release their beautiful aroma. If you like, finish with a large scattering of coriander leaves.
***EDIT - for a Cantonese-style steamed fish, omit the chilis, and simply heat up the oil, without Sichuan peppercorns, til it emits gentle wisps of smoke, and pour over the fish as above.