Cooking with Alison

Steamed Whole Fish

In Seafood on February 23, 2010 at pm

In Chinese cooking, white fish are often steamed whole (in restaurants and in peoples’ homes).  Steaming fish until it’s Just cooked is incredibly easy, healthy, and gives you a Very moist fish.  It’s my favourite way to eat fish.  By the way, the cheeks are the best part of the fish so you should definitely try it if you haven’t already.

Note that the fish in the picture below is missing its head.  Normally the fish is steamed whole, but when I caught this fish ice fishing at the Winterlude Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, the people running the event gutted the fish and removed the head.

Steamed Whole Fish Recipe

1 whole white fish of your choice (ie. sea bass, red snapper – my fish above was a brook trout and weighed 1 lb)

1 to 2 slices of ginger, peeled, cut into thin, short strips

1 to 2 tbsp green onions, sliced

1 tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped or a few leaves left whole depending on what look you prefer

1 green onion, sliced thinly lengthwise, 2 inches long (for garnish)

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce (Chinese rock sugar and soy sauce to taste, heated until the sugar dissolves and then cooled completely)

sesame oil

Set up your steaming equipment and bring the water to a boil.  I use a wok with lid, a metal rack and a large plate.  (Here are detailed instructions for how to steam cook food.)  For this you want to choose a plate or dish that’s large enough to hold the fish but that’s not too big to fit into the wok sitting on the rack.  Make sure that the water level is not high enough to boil over onto the plate.  Bring the water to a boil.  Meanwhile, wash the gutted fish and pat dry with paper towel.  Lay the fish on the plate and sprinkle with ginger and green onions.  If you want, you can place ginger and green onions in the fish cavity.  Place the plate onto the rack in the wok and cover with the lid.  Steam for 7 minutes for a 1 lb fish.  A 2 1/2 lb fish will need to steam for 10 to 12 minutes.  Do not overcook the fish, it should be Just cooked when you remove it from the steamer.  When done, discard the green onions (and remove from inside the cavity).  Pour the sweet soy sauce over top of the fish and drizzle with sesame oil.  Note that in restaurants, they heat vegetable oil over high heat until almost smoking and drizzle the fish with this, but I use sesame oil because it’s healthier and more flavourful.  Garnish with the lengthwise sliced green onions and cilantro.  Serve hot.

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  1. Hi Ali,

    This recipe looks healthy and easy! Where is a good place in Kingston to find some of the ingredients you use in your recipes (such as the Chinese rock sugar, sesame oil, etc)? What about bamboo steamers/steaming racks for woks? If you have time, it would be great if you could post some pictures of your cooking procedures/techniques!

    Thanks for the great recipes.

    • Hi Cathy 🙂

      In Kingston, there are two Asian grocery stores downtown. One is called Oriental Grocery at 455 Princess Street. The other is called Asian Market at 354 Princess Street. The first one is larger and has more asian vegetables but the stores carry different items and different brands so let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll let you know which one is better for that particular ingredient. Since you like thai food, Asian Market is better for that.

      For sesame oil, the best one is the Japanese brand Kadoya and you can find this at Loblaws (or the asian grocery stores).
      For Chinese rock sugar, you can find this at Oriental Grocery. If you’re looking for the Chinese brown slab sugar, you can find this at Asian Market.
      For bamboo steamers and steaming racks, I suggest trying Oriental Grocery. I got my rack in Toronto but I’m sure they’ll have something similar here.

      I will definitely post some pictures of my steaming equipment in the near future 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

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