0648 chinese oven steamed fish carolinescooking
Photo: Carolinescooking

Cook’s Note

1.Choose smaller and slim fresher fish

If possible, 500g to 700g live fish is the best option for steamed whole fish. In China, living fish is the most popular choice for most of our fish dishes. We have all type of living fish available in our supermarket. If you cannot get the living ones, choose the fresher ones with clear eyes and free of any odd smelly. In generally, flatter fishes are better choice than thicker ones, as they need shorter steaming time and the meat can be kept as tender as possible.

2. Completely dry before cooking

After washing the fish, we need to completely dry the fish before cooking. If possible, you can hang it in room temperature for couple of hours until the skins become slightly tightened. Or use a kitchen paper to pat dry. The fish fibers absorb the seasonings better after this drying possible and it also can help to remove the raw fish smelly.

3. High amount of vapor

Firstly, place the fish when the water is already boiling. And place chopsticks or scallion white on the bottom of the fish to let the vapor go through the fish freely. If you plan to steam in a wok, you can skip the plate and use chopsticks to hold the fish.

4. Do not overcook

For example, to steam a 600g fish in home kitchen, we only need 5-7 minutes to finish steaming a sea fish and 7-10 minutes to finish steaming a fresh water fish. My favorite way is to steam 5 minutes and stand for another 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Use seasoned soy sauce for seafood

We use a combined seasoned soy sauce for seafood for most of cantonese steamed dishes. It is lighter and slightly sweeter than normal light soy sauce. You can purchase it from your local asian stores or on amazon. You can make a similar taste by using light soy sauce.

  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. hard white spirit or Huadiao
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Mix light soy sauce, water and white spirit in a small pot. Bring to a boiling and then mix with white pepper and sesame oil, according to China Sichuan Food.


0646 chinese new year food steamed fish chinesenewyear
Photo: ChineseNewYear

Cut half of the scallion and ginger into small sections. For decoration: shred scallion with a fork and then soak them in cold water.

Clean the fish completely and peel off any black skins in the stomach of the fish. Drain completely.

Watch the body shape if your fish. If it gets a thick back, cut a line and separate the back into two parts. Or if it gets thick stomach, cut 2 lines on the thickest meat, so the meat can be cooked in a shorter time and be kept as tender as possible.(Optional for fresh water fish only), spread a very thin layer of salt on the surface and stomach of the fish.Place scallion and ginger inside of the fish

Place the scallion white or two sections of chopsticks and then place the fish in. Lay some scallion and ginger on top.

Bring enough water to a boiling in a large pot and place the fish in after the water boils. Start the count the time, steam 5 minutes and stand for 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a clean plate, discard the scallion and ginger and place the newly cut scallions.Heat around 2 tablespoons of cooking oil until almost smoky and pour the oil evenly on the scallion shreds.

Heat the seasoned soy sauce until warm and pour evenly on the plate. If your soy sauce is cold, pour them on the two sides of the fish, not over the fish.

Steamed Fish: Always Have More Than You Wish For

Fish is one of the main dishes commonly eaten for the New Year dinner throughout the whole country; fish is “余yú” in Chinese, a word symbolizing surplus. so eating fish stands for: “always have more than you wish for”.

It is important that the fish is served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good start and finish, and to avoid bad luck throughout the year. The general way to cook fish is to either steam or braise it.

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