Steamed fish Recipes Chinese
Steamed whole fish is a classic dish in Chinese home cooking. It uses very few ingredients to bring out the great flavor of fresh fish. The fresh ginger and green onion help eliminate any fishiness. The seasoned soy sauce adds a bit of sweet and savory umami to the dish. The fish is cooked with a steamer for the shortest amount of time, so that the finished meat is tender, silky and moist.
Steamed fish is also a dish that represents wealth and good fortune. In Chinese, the character for fish (鱼, yu) has the same pronunciation as that for “surplus” (余, yu), which indicates that a family has a surplus of wealth and food at the end of the year. For a lot of families, steamed fish is a must-have on the dinner table for Chinese New Year.
Although steamed fish is a very simple dish, it requires some techniques that make it stand out. If it is your first time cooking this dish, make sure to go through the list below, so you get all the important points.
(1) Select very fresh fish
Always choose a live fish if possible. If not, try to select a very fresh fish. If the fish is fresh, it will have clear eyes and metallic scales. It shouldn’t have a fishy or stinky smell.
(2) Select smaller and thinner fish
Try to select a fish that is around 550 grams (20 ounces). Do not select a fish that is heavier than 700 grams (25 ounces). This dish uses minimal seasoning and cooking. The bigger the fish, the tougher and thicker the flesh, which will result in a flaky, tough texture. Fish with thinner and flatter flesh work better, for example, flounder.
(2) Dry the fish thoroughly before cooking
You could place the fish in a colander at room temperature for an hour. If you want to speed up the process, slightly press both sides of the fish with a paper towel. It helps the flesh to tighten up a bit. The texture of the fish will be smoother and absorb flavor better after cooking.
(3) Do not overcook
When you start to steam the fish, It is very important to keep the heat as high as possible, so the fish will be cooked in the shortest amount of time.
A 550-gram (20-ounce) fish usually take 5 to 8 minutes to cook. Larger and thicker fish require more time, 8 to 10 minutes. Check the doneness of the fish after 5 minutes. If you can use a pair of chopsticks (or a fork) to remove the fish meat from the bone easily, then it’s cooked. Stop steaming immediately when the fish is just cooked through. If you use a thinner fish, such as flounder, you might need to shorten the cooking time.
(4) The correct way to season
After heating the oil, pour it onto the fish immediately, then add the seasoned soy sauce. The oil will cook the fish, as well as the soy sauce, so the flavors will blend well into the fish. Do not add seasoned soy sauce when you steam the fish. The flavor of the sauce will become bitter and its umami will disappear when heated.
To select side dishes that go with steamed fish, I prefer lighter ones like cucumber salad, potato strip salad or Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. Or, you could go to the recipe index to browse for other choices. If you’re not familiar with Chinese ingredients, don’t forget to check out my pantry page. It lists some of the most common ingredients in Chinese cooking.
I hope you enjoy the dish and have a great week ahead!