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Classic Chinese steamed fish

I decided to be adventurous today and bought my first fish from a wet market.  I had no idea what to do so I went to the stall with the most customers and picked out a shiny Nemo that had fresh red gills, clear eyes and unblemished skin.  I didn’t try my hand at bargaining because my mixture of Mandarin and English, plus a dash of horrendous Cantonese, will definitely give me away as “not a local”.  The lady at the fish stall was very sweet and helped me de-scale and gut the little fellow before sending him home with me in a bag.  *Note, I bought the fish when it was freshly killed and displayed on ice.  I still cannot stomach the notion of picking a live one and deciding his / her fate, so for now, fresh fish on ice will have to do!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 whole white-fleshed fish, preferably pomfret or cod
  • 3 large sprigs of green onion
  • 3 tbls soy sauce for seafood (if you live in Asia, you can find this in any grocer)
  • 3 tbls peanut oil

I know this is not the most appetizing picture, but it shows you the kind of fish I got.  The fish monger suggested this as the best type of fish for steaming, and after a little Googling and sending the photo off to my mom, I’ve discovered this species as pomfret.  They are very succulent with a soft white yielding flesh!

First comes cleanliness.  Always wash the fish throughly, washing carefully under the gills and the cavity.

After cleaning, slice the fish at an angle lengthwise until your knife blade hits the backbone of the fish.  Do not slice through the bone – these slices are just to make sure the fish cooks evenly and that the flavours are easily infused into the flesh.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Place the fish in a glass / ceramic dish on a steamer rack inside the boiling pot of water – be careful not to get burned!  Place the lid on top and steam for 8-9 minutes or when the flesh starts flaking.

While the fish is steaming, julienne the white stalk of green onions into thin slices.  Heat 3 tablespoons of peanut oil in a small saucepan.  (Peanut oil is used because they have a higher smoke point compared to oils such as olive oil) Heat the oil until the surface starts to give off a little bit of smoke.  By this time, your fish should be ready.  

Carefully lift the dish out of the pot, transfer the fish onto the serving platter.  Place the green onion slices on top of the fish and spoon over with the sizzling hot oil.  Be careful – there could be some splattering!  Next, pour a few tablespoons of soy sauce over the whole lot (use the soy sauce made for steaming seafood as it’s lighter and on the sweeter side).

Voila!  You’ve got a great dish that’s healthy and easy to whip up – it’ll make you look like as if you’ve cheffed at a Chinese restaurant!  

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