As regular TFD readers have probably noticed, I have yet to offer practically any fish recipes that arean’t preserved or smoked. Sadly, this is because I’m really not a big fish eater. 🙁 Thankfully however, I am a huge sushi maven and do enjoy recipes such as this one that simply enhance the natural flavor of the fish without overpowering it.
The Cantonese have steaming fish down to an art-form, and I find this to be a most succesful recipe for my palate – it will reaffirm why you enjoy fresh fish. No Chinese New Year feast is complete without a steamed fish as the centerpiece – in Chinese, the word for “fish” and the word for “prosperity” sound the same.
The superb blog “Rasa Malaysia” offers these tips for perfect steamed fish, I agree with all of them!
Secret Techniques for Restaurant-style Chinese Steamed Fish
Fresh fish; preferably alive and swimming in a tank.
8-10 minutes steaming time. 8 minutes for a smaller fish or 10 minutes for a bigger fish. Use your best judgment, and don’t forget to set your kitchen alarm.
Discard the fishy and cloudy fish “water” after steaming. Contrary to common belief, it doesn’t add flavors to a steamed fish dish. If anything, it will leave a bitterness from the fish guts if the fish was not cleaned properly and a strong fishy taste.
Rock sugar. Wonder why the soy sauce is so good that you can just eat plain steamed rice with the soy sauce mixture? Rock sugar is the secret.
Use oil. Heat up some oil in your wok and pour it over the fish before adding the soy sauce. It gives your steamed fish that perfect sheen before you top it with the soy sauce mixture.
I enjoy this Cantonese recipe made with fresh snapper, fresh rock cod, fresh flounder or Chilean sea bass steaks – you should only use white-fleshed, mild fish in this dish.
Note that if serving guests, it is traditional to offer them the choicest meat on the fish – which is the cheek, two small morsels that have the best taste and texture on the whole fish – try it and see. If you are for some reason grossed out (and why is beyond me) invite me over and I’ll eat them!
My version of this Cantonese staple adds a few new touches to the classic version: I add a few chopped fermented black beans and a bit of sesame oil. To my palate, they improve the recipe, but feel free to omit these if you’re a purist.
I also follow the sometimes forgotten but critical Cantonese rule of pouring sizzling hot oil over the fish to crisp the skin and evoke all the flavor and aroma from the aromatics.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
The Hirshon Cantonese Steamed Fish - 粤式蒸鱼
Citizens, please note that I can no longer afford to absorb the nearly $1000 per month it costs to keep the site running smoothly, including marketing expenses, etc. There is, however, a solution that benefits us all – one that will help to avoid the only other alternative, which is to add obnoxious ads throughout the site.
Become a Citizen Prime for only $4 per month and receive exclusive recipes, 3 free historic cookbook scans, discounts from TFD sponsors and so much more! For less than the cost of 1 Starbucks coffee, you can keep TFD Nation strong and proud! Details are here.
You can also show your support by listening to our podcasts, liking them, and sharing as you see fit – try them out here.