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Steamed Fish

Steamed whole fish is an essential dish for Chinese New Year. The Chinese word for fish sounds similar to the word for abundance/surplus thus wishing prosperity and having extra at the end of the year. Steamed then doused with a fragrant hot oil, ginger, garlic, scallions and soy sauce this dish is delicious, and healthy!

I believe steaming fish is a popular Cantonese, from the southern part of China, method of cooking fish. This is my favorite way to eat fish because it reminds me of growing up in NY. You can use any kind of whole fish but I suggest a mild white fish like sea or black bass, snapper, flounder or trout. Some fish like trout tend to have many small bones so be careful when eating.

I look forward to pouring the hot infused oil over the fish and hearing it crackle and smelling the aroma mixed with the smell of the sea.

Steamed Fish

Ingredients (serves 4)


2 lbs whole white fish, cleaned (scaled, gutted, fins trimmed)


1/4 cup vegetable oil

2" piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 stalks of scallions, whites and greens cut into 1" pieces

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup cilantro, washed and cut into 2" pieces (optional for garnish)


If your fishmonger hasn't already cleaned the fish, remove scales, innards and trim the fins. Be careful as the fins can be pointy. Give the fish a good rinse and place in a wide but shallow glass dish that will fit in your steamer.

Fill your pot with enough water so that it comes about 1/2" below your steam basket. I don't have a basket so I use a wire rack in my pot to elevate the glass dish. Cover and bring water to a boil. When water is boiling, uncover carefully and place dish with fish onto the rack. Cover and turn heat to medium and steam fish for 12-15 minutes or until fish is cooked through or reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. You will know fish is cooked when the skin peels back a bit and the flesh is opaque. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

When the fish is nearly done steaming (about 10 minutes), start the oil. In a small saucepan over medium, heat up the vegetable oil. When the oil is shimmery, 1-2 minutes, add the ginger matchsticks. Stir occasionally to separate the strands. When the ginger starts to get golden and crispy, add the garlic.

Check on the fish being careful when lifting the lid. If the fish is not done, cover and continue steaming. If the fish is done, turn off heat. Check on the oil. When the ginger is crispy, but not burned, pour the hot oil, ginger and garlic over the whole fish. In the same saucepan add the green onions. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to the fish spreading out evenly. Pour soy sauce over the fish and garnish with cilantro.

Carefully remove flesh from the bones and enjoy with some aromatic toppings and sauce. Don't be afraid of the head. Fish cheeks are considered a delicacy and has a smooth texture. In my house I always give them to my girls. Enjoy!

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