chinese food dinner recipes seafood

Chinese Steamed Fish Recipe

Do you ever have random cravings for food? This happens to me all the time and while I’d like to give in to my stomach’s every whim, I rarely do–usually because my food fantasies revolve around elaborate feasts that would be entirely too time consuming to make before passing out from hunger. Thankfully my elaborate feast fantasies don’t happen all the time. The other day I had a very sensible, down-to-earth desire for a simple steamed fish.

Steamed fish and rice is total comfort food to me. One bite and it brings me back to countless nights of me, my mom, my dad and my brother sitting at our round kitchen table. My brother and I would be bickering about some non-consequential thing and my parents would be recapping their days to each other. Back then I wouldn’t touch the green onions or ginger, but the flaky white fish and soy sauce mixed in to fluffy rice was one of the few meals I’d eat without complaint.

Buying fresh fish might be a little daunting but most Asian grocery stores with a live tank will scale and gut your fish for you. As with all seafood fresh really is best, but if you don’t want to go with a whole fish, this recipe works just as well with any thick cut white fish filets.

If you’ve never had Chinese style steamed fish you should give it a go. Light, refreshing and oh-so simple, the flavour of the fish is clean, fresh and heightened by the ginger and green onions.

i am whole, i am steamed: i am chinese steamed fish!

Chinese Steamed Fish Recipe
makes 1 fish

  • 1 fresh, whole tilapia (about 1 pound)*
  • 1 small knob of ginger, thinly julienned
  • 3 stalks green onion, thinly julienned
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Place your steamer rack inside your wok. Add enough water to come to the base of the steamer, about 2 inches. Do not let the water come above the steamer rack. Cover the wok and bring to a boil.

While your water is coming to a boil, prepare your fish. Cut three slits on each side of the fish. Lay the fish down in a shallow dish. Pour the soy sauce and oil over the fish and top with half of your ginger and green onions.

Once the water has come to a boil it’s time to steam your fish. Wipe down the condensation that has built up on the inside of the cover. Place your dish on the steamer rack and cover. Turn the heat down to medium and steam for 12 minutes.**

Check to see if your fish is cooked by poking the fish near the top fin. If it flakes, the fish is cooked. Top with the remaining ginger and green onions. Taste and season accordingly with extra soy, sesame oil and salt, if desired. Serve with fluffy white rice.

*Any white fish will do for this recipe. I used pink tilapia because that’s what my supermarket had in the fish tank. Other types of fish you could use are: halibut, cod, sole, flounder, turbot or whatever fresh white fish you have access to.

**If you’re steaming filets they won’t take as long to cook, depending on the thickness of your filet. For filets 1 inch and thicker steam for about 10 minutes. For thinner filets, check at 7 minutes. If the fish flakes, it’s cooked.

35 Comments add yours

  1. I love your blog!
    We used to have this for dinner a lot too but my dad used to put the spring onions on top of the fish after it was cooked, then he would heat up oil til it was sizzling and poured it over the fish.

  2. Your blog is very great^^. These pictures are beautiful!

  3. What other fish varieties would be good for this recipe? My husband loves fish dishes…I am sure he’ll adore this =) Thanks!

  4. This is my all-time favorite comfort food, too, and my mom made it exactly the same way. Thanks :)

  5. Beautiful! I totally get wild and random cravings, and I can’t blame it on pregnancy!

  6. OMG! This brings back childhood memories! Ty!

  7. Lovely post. Simple and effective! Thanks for sharing. Vicky

  8. What a great recipe!
    Your blog is perfect! Nice post! Beautiful pictures!
    I often read your blog 1-2 times a week.

    I really want to try this menu. I think it’s not difficult to cook it.
    No need to eat meat everyday.
    It sounds good to eat fish if you want to get the healthy body.

    Thanks you for sharing.

  9. We just cooked our first whole fish last week. Can’t wait to this recipe with the perch in our freezer. Thank you for sharing!

  10. This is awesome. I love your blog. I’m so glad that I found this site. Initially I was searching for momofuku recipes and I stumble to your old food blog. Anyhow I can’t wait to try many of your recipes on your blog. Keep up the work and thanks for sharing!!!

  11. Kick it up a notch with black bean sauce too! Adds a nice umami taste to any white fish.

  12. I adore chinese food. This is one dish that i will be preparing as soon as i can find a fresh, whole Tilapia. A million thanks! Love from Miami Beach!

    Eva bronstein on July 21, 2012 at 9:54 am
  13. I lurve the simplicity of steamed fish especially when the fish is fresh. There are really just 2 simple rules to a good steamed fish dish – use fresh fish and don’t over cook it. Your photos are awesome!

  14. simple but the pure taste get you drizzling ! will sure to try it

  15. Your photo of the steamed tilapia is “lovely” – never thought I would ever use “lovely” to describe fish – but I do think it is! I like Chinese-style steamed fish with scallions, ginger, tamari, and just a slight drizzle of sesame oil. My fish of choice is flounder but I can hardly ever get truly fresh ones here in the Midwest (perhaps at Whole Foods occasionally). When we’re on vacation at Topsail Island NC, I always buy line-caught flounder from this old fisherman named Tom, bring it back to the condo and steam it whole. Although I should say that flounder is not as pretty as the pink tilapia.

  16. wow! what a taste i made it and it taste superb

  17. That’s mostly the way my mom used to make a steamed fish, though she additionally stuffed the inside with ginger and green onion. I love this dish cos it’s so simple to make. I usually use a bass when they have them in the Asian grocery; I should try a tilapia sometime.

  18. I love this blog and has inspired me to update mine. The recipes are great and the photography really sell the ‘sizzle’ – great job!

  19. Hey! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so
    I came to check it out. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting
    this to my followers! Fantastic blog and amazing design.

  20. Do I have to use a wok? Or can I use a regular pot with steamer?

  21. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after going through
    many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I found it
    and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

  22. The best Steam Fish recipes found so far!

    May i know where to buy the steel one to support the plate? I need one to do my own steam fish-_-

  23. Going to make this tonight for my husband and 2 other friends. Had not had this since Washington, D.C. Will let you know how it went. Read about your blog is Saveur. Congratulation on winning the first Blog Award.

  24. My family and I had that dish quite often. I ate it with my family a lot when I was little and I was taught how to steam tilapia too. I don’t know why but my dad told me that the pink tilapia taste a lot better. By the way, when you eat the steamed tilapia, don’t forget the cheeks, those are the good stuff, because the meat in cheeks are very smooth and delicious!!

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