Every Chinese family has its own style of preparing steamed fish. This recipe is simple but has a special technique that my dad came up with himself.
Growing up, I ate steamed fish almost every other day. My parents always worry I cannot get quality fish in KL. So whenever they know I’m coming back to Ipoh, they would hightail it to the wet market several days before my arrival. And stuff the freezer full of fish so that their not-so-little girl can eat as much fish as she wants.
My dad is a man with simple pleasures, but he knows how to appreciate good fish. Although he’d baulk at paying RM10 for a hipster coffee, he has pretty atas taste when it comes to fish. As far as I can remember, he only buys only the more expensive species like garoupa or pomfret. I nearly fainted when he paid RM110 for a tau tai chong (Chinese pomfret) during Chinese New Year!
The Chinese highly prize tau tai chong because the flesh is firm yet tender. We consider it sacrilege to cook it in any other way except steaming. Why? Because this allows the natural characteristics of the fish to shine through, undisguised by heavy sauces.
We’re right smack in the middle of a Movement Control Order as I write this, so getting food supplies has been more challenging than usual. After many days of restriction, I rejoiced to finally secure some precious tau tai chong from our mobile fishmonger today. What else, cook steamed fish lah!
I can’t wait for this MCO to be over, so that our entire family can sit together and enjoy this delicious steamed fish at one table.
Watch the video here:
Chinese Steamed Fish
- wok with lid, steaming plate, trivet
- 1 fish tail or 1 medium pomfret
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 inches fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1.5-2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Rub fish all over with 1/4 tsp salt. Place in steaming pan.
- Now pre-fry the aromatics. Heat up oil in wok. When hot, add ginger, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt. (See Recipe Notes 2) Saute until aromatics start to brown.
- Scatter pre-fried aromatics over the top of the fish. Then drizzle soy sauce around the fish. This will create the gravy along with the natural juices of the fish and the steam.
- Fill up wok with enough water and bring to a boil. Place fish on trivet and cover with lid. Lower heat to medium and steam for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.
- Serve with hot rice.
- Most fish dishes served in restaurants are cooked without pre-frying the aromatics. However, I find that my father's pre-frying technique intensifies the flavour greatly without needing to add lots of other seasonings.
- Instead of salt, you can also add other umami agents like mushroom powder or seafood stock powder to the aromatics before frying.
- When I'm using whole fish like tau tai chong, I also like to stuff the stomach with spring onions and slices of ginger to remove the fishiness.