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Cantonese Steamed Fish {清蒸鱼}

by Shirley
Published: Last Updated on
Steamed Fish Chinese Style

Cantonese Steamed Fish {清蒸鱼} using simple ingredients is satisfyingly delicious. It is one quick and easy way of enjoying a tasty fish, as long as you learn a few essential tricks and tips.

Steamed Fish Chinese Style
Cantonese Steamed Fish

What Types of Fish are suitable for steaming?

First, the fish must be fresh. The fresher, the better.

Steamed Fish Chinese Style Ingredients
Cantonese Steamed Fish Ingredients

As for the fish itself, fish that has a whitish tender, flaky meat is an excellent choice for steaming. Bass, perch, flounder, porgy, belt fish, mullet, and butterfish are just some examples.

What ingredients do I need for Cantonese Steamed Fish?

Besides the fish itself, you will need salt, black pepper, green onion, ginger, cilantro, sake, natural soy sauce (or dark soy sauce), light soy sauce, cooking oil (avocado oil, canola oil, etc.), and a little sugar.

How to make Cantonese steamed fish perfectly every time!

See the Recipe for a detailed step-by-step tutorial. Here are the highlights.

1. Prepare herbs and soy sauce mixture

Ginger plays a huge role in flavoring the fish. The thinner the slices are, the better job they do. It makes the slicing a little easier if you can peel the ginger first. Try to get organic ginger, which is more tender and flavorful if possible.

Add sake, naturally aged soy sauce (or dark soy sauce), light soy sauce, sugar, and 2 tbsp water into a small bowl. Mix well and set aside. This is for making the pour-over sauce.

By the way, sake is a refreshingly tasty rice wine, perfect for cooking fish.

2. Prep Fish for Steaming

Mix the salt and black pepper in a small dish first, and then sprinkle the blend evenly on fish. If the fish appears to be big, having thick meat, stuff the fish rib cage with some ginger thin julienne slices.

Salt & Black Pepper Fish for Steaming
Salt & Black Pepper Fish for Steaming

3. Steam the fish just right

Turn the heat to medium-high, bring water in the steamer to a boil first. Once water is boiling, for safety reasons, turn off the heat first before placing the fish into the steamer. Then cover the wok with the lid, turn the heat back to medium-high and steam for about 10-15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and remove the fish from the steamer right away. This way, the fish meat is just cooked at the bone.

Most fish, especially smaller flat ones under 1 lb, only require 10 minutes of steaming. Larger ones or fish that have thicker meat may require 13-15 minutes of steaming. It is worth mentioning that fish that weighs around 1 lb is a perfect size for steamed fish.

Freshly Steamed Fish
Freshly Steamed Fish

4. Season freshly steamed Fish

Remove the freshly steamed fish from the steaming ware and place it onto a serving plate. Discard the liquid from the steaming process.

Layer about 1/3 of the green onions, ginger, and cilantro over the fish.

Season Freshly Steamed Fish
Season Freshly Steamed Fish

To make the pour-over sauce, turn the heat to medium-high, heat a small (8-inch) hard-anodized fry-pan for 1 minute. Add cooking oil into the pan along with the remaining ginger, green onion, and cilantro. Stir-fry for 15 seconds or till fragrant.

Heat Oil for Steamed Fish
Heat Oil for Steamed Fish

Add the soy sauce sake mixture from the small bowl prepared earlier, fold and mix with, and cook for 2 minutes, or till it reaches a boil. Pour the sauce over the fish in a circular motion.

Steamed Fish Chinese Style
Steamed Fish Chinese Style

Cantonese Steamed Fish Frequently Asked Questions:

What type of steamer is best for making steamed fish?

I found the wok is very versatile. I ended up using my wok for most of my steamings. One of the key advantages is that the wok has a narrower bottom and wider opening. For instance, I can snug a 9×12 inch rectangle glassware inside of my wok without having to use a steaming rack.

It is also very helpful to have a dome-shaped wok lid for steaming. The dome-shape allows more hot temperature steam to circulate better, which helps the cooking process.

whole porgy in wok
Steaming Set For Steaming Fish

What do I do with the cloudy liquid left inside the steaming ware?

You should discard them.

I have a favorite fish serving plate, but that plate doesn’t fit inside my steamer

No problem. You can steam the fish in a different glassware, and then move the fish over, like I did in this recipe.

Freshly Steamed Fish
Freshly Steamed Fish

You also do this way when you are not sure about steaming the precious serving plate.

It is a little tricky to move the fish over since they are so tender after steaming. It helps if you use a firm while flexible wide slotted turner.

What should I do if the fish is too long for any of my steaming-ware?

No problem at all. You can actually cut the fish into halves for steaming. After the steaming, reassemble them back on your serving plate.

This is precisely what I did for this recipe for a long 2 lb Mullet.

Additional tip: Cut the fish at an angle helps reassemble back relatively easier. Cover some extra green onions, ginger, and cilantro in the connecting area.

Should I steam the fish with all the seasonings, oil, and sauce?

You should prep the fish with some seasonings such as salt and black pepper and stuff the fish rib cage with some ginger julienne slices if you’d like to.

However, for Cantonese Style Steamed Fish, the sauce, including oil, should wait until we have done steaming the fish. For Huai Yang Style Steamed Fish, we do steam the fish with sake and soy sauce. Nevertheless, we also pour the oil over the Huai Yang Steamed Fish upon steaming completion.

Do I have to heat the oil before I pour it over the fish?

I recommend doing so. Cooked oil tastes better and the temperature hot also helps release the aroma of the herbs which flavor the fish.

Do I use Shaoxing wine or sake for steamed fish?

I recommend using sake. It has a clear and refreshing subtle flavor, perfect for the fish. Shaoxing wine has an over-powering flavor and smell. It is great for cooking meat but too strong for fish.

Do you like steamed fish? You may like Huai Yang Style Steamed Fish too. Make sure you also check out other popular ways of cooking whole fish:

Steamed Fish Chinese Style

Cantonese Steamed Fish Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Cantonese Style Steamed Fish {清蒸鱼} using simple ingredients is satisfyingly delicious. It is one of the quickies and easiest ways of enjoying tasty fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fish, net weight, fully gutted and cleaned whole fish, or fish fillet
  • 1/8 tsp salt, Himalayan pink salt, or sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 small piece of ginger, about 10 g, super-thin julienne cut
  • 1 stalk of green onions, angle cut
  • 2 stems of cilantro, chopped
  • 5 cups of water, for steaming

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1/2 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce or dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 2 tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Gather Ingredients. Add sake, naturally aged soy sauce, light soy sauce, sake, sugar, and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl, whisk well and set aside.
    Steamed Fish Chinese Style Ingredients
  2. Wash & rinse the whole fish thoroughly under running water, trim fins if needed, pat dry with a paper towel, and set aside in a glass steaming ware. If the fish is too long for your steaming-ware, cut it into halves with an angle. You can reassemble together for serving later.
    Prepare Fish for Steaming
  3. Fill a 14-inch Wok with 5 cups of water, turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil.
  4. Do the prep work while waiting. Julienne cut ginger and green onions. Try to slice the ginger as thin as possible, the thinner the better. Cut cilantro into small pieces.
  5. Mix the salt and black pepper in a small dish and sprinkle the blend evenly over the fish, both sides.
    Salt and black pepper blend for steamed fish
  6. When the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat, place the steaming dish into the wok. A 9x12 inch rectangular-shaped glassware can snug inside of the 14-inch wok wall without needing a steaming rack.
  7. Turn the heat back to medium-high, steam for 13 minutes. See notes.
    Freshly Steamed Fish
  8. Turn off the heat, remove the fish from the glassware and place them on your desired serving plate. Discard the liquid from the steaming process. Reassemble the fish together if previously cut into halves. Be very careful, the glassware is extremely temperature hot as a result of steaming.
    Place Freshly Steamed Fish onto a Serving Plate
  9. Layer about 1/3 of the green onions, ginger, and cilantro over the fish.
    Season Freshly Steamed Fish
  10. Turn the heat to medium-high, heat an 8-inch hard-anodized fry-pan for 1 minute, and then add canola oil and the remaining half of ginger, green onion, stir fry for about 15 seconds, or till fragrant.
  11. Add the soy sauce mixture from the small bowl to the pan, fold and mix well using a bamboo spatula, and cook for 2 minutes, or till it reaches a boil.
  12. Turn off the heat, pour the sauce over the fish in a circular motion. Use a mini silicone spatula to scrape clean the frypan if needed.
  13. All done. Enjoy a delicious fish.
    Steamed Fish Chinese Style

Notes

  • This recipe is designed for 1 lb fish, net weight fully cleaned & gutted whole fish or fish fillet. A little under 1 lb is fine. Use a kitchen scale to weigh fish.
  • Based on the weight of the fish you are cooking, multiply the ingredients, except for the 5 cups of water for steaming. For instance, for 1.5 lb fish, then 1.5X the ingredients.
  • Larger fish or fish that have thicker meat may require 13-15 minutes of steaming. Whole fish that weigh around 1 lb is ideal for steamed fish.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 204mgSodium: 2072mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 80g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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