Steamed Fish with Ginger & Scallions

May 11, 2016
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

This classic Chinese preparation is both simple and dramatic. It’s the kind of dish that doesn’t need precision: You can have more or less ginger, you could add cilantro or chili or not. It’s a beautiful technique for a perfectly cooked fish and so easy to execute. Once the fish is cooked and plated, it's easy to pull off the filets from the bones. With a bowl of rice or some sautéed greens, it makes a complete dinner for two or three or, with a larger fish, even four.

I have included some suggestions for aromatics to add to the steaming water—they will certainly add a delicate flavor to the fish, but if you don’t have the ingredients, don’t sweat it. Even with plain water, this is an exquisite dish —Sara Jenkins

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in the story, How to Get Tender and Flavorful Fish, Every Time, sponsored by Miele. In steps 5 and 6 of this recipe, if you're using a combi-steam oven, you can steam the fish with the touch of a button. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • one 1 1/2 to 2 pound fish (see note in step 1)
  • 5 to 6 scallions, divided
  • 1 1/2-inch knob ginger
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime, divided
  • Optional aromatics for steaming water: star anise; knob of ginger, roughly sliced; Szechuan peppercorn; scallions; or green garlic
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fine mild red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  1. For the fish, look for a whole porgy, black sea bass, Boston mackerel, or even trout, then get it scaled and gutted. (In a pinch, this can be made with fish filets, but I love cooking fish in the bone: I think it comes out much more moist and flavorful, as well as being a beautiful presentation.)
  2. Rinse the fish with cold water inside and out and pat dry. Score a couple of gashes in the flesh on either side of the fish.
  3. Slice 4 of the scallions and the knob ginger into a fine julienne and set aside. Save the scraps for stuffing the fish belly. Season the fish belly with salt and pepper and the teaspoon of wine or sherry.
  4. Stuff the fish with the scallion and ginger scraps and the lime zest.
  5. Take a large stock pot and put about 3 inches of water in it and bring to a boil.
  6. Inside the pot, place an inverted cake pan or some other such thing so that you can rest a large plate with the fish on it inside the pot and out of direct contact with the water. (The fish will be on a plate that is resting on another object that is in direct contact with the bottom of the pot.)
  7. Chop the final scallion into 3 pieces and rest it on the plate. Season the fish with salt and pepper on the outside with and place the fish on the plate.
  8. Place the plate on the object in the pot, cover the pot, and steam over high heat for 10 to 12 minutes (more for a larger fish), until done.
  9. While the fish is steaming mix the soy sauce with the vinegar and lime juice.
  10. Remove the fish carefully and place on a serving plate. Place the julienned ginger and scallions across the top of the fish and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  11. Heat the sesame oil in a small pan until just before smoking, then pour over the fish.
  12. Finally, pour the soy sauce mixture onto the plate and serve. This fish is also quite tasty still served at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hannah
  • candace
  • I Am The Eggman
    I Am The Eggman
  • Sara Jenkins
    Sara Jenkins

17 Reviews

Hannah July 15, 2020

I did this with trout and added more garlic than the recipe called for because I love garlic. I didn’t have any cooking wines, but the Pinot Grigio I had in the fridge did the trick, and I love this recipe. This would be a good method for boneless chicken breasts, too - in some miso stock, maybe.
candace September 4, 2016
Sara, this recipe was absolutely perfect. Thank you for posting it. It will become a new regular for me. No insults for typos needed. Sheesh :)
I A. May 16, 2016
Hi all! Please transfer my insult from Melissa to Sarah, who posted a recipe for steamed fish and did not include any fish! Amazing!
BTW, I tried this recipe, not knowing of Sarah's original blunder, and yes, I used fish. The recipe turned out great.
Let's all encourage Sarah to continue to share her recipes but with a little more attention to the ingredients involved before she hits the send button.
paseo July 15, 2020
Some people need to get over themselves and knock off the mansplaining.
melissa N. May 16, 2016
Can I use a bamboo steamer for this or is the technique described in the recipe important for the outcome?
Sara J. May 17, 2016
you can although I find bamboo steamers absorb a lot of smell and that's not always a good thing with fish...
a. C. May 15, 2016
This recipe sounds so much like a delicious variation on what we used to make at home, except we didn't use lime or rice wine and used vegetable (canola) oil instead of sesame. Where is the rice wine added? Is it with the soy/lime juice/vinegar?

Also, we used to julienne garlic and ginger, then substitute for the soy chopped Chinese fermented soy beans (black beans), then par-fry then till golden in the oil. This made a fragrant "baste" for the fish
a. C. May 15, 2016
*doh* just re-read the recipe and noticed that you rub the wine into the uncooked fish. My bad.
m P. May 15, 2016
Do you use plain sesame oil or toasted sesame seed oil?
paseo May 13, 2016
I loved Sara's response to Melissa's comment. So just who was the real grownup here?
That said - a really terrific and simple recipe. Thanks, Sara.
paseo May 13, 2016
+ Can't wait for Nina June!
OneMinuteMom May 13, 2016
tried the original recipe with no fish, i must admit it was pretty good and the kids loved it too! thanks!
I A. May 13, 2016
Hi Melissa, curious about your comment! I mean, are you freaking brain dead? Doesn't a 1+1/2 to 2 lb. fish, specified on line 1 of the ingredients list, help you out, just a little? BTW, I like this recipe with porgy, only because black sea bass is hard to find in my neck of the woods. Have a great week end, Melissa, and maybe learn to read!
melissa May 13, 2016
Hi Eggman, thanks so much for your interest! I appreciate the time you took in composing 67 words to insult me. The recipe did not have any fish listed in the ingredients when it was initially posted, which is why I left the comment. Hope you have a great weekend too.
Sara J. May 13, 2016
melissa is correct! When i initially posted it I forgot to add the fish in, she mentioned it and then it took me a day to figure out how to put it in the completed recipe....
melissa May 12, 2016
the recipe has no fish in it!
Sara J. May 13, 2016
hey Melissa! thanks for pointing it out! whoops!