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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
Serves 2 to 4
1 1/2 to 2 pound fish (see note in step 1)
5 to 6
1 1/2-inch knob ginger
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
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
tablespoons soy sauce
tablespoon fine mild red wine vinegar
tablespoon sesame seeds
tablespoons sesame oil
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Stuff the fish with the scallion and ginger scraps and the lime zest.
- Take a large stock pot and put about 3 inches of water in it and bring to a boil.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- While the fish is steaming mix the soy sauce with the vinegar and lime juice.
- 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.
- Heat the sesame oil in a small pan until just before smoking, then pour over the fish.
- Finally, pour the soy sauce mixture onto the plate and serve. This fish is also quite tasty still served at room temperature.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!