Umami-heavy, Weeknight-ready, Asian Steamed Fish

July 30, 2018
3 Ratings
Photo by J. Clark
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

This recipe takes a traditional, delicate Cantonese steamed fish recipe and gives it a hearty yet simple spin. Substituting the traditional whole fish with a filet of a favorite tender, white fish provides versatility and simplicity to the chef, and is sure to please even the pickiest diner. The dish is served with roasted mushrooms in the style of J. Kenji López-Alt, which are used to make an umami-rich sauce that perfectly complements the delicate fish and rice. Requiring minimal prep and consisting of fairly common ingredients, this elegant recipe is a huge hit on a busy weeknight, a luxurious date night, or any occasion in between. —Sean Baird

What You'll Need
  • 2 medium limes
  • 4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 3/4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 8 ounces Shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 ounces (roughly 8) scallions
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves or cilantro microgreens
  • 1 ounce (about a 3-inch knob) ginger
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like a canola
  • 2 medium fish filet, like a tilapia or seabass
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup rice, cooked
  • 1 handful sesame seeds
  1. Place a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 375 F.
  2. Prepare your preferred steaming method, or create a makeshift steamer. To create the steamer, fill a large pot with the juice of half a lime, the juiced half lime itself, a few inches of water, and 2 tbsp. of Shaoxing. Place a heatproof jar inside the pot. Set aside a small heat-proof plate that can rest atop the jar, and ensure the pot/heatproof jar/plate can all still be covered with the pot’s lid.
  3. Mix soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, juice from one lime, 3/4 tbsp. of sesame oil, and 1 tbsp. Shaoxing wine in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Wash and thoroughly dry produce. Roughly chop mushrooms; don’t be too concerned with making each piece a uniform size – a little textural diversity is really nice in the finished dish. Slice half of the dark-green portion of the scallions into 4-6-inch-long strips and the other half into quarter inch long slivers for use as a garnish. Roughly chop cilantro for use as a garnish. Peel and thinly julienne the ginger and remaining white and light-green portion of the scallions, and toss the aromatic scraps into the steaming liquid. Adding these scraps to the liquid will impart a subtle flavor to the finished fish.
  5. Toss the mushrooms with 2 tbsp. neutral oil, salt, and pepper until fully coated. When the oven is preheated, place the mushrooms on the baking sheet in an even layer and transfer to oven. Roast mushrooms for about 15 minutes until they have released a fair amount of liquid, drain the liquid – adding 2 tbsp. of the liquid to the bowl of soy sauce mixture – and then roast for an additional 30 minutes until mushrooms are well browned. Toss with a handful of sesame seeds and a 1 tbsp. of sesame oil.
  6. While the mushrooms are roasting, dry and season the fish with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tbsp. of Shaoxing wine. Heat the pot on medium-high until the steaming liquid is simmering. Line the small plate with several of the dark green scallion strips, and rest the seasoned fish on the strips -- doing this will help lift the cooked fish off the plate once it steams! Carefully place the plate inside the steaming pot and cover, letting the steam cook the fish for 8-10 minutes or until fork-tender and cooked through.
  7. While the fish steams, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a small pan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, brown julienned ginger and scallions in the pot until fragrant. Remove from heat, and pour soy sauce mixture over the heated aromatics to halt the cooking and warm the sauce.
  8. To serve, divide cooked rice between two plates and top with the roasted mushrooms. Lift the steamed fish off the cooking plate, discarding the scallion strips, and place on the mushrooms and rice. Top the fish with the sauce, and ginger and scallion mixture, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and the chopped cilantro. Cut the remaining half lime into wedges and serve while hot.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sean Baird
    Sean Baird
  • Brien Dulaney
    Brien Dulaney

2 Reviews

Sean B. August 1, 2018
If you try out the recipe, let me know what you think in the comments! Did you sub something out? Change up the proportions of the sauce? I can't wait to hear about it!

Personally, I sometimes throw in some sliced Chinese sausage in to roast with the mushrooms at about the halfway point. Definitely not traditional, but upping the protein can make this two person recipe feed three or four!
Brien D. July 31, 2018
Looking forward to trying this dish out! Looks quite simple and delicious.