Does the idea of cooking a whole fish seem daunting to you? The white, flakey, flesh isn’t the sturdiest of meat after all, but considering how healthy it is, we really should be adding more fish to our diet. And while fish fillets are easier to handle, more accessible and fine for certain types of meals, sometimes all you really want is an impressive whole fish to lay out on the table when guests come over. But what can you make that’s guaranteed to be good and without the risk of breaking your fish apart while you cook it? Say hello to our incredibly easy Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish Recipe. It’s so simple to put together it’ll have you wondering why you never tried cooking whole fish before.
While steamed fish is commonly eaten throughout the year, fish served and cooked whole takes on a special meaning during Chinese New Year celebrations. As a lot of the food served during Chinese New Year is selected phonetically – i.e., the name of the dish sounds very close to positive, prosperous words – fish is a popular dish as the word ‘fish’ in Chinese sounds very much like “surplus”. The Chinese community hope that eating fish for the New Year celebrations will bring them much surplus in the coming year that will flow into the following year.
A fresh, white-fleshed sea fish is best for this steamed fish recipe, but you could use frozen in a pinch. However, it won’t have the same juicy texture as fresh fish would. This is quite important when making a steamed fish dish as it is often the taste and texture of the flesh that comes to the forefront, while the sauce is more of an accompanying flavour. When it comes to steamed fish, the fresher is definitely the better.
- 650g (1 whole) red snapper, cleaned & gutted
- 45g garlic, finely minced
- 30g ginger, peeled & sliced thin
- 50g Lee Kum Kee seasoned soy sauce for seafood
- 100g cooking oil
- 7g spring onions, sliced small
- 10g coriander, leaves only
Cooking the steamed fish
- Fill your steamer ¾ full with water, taking care to ensure the water doesn’t reach the holes of your steamer. Keep the steamer covered and bring it to a boil on high heat.
- Important! Get a plate large enough to fit your fish and check to see that it fits in the steamer. It’s fine if the fish is hangs out of your plate a little, unless you plan to use the same plate for serving.
- Place fish on your selected plate and stuff its cavity with sliced ginger.
- Once your steamer is ready, transfer your plate of fish into the steamer. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. The timing may vary according to the size and type of fish you use, so the best thing to do is to check that it reaches an internal temperature of 63°C for perfect doneness.
- Once fish is cooked, turn off the heat and remove the plate of fish from the steamer. If you’re using a different platter for serving, carefully transfer your fish over.
Making the sauce
- Heat cooking oil in a small pan over high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, about 1 minute, add minced garlic and fry until golden brown, stirring constantly to ensure the garlic cooks evenly and doesn’t get burned.
- When the garlic is nice and brown, about 1 minute, turn off the heat and remove the entire pan to a heat-resistant surface. Do note though that the timing for browning your garlic will vary according to how fine or coarse you have chopped your garlic, as well as the temperature of the oil and pan, so keep a close eye on your garlic for the change in colour.
- Add soy sauce directly into the pan and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Pour sauce all over the fish.
- Garnish with spring onions and coriander.
- Serve while still hot!
- Any super fresh white-fleshed fish goes great with this recipe! You can also use marble goby, sea bass, pomfret and cod. If you’re making this for Chinese New Year, there are specific types of fish that are considered more ‘prosperous’, like crucian carp, Chinese mud carp or catfish. Don’t forget to adjust the cooking time accordingly though.
- When buying your fresh fish, tell your fishmonger you’re steaming it and get them to clean and prepare it for you! What they’ll do is remove the guts, gills and scales. Fins are an aesthetic choice, so be sure to let your fishmonger know if you want them on or off.
- Optionally, check out our video on How to Prep Fish like a Pro Chef!
We told you our Hong Kong-style steamed fish recipe is simple and fuss-free! Even if you’re a beginner at cooking whole fish, we’re pretty sure this recipe is fool proof. Don’t forget to tag your steamed fish pictures with #butterkicap so we can see how it turned out.