This is the recipe for steamed fish, as requested by Veronica of Melbourne, in which the liquid from the steamed fish is drained off. What a waste you say? That is done just in case the liquid is too fishy. In the past, our moms would just dress the fish with ginger strips, drizzle some light soy sauce and cooked oil over and steam it. But somehow fish steamed this way just doesn't taste as good as those in restaurants. My friend Wendy to the rescue.
Wendy taught me how to steam fish 'just like the restaurants' and I have stuck to this method ever since. If it is not as good as your favorite seafood restaurant, I'd say it is not the method but the brand of soy sauce used that makes the difference. If the restaurant people are willing to tell you what brand they use, well, you should be able to re-create the exact or even better dish at home provided you keep Wendy's commandment in mind: Thou shalt steam your fish until there's only one speck of red remaining in the flesh. That means the fish should be 99.99% cooked, and not more or less.
Steamed Fish, Restaurant-Style
1 fresh fish, about 1 kg in weight
1/4 cup very fine fresh ginger strips
1/4 cup very fine spring onion strips
a few sprigs of fresh coriander/cilantro
4 T light soy sauce
1 t chicken stock powder + 2/3 cup hot water or 2/3 cup hot superior chicken stock
1 t castor sugar
4 T oil
1. If the fish is thick (such as a grouper), butterfly it. Lay the fish on a heat-proof or suitable plate for steaming, such as a metal plate. Scatter ginger strips over the fish, shoving some of it under the fish. Put enough water into your wok and heat it up.
2. Mix the hot chicken stock with the sugar, light soy sauce and stir until the sugar is all dissolved. If using chicken powder (I suspect restaurants use msg instead of chicken stock), mix it with the hot water, sugar and light soy sauce. Do this step when the fish is nearly cooked, because you want the sauce to be hot.
2. Steam the fish at high heat for 10 minutes. Using a fork or chopstick, dig into the thickest part of the fish (usually middle of the body) and lift up the flesh. If it comes clean off the bone easily, the fish is done. If not, leave it to steam another minute or so. Test again. Do not overcook, as the fish will still cook as it is taken off the heat. Overcooked fish tastes coarse. When fish is cooked, carefully take it out of the wok and pour 80% of the liquid away. Pour the prepared sauce (which should still be hot) all over the fish. Add the spring onions and cilantro now, or after the oil is poured, depending on your liking. Work quickly now, because the fish should be served hot. I usually do Step 3 just before I take the fish out of the wok.
3. Quickly heat up the oil until smoking, really smoking hot (be careful!), and pour all over the fish. There should be a hissing sound as the hot oil hits the skin.