I don't remember if I've told you before, but my helper has only three ways with fish--whole fish are either steamed Cantonese style or fried and doused with black soy sauce while fillets are breaded and deep-fried. She chooses the method of cooking based on the fish. Fine-textured fish are steamed and coarser ones are fried.
Sometimes I cook Teochew-styled steamed fish and regret it later because the tangy sauce makes me eat tons of rice with it. It can be a simple complete meal too because if you add enough 'toppings' you'll get the fibre and vitamins from them. You can see from the photo that I've overloaded the fish with a blanket of toppings. Under the fish is another layer of tomatoes, lily buds and so on. The cherry tomatoes are from Y's garden, and I always have spring onions and parsley in my garden. I think we are quite self-sufficient when it comes to greens. Take a look at what's growing in my back yard. If you've ever been to my house, you'd have heard me gush about how fresh my veg are--sometimes I think they are still alive when I cook them. Some people ask why I bother to grow my own veg and I realise that no matter what I tell them, these people will never know the thrill and joy of gardening. I just give easy answers like I don't need to wake up early to jostle in Lido market for organic veg. We compost everything that's biodegradable so there's no shortage of good soil. If you have a bit of yard, you must grow your own veg and reduce dependency on tasteless, stale supermarket produce.
We have bak choy, choy sum, rocket (too much of it), sweet basil, glutinous corn all the year through, almost.
There's also Lebanese cucumbers (love them), white-stemmed kangkong, sayur manis, sweet potato leaves, Thai basil, mint, chives, parsley, daun kesom, lemon grass, pandan, spring onions and even taro and a small rosemary plant that Ming brought in from Australia. That tall veg is an heirloom veg (to me) called mak choy that people used to feed ducks with, I'm told, but I love it in soups. It's a cleverly-designed veg that takes very little space because it grows upwards--you just pick the leaves around the stem and it continues to grow up. We also have dwarf papaya trees but unfortunately with so much rain recently, they are looking rather sad.
Steamed Fish Teochew-Style
1 kg fine-fleshed fish (grouper, perch, bass), scored at intervals to cook faster
--lightly rub a pinch of salt all over.
50 g salted mustard, sliced thinly (I used ja cai for convenience)
1 t assam jawa (can be replaced by sour plums), mixed lightly with 1 t warm water
2 sour/salted plums, mashed lightly (don't discard seeds)
1/2 cup fried cloud ears fungus, soaked & cleaned & cut into smaller pieces, or 3 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked & cut into thin strips
10 dried lily buds, soaked, trimmed & cut into 3 cm lengths
1 small piece of white tofu, cut into thin strips
1 large tomato, cut into thin wedges
1/2 red chili, in thin strips
1/2 T fresh ginger strips
seasoning for toppings: 1/4 t salt, 1/2 t fine sugar, 2 t light soy sauce, 1/2 t chicken stock powder (optional), a few shakes of white pepper
Garnish: spring onions & cilantro
Optional: veg oil for scalding fish when it's done
1. Put the first 5 topping items into a bowl and mix in the seasoning. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Get ready a steaming wok. Put the fish on a heat-proof plate and push some of the seasoned toppings under and on top of the fish. Scatter the remaining toppings over the fish.
3. Steam the fish at high heat until it is just cooked, usually 10-12 minutes. Garnish & serve hot. You can drizzle 3 T heated oil over the fish for extra flavor.