Friday, February 22, 2008

Cantonese Steamed Fish, Restaurant Style


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.


ekeng said...

is it this picture taken at Port View Seafood Restaurant? Hehe :) Awww..i miss my mum cooking :)

Precious Pea said...

If not mistaken, is this called Hong Kong style? My mum used to be like your mum, put seasoning, steamed and served. But now i used your method, i drain off the fish liquid and tastes so much better. But i still have yet to master the cooking time. I very 'kan cheong' and scare it might overcooked. Turned out my fish always not cooked and back to the wok and ended up overcooked.

Anonymous said...

cool. love a good dish of fish with rice. absolutely yummy.

going to try your nam yue pork tonite. but going to use spare ribs instead and greg can eat with porridge.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the site i was talking about where I made the extra $800 a month was at This Site

Denise ^ ChickyEGG said...

u know, during my recent trip to kudat, we had Groupa jumping fresh onto our plates and they just butterfly the fish, steam with some ginger, and pour over with Hot garlic oil ! then garnish with green onions. So nice! 1st time I tasted steamed fish without soya! and it's excellent
they charge 20/kg . at a shabby kopitiam in kudat town.

Rasa Malaysia said...

You are right, that is restaurant style to drain the fishy juice, I do it all the time and was taught by a chef. :)

DayDreamBeliever said...

Wow! Am glad I stumbled upon this mouth-watering blog (when I saw your post on Mizoram I checked it out). I'm determined to try out this recipe, it looks good!

Thankgod4mothers said...

Hi Terri,
Just testing my computer. Will leave my comments tomorrow.

Thankgod4mothers said...

Thks a zillion Terri for recipe! Thks also on recommendation of Lee Kum Kee lite soy. What about dark soy? What brand do you use? Btw, yes, I'm Veronica from Melbourne, orginally from KK! And btw, just found out that "fillet" is pronounced as it is spelt if we use it for cuts, eg fish fillet. If used as a name of a dish, eg, fillet mignon, it is pronounced as "fillei". So it is not pronounced all the time as "fillei" as we do at home! Cheerio!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

ekeng: they don't use a metal 'doggie' plate in restaurants. serves u right for going so far away.

preciousp: yes, it prolly is. try testing with a fork b4 taking it out of ur steamer. if u look closer at my pic, u'll c i've messed up the middle part of the fish when i checked it.

nee: nam yu pork doesn't quite go with jook. it goes with beer!

denise: making me must be sooo good. but hey rm20'kg is cheap for live fish. very cheap!

rasa msia: *a sigh of relief* thanks for ur confirmation :)

daydreambeliever: hi, welcome :) i went to ur blog n am very impressed n moved by ur poems. u write very well n very 'soulishly'.

TGFM: it really is u! HI!
i use both Lee KK and Pearl River Bridge's dark soy sauce...i've never tried Braggs' (they sell it at organic suppliy shops here) but am told its tasty. regards to leon, ianthe, sean n christa!thanks again for ur wonderful hospitality when we were there!

Denise ^ ChickyEGG said...

Now I dare to comment after seeing what u 've written for ekeng

WHen i see that pic, i was like, WHAT? why use " Doggie" plate!!! hahahahahha
I HATE that plate, sorry to say that
when my mum bought that plate! I feel so offended and pissed off with her!
Again, I have few of the one in ur pic, mum says is "large" enuff to put steam fishes too.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

denise: tt's so funny bc i grew up eating frm doggie plate n it never was an issue with me until one day my friend S's little daughter (super kwei lo type) came n i served her something on a metal plate (bc i hate plastic plates n for a little kid i figure if she drops it, it won't break) n she went "Mommy, why Auntie Terri giving Poochie's plate to me??.." aiya, u kids r all too classy!

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I was craving for steamed fish restaurant style for 3 days. going to gold coast hotel buffet just for their delicious steam fish is so expensive. we tried at local chinese restaurant at the mall the other day but the taste is different, the more I crave for the expensive steam fish. I stumbled on this site looking for best recipe for steam fish hoping that I could cook as good as the one at the hotel.

I tried it last night and OMG!!! it even taste better than all the steamed fish I tried in my whole natural life!!!

well, sorry for my steamed fish story, I'm just so excited to eat steam fish anytime of day as much as I want to, as delicious and affordable! :)

God Bless!!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

kons: hi, welcome n do keep in touch ok. it always makes me happy when ppl tell me they tried my recipes successfully n ur comment made my day. ur steamed fish must've tasted even better than mine! if u live in Australia, a good fish for steaming is perch. i wish we could get live perch and bass here too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Terri,

I live in Hong Kong where you can eat traditional steamed fish left and right. but your recipe rocks the best :) God bless and may you have more recipes to come! :)

Anonymous said...

dear Terri,

I'm not sure what kind of fish i bought, I took a pic of it. it is two different fish. 1 is yellowish color and the other 1 have black spot on it .

Anonymous said...


Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

kons: hey, blogging at work huh?! u live in HK n u think my steamed fish recipe rocks??! i could just kiss u! u rock too :)!

tt's such a good idea, letting me see ur photo. it looks real yummy! the fish in front is a grouper (sek ban) but the yellow one at the back..a croaker?? hey, i just love the food at Tai Wing Wah (see my post on HK). have u been there b4?? i've been making ma lai go the last few days but they rise very high n fall very flat! go eat wing wah's ma lai go--really to die for!woohoo, i have a hk blogger friend!

homeladychef said...


I am going to try this tomorrow! Thanks for your recipe. Will update you for the result real....son! ;)

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