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  • Writer's pictureAlissa Love

Chinese-style Whole Steamed Fish

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

A favourite in every Chinese household, this dish symbolizes good wealth and good fortune and is a must-have during holiday gatherings and special occasions. The Chinese character for 'fish' has the same pronunciation as 'surplus' and is said to indicate a family's abundance of food and good fortune for the year.

Steaming is a popular method in Chinese cooking, and brings out the naturally sweet flavour of fish. When cooked well, steaming also gives a delicate texture that almost melts in your mouth. Best done with very fresh fish, this recipe features a golden pomfret but any firm-flesh fish can be used - such as snapper, seabass, grouper, flounder, tilapia, halibut or even salmon.

This recipe serves 4 people. Prep time 5 minutes, ready in 12-15 minutes.


1 medium whole fish, gutted, de-scaled and scored on each side

4 chili padi, sliced in half

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2cm knob ginger, sliced into matchsticks

2 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

White pepper

2 big bunches coriander, chopped



1. In a pan, heat up oil and shallow-fry half of the chopped garlic until deep golden brown and crispy. Set aside on paper towel for garnishing in the last step.

2. Pre-heat steamer and bring to a boil.

3. Place cleaned fish on a plate lined with foil.

4. In a mixing bowl, combine the fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame seed oil, pepper, garlic, ginger, chilis and half of the coriander. Mix well until combined.

5. Pour all of the seasoning onto the fish. Massage well and make sure ginger and garlic are wedged inside and around the fish. This will allow for the flavours to absorb evenly into the fish, and bring out a fragrant flavour. I like to add uncut chunks of ginger inside the fish, to remove any trace of fishiness!

6. Place fish and plate into a steamer. Cook for 12-15 mins or until cooked.

8. Garnish with the remainder of the coriander and the fried garlic. Serve immediately.



1. Scoring fish also means slicing the fish on the thickest part of its flesh. Makes 3 scored on each side of the fish. This will ensure that the fish absorbs all the flavours of the seasoning.

2. This dish works best with whole fish as the bones provide a deeper flavour, however fish fillets can be used as well.

3. Fish sauce is naturally salty therefore no salt is required for this dish.

4. Do not add water to this dish even if you want to create a 'sauce'. When cooked, the water in the fish will naturally come out, and will create a sauce/broth with the seasoning.

5. If you do not have a steamer, go ahead and oven bake the fish at 200 degrees. Make sure to cover the entire fish with foil. Do not overcook the fish. To be sure, check fish at the 10 minute mark. For a medium fish of about 750g, 12 minutes at 200 degrees will cook the fish perfectly enough for that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

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