Steamed fish is not something that I was familiar with nor did I ever think I will like until very recent.
During an outing at a Thai restaurant, my friend suggested that we order a steamed Seabass. I raised my eyebrows and thought to myself why not just order a crispy or grilled fish instead. But man oh man, was I glad that I agreed because it has since then become one of my absolute favorite dishes!
Naturally when I try out something at a restaurant or anywhere else for that matter and I fall in love with the dish, my immediate mission is to figure out a recipe to nail it at home. Simply because I love personalizing food to suit my taste buds (extra tangy and garlicky to be exact!). In this case it was not too hard a mission because it was really easy to figure out the bold and robust flavors in the dish immediately.
Loaded with a truckload of delicious aromatics, this dish is really a breeze to prepare, super fast to cook and absolutely good for you. Steaming helps to retain the natural juices and the goodness of the fish and the delicious Thai/Asian flavors makes it super exciting – it really is a flavor bomb. The juices of the fish combined with the aromatics makes it a perfect meal on its own with a bowl of piping hot plain white rice.
Cast of characters:
- 1 x Medium Seabass (I requested my fish monger to remove the head this time around as the fish was slightly too big and I wasn’t too sure it will fit my pan, but if you have a large wok/steamer please do retain the head as it contains loads of flavor – specially the cheek!)
- 2 inch piece of sliced young ginger
- 1/2 a bulb of garlic – chopped finely
- 1 stick of lemongrass – bruised and cut into ~2 inch sticks
- 4-5 leaves of kaffir lime leaves – finely sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes – quartered
- 2 chili padi – finely sliced
- Handful of coriander stalks and leaves – chopped
- 1 lemon – squeezed (I love my food extra tangy – so please adjust according to taste)
- 1/2 cup of water
- Soy, fish sauce, sesame oil and salt to taste
- Slit the belly of the fish and remove the innards, cut off the fins and extra parts off from the tail. In my case I ask my fishmonger to help me clean the fish completely and it makes life so much more easier.
- Use a sharp knife and make a couple of deep insertions at an angle across the body of the fish on both sides. This will help the fish to cook evenly across the thicker part of the belly and also help flavors to penetrate in easily. (Tip: Make insertions on one side, flip the fish and continue to make the insertions in the same angle. This way you reduce the risk of cutting the fish at the same spot on both sides which might cause the fish to fall off the bone while cooking)
- Stuff the belly and the insertions with sliced ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
- Mix in the garlic, chili, lemon juice, coriander stalks with half a cup of water and season with salt, fish sauce and soy to your own taste. You can even add half a cube of chicken/ fish or veg stock if you like added flavor but it is completely optional.
- Lastly place the fish on a steamer-proof plate, along with the cubed tomatoes and any leftover ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves and pour the above sauce over. Cover and steam for about 15 mins depending on the size of your fish. (Tip: If you don’t have a steamer, just use a large wok and place the fish in the wok, cover and cook at a low heat and that would essentially do the task!)
- To check the doneness of the fish, gently lift up the fish meat off the bone using a fork or a knife and the meat should fall off the bone and it should look opaque and not translucent.
- Lastly garnish it with a handful of coriander leaves, a drizzle of hot sesame oil and a wedge of lemon on the side. You can also crisp up a few strips of julienned ginger in the sesame oil as a garnish to give a bit of extra bite.
- This is perfect to be served with a side of steamed jasmine rice and a quick green stir fry. I often add a few leaves of kailan or bok choy into the same pan as the fish at the very last second for a quick blanch with minimum hassle;)
Below is the image of a full fish I did at another instance – this time in a larger wok with the tail and head intact!
So let me know what you guys think and shoot me a comment below if you need any help 🙂