Recipe: Making Chinese Steamed Fish

Chinese food is 100% not all about deep frying and msg-packed sauces. A typical weeknight meal would include some really simple stir-fry and steamed dishes. Yes, steamed. Steamed fish is most absolutely one of the most common dish on our dinner tables. If you ever wonder why us Asians are typically so petite, this is part of the answer as fish is low in calories and steaming keeps it healthy. While steamed food often give off the impression of healthy but tasteless, us Chinese definitely have our way around it.

The most essential thing about steaming food is the freshness of ingredients. When you steam your food, it’s all about the real flavours. Typically we steam the whole fish. But for a single dinner by myself, I would just go for fish fillets. Apart from fish, the other key ingredient is Ginger.

The role of ginger in steamed fish is to omit the nasty fishy smell and taste. If you’ve got supreme quality and live fish, then you may opt out the ginger. I love ginger myself so regardless I would include some ginger, even if it’s a mere tiny bit. If the fish is not at prime quality, I would add extra. Spring onions go extremely well with the ginger and in overall really elevates the dish’s flavours – so that’s a must for garnish.

Last but not least, the final trick to a good steamed fish dish is smoked oil. Press a clove of garlic (this is to let out the flavours) and cook in hot oil until fragrant. Then drizzle the garlic infused smoked oil over the fish and add soy sauce to it. That’s how it’s done. Here’s the recipe breakdown:


  • Fish
  • Ginger, finely sliced
  • Spring Onions, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of Garlic, pressed
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Soy sauce

How to make:

Clean the fish, descale it if using whole fish. Place on large plate and pat dry with kitchen towel.

Scatter ginger slices evenly all over the fish. Make sure you cover both sides of the fish.

Put the plate in the steamer and set the steamer over a pot or wok of boiling water. Cover and steam the fish for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked. Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the fish. Test with a fork / chopstick by poking the fish. The flesh should be opaque and flake easily when cooked.

Spread a handful of spring onions on top and cover for another 1-2 minutes until wilted.

Take out the fish from the steamer and set aside.

Heat a few spoonful of oil in a wok. Press the garlic and let it cook in the hot oil until fragrant. Discard the garlic and pour the smoked oil over the fish.

Last but not least, add soy sauce over the fish and serve immediately with steamed rice.

And this basically is my childhood. There are variations to it but this one is the most common, basic and hassle-free one. My grandma would sometimes use sweet pickled vegetables on the dish too which is my baby sister’s favourite home dish of all time! And then obviously with the chilli craze in Sichuan cuisine, there’s also this version of steamed fish topped with braised spicy Sichuan sauce and Sichuan peppercorn!

There’s genuinely never a dull thing about Asian cuisine. Let me know what you think of the recipe! Make sure you tag us at @etfoodvoyage on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to let us know your thoughts and suggestions! 🙂