Thursday, February 11, 2010

Restaurant style chinese steam fish recipe

Chinese style steam fish with the typical soy sauce, shaoxing wine, ginger, coriander leaves and spring onion is an easy and healthy dish to conquer. Furthermore, its relatively simple to do as it only involves steaming, chopping up your garnishes and heating up a wok of garlic infused oil to pour on your lovely steam fish once its cooked before adding the soya sauce. The sizzling sound of the oil as it splatters on the fish is absolutely heavenly and the purpose of this step is to give the fish a few seconds of deepfry and glistens it with a shiny coating.

I am always fond of using either pomfret, garoupa, catfish/patin but I suppose any fish would work but one must be beware of the murky 'fishy' taste from certain river fish like tilapia. In order to eliminate this I always stuff my fish first with loads of ginger, spring onion, coriander and make a bed for it consisting of the same ingredients and finally topping the fish with some coin slices of ginger. Make sure that you put the fish into the steamer when the water is boiling and you can see wisps of steam and leave it inside for about 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of fish). Smaller fish can be steamed for about 8 minutes in total including fish fillets. Remember do not OVERCOOK the fish!!! Nothing tastes worse than eating tough, overcooked fish. The key to a wonderful steamed fish is a soft, silky and oh-so-delicate texture I always go by the rule of thumb 1 sec per gram of fish. Oh, by the way, the secret of the delicious soya sauce is that you must add rock sugar *wink*. Here are some secret techniques I've incorporated after citing the site of a Cantonese Chef from the Shang Palace of Shangri-La Hotel.

Secret Techniques for Restaurant-style Chinese Steamed Fish

Fresh fish; preferably alive and swimming in a tank.
8-10 minutes steaming time. 8 minutes for a smaller fish or 10 minutes for a bigger fish. Use your best judgment, and don’t forget to set your kitchen alarm.
Discard the fishy and cloudy fish “water” after steaming. Contrary to common belief, it doesn’t add flavors to a steamed fish dish. If any, it will leave a bitter–from the fish guts if the fish was not cleaned properly–and fishy taste.
Rock sugar. Wonder why the soy sauce is so good that you can just eat plain steamed rice with the soy sauce mixture? Rock sugar is the secret.
Use oil. Heat up some oil in your wok and pour it over the fish before adding the soy sauce. It gives your steamed fish that perfect sheen before you top it with the soy sauce mixture.

Recipe for Chinese style steamed fish (adapted from Rasa Malaysia and My Steamy Kitchen)

1 pound whole fish (or fillets 1″ or thicker) yields the best results
1 stalk scallion (cut into 2-inch length, and then cut into thin silken threads)and
some cilantro leaves for garnishing
salt (just a pinch) and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

4 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
3″ piece of ginger – slice into “coins”
small bunch of cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine to pour on fish prior to steaming (or any cooking wine like dry sherry)
salt & pepper

4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shaoxing wine or rice wine
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 dashes white pepper powder
2 tablespoons rock sugar (grind into powder form) or to taste
fresh chilli – thinly sliced (optional)

Place all in a bowl and microwave for 30secs

2 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
2″ piece of ginger – finely julienned to the skinniest, thinnest strips you can possibly manage without a microscope
6 cloves of garlic (I like garlic)
2 tablespoons cooking oil

Equipment: shallow pan to hold fish & large pot or wok for steaming. If you don’t have a fancy steamer or steamer insert, take a shallow-ish bowl and invert to use as a stand. Or…3 shot glasses inverted.

1. Clean & Stuff: Clean your fish, pat dry. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Take half of (A) and stuff inside the fish. If you are using fillets, skip this.

2. Make your bed: Take the other half of (A) and lay it in a shallow pan. If using fillets, just use all of (A) for the bed. Lay the fish on top of the bed. If fish is too long, cut in half. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine on top of the fish.

3. Steam: Add 2″ of water to your large pot, cover and boil. When it is boiling, uncover and wipe the inside of the cover clean of any condensation (all this condensation will drip back down on your fish, diluting the flavor) Put your fish pan inside, propped up with a small inverted bowl. Steam the fish on medium (see below for cooking times).

Whole fish 1 lb: check at 12 minutes, add 2 minutes for every 1/2 lb
Fillets 1″ and thicker: check at 10 minutes, add 2 minutes for every 1/2″ more thickness
Fillets less than 1″: check at 7 minutes
Super thin fillets: check at 5 minutes
Check to see if its done at the times indicated. Poke your chopstick at the flesh near the top fin. If flesh flakes easily near the top fin, then its done. If flesh sticks together still, then add 1-2 more minutes to cooking time. For fillets, just gently poke at the flesh in the middle. Timing really depends on the thickness of your fish. Also check to make sure you haven’t run out of steaming water.

4. Aromatics: Towards the end of the steaming process, you’ll want to start preparing the aromatics that garnish the finished dish. Take a microwave-safe bowl, add (B) and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside. When fish is done steaming, carefully lift the fish out onto a serving platter, discarding all of the cooked cilantro/ginger/scallions and the fish juice in the pan. Pour the hot (B) over fish.

Now we’ll work with (C): In a separate pan or wok, heat up cooking oil until you see smoke. Add the ginger and scallions, fry for 10 seconds to “pop” the flavors. Pour this cooking oil + herbs over the fish. You’ll hear a very satisfying sizzle! Then add the soy sauce mixture over the fish and garnish with extra coriander/cilantro/chinese parsley leaves and serve the fish immediately with white rice.

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