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oriental steamed sea bass

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Steamed oriental whole sea bass
I have gone a long way since my first stir-fries, pathetically basic chicken jobs with a boring mix of soy, sweet chili and oyster sauce. I have stocked up on Shaoxing wine! sake! various types of chilies! And I have rescued my, as it happens extremely good, cast iron wok from neglect and oblivion. I have seasoned it properly and now I don’t let any detergents go near it when washing up.

Wok is actually the most versatile pan that the human race has invented and it doesn’t surprise me at all that oriental chefs use nothing but. Apart from stir frying (well duh…) you can use it with great success for deep frying: good heat distribution, constant temperature, washing up not worse than after stir frying. Sometimes it literally doesn’t make any difference: when cooking chicken General Tao it’s deep fry – pour oil out – wipe wok – stir fry. When cooking pot stickers it’s fry - steam - fry. One wok, seven wonders.

And you can steam like a dream. See my comment below on finding the right dish for this tasty number. Wok’s shape makes it possible to simply prop up a plate against the sides so it’s beautifully suspended over the water, no rack or even steaming basket needed. Genius design. Okay, you can’t do a roast in a wok and I’ve yet to fry a whole steak in it. Nothing’s perfect, but some things come close.

oriental steamed sea bass


INGREDIENTS

  • (for two people)
  • 1 large (1 ½ pound) or 2 individual-sized whole fish: sea bass or red snapper, gutted and scaled
  • salt and pepper
  • For the marinade:
  • 2 tbsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 1 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 2 fresh bird’s eye chillies, whole, pierced in a few places with the tip of a knife
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • For the garnish:
  • 2 tbsp. groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil plus more for dressing the coriander sprigs
  • a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
  • a few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • salt
Sea bass


METHOD

First of all, establish whether you have a dish large enough to fit the fish in but which will also fit into a steamer. I used an ordinary large serving plate that sat inside the wok – so I didn’t even need a rack underneath it. If you’re going to steam in a large pot, place a rack, a bamboo basket, an upturned bowl or something similar, to place your dish on. Best if the wok or pot has a lid – otherwise use another large plate or a board to cover it – wrapped in aluminium foil for snug fitting. Fill the pot or wok with water to an inch below the fish plate and set to boil.

Oriental marinade for fish

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and let it steep for 15-30 minutes. Rinse the fish and pat it dry. Rub it generously with salt and pepper inside and out. Place it on the plate it’s going to steam on and pour the marinade over it. Let it stand for 30 minutes, turning once.

Marinated sea bassWhen the water’s boiling vigorously, set the plate with the marinade over the steam, cover tightly and steam for 12 minutes, then switch it off and rest for another 3 minutes while you prepare the spring onions. When done, the internal temperature of the fish should be 50C/120F and the flesh should flake easily off the bone.Heat up the groundnut and sesame oil in a small pan until smoking. Add the spring onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes until charred. Dress the coriander sprigs with salt and sesame oil.

Carefully lift the fish plate out of the steamer, pouring out excess marinade. Top the fish with the spring onions, oil and all, and the coriander. If serving one fish between the two of you, lift the top fillet with two forks and divide between plates, remove the skeleton and dish out the bottom fillet in the same way.

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