Recipe - appetizers

Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger, Scallions and Soy

By Peggye Marks on Aug 05, 2022

This is a simple way to prepare whole fish. Typically, whole fish are not served with the liquid in which it was steamed, which is too fishy tasting and interferes with any sauce added at the end, after the fish has been cooked. In this classic Chinese preparation, the fish is topped with scallions, cilantro and ginger, then doused with hot oil, which releases the flavor of the aromatics into the flesh of the fish.


1.5  LB whole white fish (choices of Sea Bream (NZ Snapper), Striped Sea Bass or Branzino) scaled and gutted with head and tail intact.
2 By 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and finely julienned)
2 Scallions, julienned (use white and light green parts only)
8 Sprigs of fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)
1/2 Cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
1/4 Cup light soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sake or other rice wine
1 Tablespoon water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Rinse the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the fish on a heatproof plate that is both large enough to accommodate the fish (a glass pie plate works well) and will also fit inside your steamer, bending the fish slightly if it is too long. Stuff half of the ginger inside the cavity of the fish and spread the remaining ginger on top of the fish.

2. Pour water into a wok or stockpot and set a steamer in the work or on the rim of the stockpot. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

3. Place the plate holding the fish in the steamer, cover, and steam for about 8 minutes, until the fish flakes easily when tested with the tip of a knife.

4. While the fish is steaming, in a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sake and water. Set aside.

5. When the fish is ready, carefully remove the plate from the steamer and pour off any accumulated liquid. Scatter the scallion and cilantro along the top of the fish. In a small sauté pan, heat the oils (including sesame oil if using) over high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Remove the oil from the heat and pour it directly over the scallion and cilantro to ‘cook’ them. Drizzle the soy mixture over the fish and serve immediately.