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Cantonese-style steamed fish (family recipe)

This is a Ken Hom recipe that’s quick, easy and very tasty. If you have a bamboo steamer it’s even easier, but it’s not that difficult to improvise a steamer using a metal rack over a wok or deep pan.

I like to sit my bamboo steamer on top of a saucepan with the bottom rim of the steamer resting over the top of the saucepan. Whichever steaming method you use, make sure the steamer bottom is above the boiling water. Also check the water while the fish is cooking to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.

I also prefer to use baking paper inside my steamer rather than sitting the fish on a plate, but you do need to make sure you don’t press the baking paper too firmly into the bottom of the steamer (the steam from the boiling water needs some space to come up and do its job).

Tear off a piece of baking paper just slightly bigger than your steamer…

fold it in half & in half again, then bring the right bottom corner up to the top left corner…

and finally fold the right side over again to form a slimmer triangular shape.

Place the folded point in the centre of the steamer to measure where you can tear off any excess paper.

Unfold and lightly press into the steamer.

In the original recipe, Ken Hom salts the fish fillets beforehand to firm up the flesh. Of the many times I’ve made this, I think I’ve only done this once (I either forget about it until there’s no time before dinner to do it, or I just can’t be bothered doing the extra step – yes, call me lazy!). The idea is if you rub the fillets all over with salt, leaving for 30 mins, the salt draws out the excess moisture leaving you with firmer flesh. You then need to rinse off the salt and pat dry with kitchen towel. You can also use this recipe with cleaned whole fish (increase the steaming time to 12-15 mins in total).
If you’re making this to also serve to a baby, leave the seasoning off an end of the fish and don’t sprinkle the ginger over this part. After the fish is cooked, mash the baby’s piece or puree to the desired consistency, double-checking for any bones. Add a tiny drizzle of olive oil before serving if you wish (adding a drop or two of olive oil to cooked baby food is very common in Italy, and is seen as a healthy way to add a little bit of needed fat to a baby’s diet). I’ll leave it to your good judgment if you’re serving the fish to a toddler.

Serve the steamed fish with plain rice or a simple fried rice.


Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins
Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler or baby

2 large fillets of firm white fish (cod, sole, haddock, etc)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3cm piece of ginger, finely shredded or finely diced
1 spring onion, finely shredded
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
coriander sprigs to serve

Pat the fillets dry with kitchen towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Set up a bamboo steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill with  about 5cm of water. Bring to the boil.

Place fish on a heatproof plate and scatter the shredded ginger evenly over. Place in the steamer, cover tightly and gently steam until just cooked through (flat fish fillets: 5 mins; thicker fillets 7-10 mins). Keep covered until ready to serve.

Just before serving, heat the groundnut and sesame oils together in a small saucepan over a med-low heat until it just starts to smoke.

To serve the fish, sprinkle over the spring onions and soy sauces, then pour over the hot oil. Garnish with coriander sprigs.

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