Steamed Whole Fish Chinese-Style

March 8, 2023

One of the most popular dishes at any Chinese banquet is Steamed Whole Fish Chinese-Style cooked with ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and cilantro. This is the case at lavish Cantonese weddings and Chinese New Year dinners and less formal domestic gatherings. You can also have a delicious braised fish, which is a common dish in Shanghai and other regions of China. Every region in China has its own unique style of preparing and flavoring its whole fish dishes.

You should be okay with this steamed whole fish meal if you can get your hands on some fresh fish. The most challenging aspect is determining how you would steam it. Easy to make once you figure out your steaming setup, this dish will wow your loved ones.


  • 1 whole striped bass or sea bass
  • 8 sprigs of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 finely julienned scallions (with green and white parts separated)
  • ¼ cup of light soy sauce or seasoned soy sauce
  • ¼ cup of canola oil (plus 2 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of finely julienned fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of sugar
  • Fresh ground white pepper to taste


Get the fish ready:

  1. Using a sharp steak knife, carefully remove any scales from your fish. Aside from the belly, other good spots to inspect are the fish’s margins, such as its top and around its dorsal fins and its head. Choosing scales at the dinner table is the worst possible thing that could happen.
  2. Use kitchen shears to snip off any excess fins. They’re fairly sturdy, so tread carefully. When presenting, you should keep the tail and head attached.
  3. Inspecting the hole will reveal the spinal column. A blood line close to the bone may be covered by a membrane that needs to be pierced and cut. You can clean it by running your finger across it or by using a spoon.
  4. Verify the condition of the brain and the lungs. If any gills remain, cut them off with kitchen shears and give the area a good rinsing to get rid of any remaining debris. This is a great move for the elderly Chinese population who enjoy eating fish heads.
  5. Before steaming, give the fish a final rinse, then shake off the excess water (there’s no need to pat it dry). The fish should be steamed without being seasoned with salt, pepper, or wine. Repeat. There’s nothing better than steamed fresh fish.

Assembling the dish:

  1. I steamed them on a long, heat-resistant dish. I had to improvise a steaming rig to fit the plate. It’s not rocket science. Cooking was done in a wok and a metal steam rack. Put a rack on top of a metal can with both ends cut off if you need extra height to keep the plate above the water in the wok. You can’t beat the price of such a useful kitchen tool!
  2. Put anything in a steamer for 9 minutes, then turn off the heat. Check for doneness with a butter knife to ensure the fish is cooked all the way through. While the meat should be opaque to the bone, it should be somewhat translucent and undercooked (remember, you won’t be eating it). Take my word for it.
  3. Next, remove the fish from the steamer and place it on a serving platter. Sprinkle the fish with half the ginger, the green halves of the onion, and the cilantro.
  4. Put the water, salt, sugar, light soy sauce (or seasoned soy sauce), and freshly ground white pepper into a small bowl or measuring cup. Add the sauce mixture to a pan that has been preheated with 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining half of the ginger until the ginger starts to crackle. Bring the ingredients to a low boil.
  5. When the liquid is hot and bubbling, add the remaining oil and the white parts of the scallions and stir until the liquid returns to a simmer. Evenly distribute the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.
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