Steaming can be troublesome for home cooks, but it’s one of the simplest ways to cook a whole fish. This Chinese-style recipe rewards you with tender, silky sea bream seasoned with fragrant ginger and scallions. The soy dressing mingles with the fish’s juices, creating a flavorful broth. Use a traditional bamboo steamer or fashion one from a wok and metal rack.
- 3 tbsp salt
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 whole sea bream (bakoko), gutted and scaled
- 1 4-inch knob of ginger
- 3 scallions or green onions
- 1 lemon, sliced into rounds, optional
- 3–4 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
- 3 tbsp water
- ¾ tsp sugar
- ½ tbsp fish sauce
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- sesame oil, optional
- chili oil, optional
Combine salt and white sugar. Rub the mixture inside and outside the fish, then leave it to cure for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your aromatics: Mince 1 tbsp of ginger. Slice the rest of the ginger and scallions into thin matchsticks.
Rinse the salt-sugar cure from the fish and pat dry. Take half of the sliced ginger and scallions and stuff it inside the fish.
Prepare a plate that can accommodate the fish and fit in your steamer. Arrange lemon slices on the plate, if using, and place the fish on top. Scatter half of the remaining sliced ginger and scallions on top of the fish.
Set up a steamer with water. Alternatively, use a wok or deep skillet fitted with a metal steam rack. Bring the water to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, set the plate of fish inside your steamer. Cover and steam until fully cooked, about 20 minutes. To check for doneness, poke the flesh with a knife or chopstick—it should easily slide into the opaque meat. Turn off the heat.
Combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, and fish sauce in a measuring cup or bowl. Adjust to taste if necessary. Spoon the sauce over the fish, then cover the fish with the remaining sliced ginger and scallions.
Heat up a small pan or saucepan over high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add 1 tbsp of minced ginger, cooking until it browns. Carefully pour the hot oil over the fish, sizzling the fresh aromatics. This gently releases their aroma and flavor.
Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil and chili oil, if using, and serve with cooked rice while still hot.