I have made steamed fish before, but this one is for a New Year’s dinner. I will be stuffing this one with “lucky” ingredients. Also, instead of cutting the ginger into match sticks I will be leaving the, as “golden coins,” because that is the way much of Chinese symbolism works; if it looks like the thing, it is the thing.
Fish (魚; yú), is a homophone to 餘, which is “a surplus of money.” Serving a whole fish at the end of the meal symbolizes a wish for abundance in the coming year. To add to the fish’s abundance, I will be stuffing it with bean sprouts (豆芽; dòu yá) for a positive start to the New Year, onion (洋葱; yang cōng) for cleverness and snow peas (荷蘭豆; hé lán dòu) for unity.
Karl’s Chinese Whole Steamed Fish II
2 lb. whole carp
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 cup bean sprouts
¼ cup snow peas
4 green onions
2 inch knob of ginger, cut in round coins
Other things needed
A large plate that fits in
A steamer basket and
A large wok
1. Have the fishmonger, gut and scale the fish. Make sure that they do not cut off the head or tail.
Tip: You may do this yourself, but the scales will fly all over your kitchen.
2. Cut 2-3 diagonial slashes across the thickest part of the fish on both sides.
Tip: These cuts allow the thick parts of the fish to cook more evenly with the thin tail.
3. Mix the soy sauce, shaoxing, and sesame oil.
4. Lay the fish on the plate and rub the sauce all over the fish, inside and out. Reserve any excess sauce.
Tip: One of the sites I looked at suggested putting skewers under the fish. This would let the steam reach the underside of the fish while steaming. It seemed like a good idea.
5. Slice the green onions on a long bias and cut the ginger into round coins.
Note: I am going to use mostly the white parts of the onions for this dish. The most of the green parts I am saving for my Mongolian lamb.
6. Save a few pieces of the green onion and put it in a bowl of ice water. They will curl up to make a decorative garnish.
7. Mix the onions and bean sprouts together.
8. Stuff half of the vegetable mix, the snow peas and some of the ginger coins into the cavity of the fish.
9. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the top of the fish and pour the reserved sauce over all.
10. Put a few inches of water in the wok and lay the steamer basked above the water.
11. Put the plate in the basket and put the cover on the steamer.
12. Bring the wok to a boil and steam the fish for 12 to 15 minutes.
Tip: I have a double-decker steamer. I will be steaming my jiaozi in one basket and the fish in the other at the same time. On the streets of China, you will find that the bao sellers’ stacking their steamers as high as six levels. It is called energy efficiency.
13. Ladle some of the sauce on the plate over the fish and serve garnished with the curly green onion tops.
Tip: I leave the plate in the steamer and present the whole steamer basket, covered, until the diners are ready to start eating. This both keeps the fish warm and gives you a spectacular presentation moment. Cook the fish one minute less if your do this, so that it does not overcook.