Steamed Fish with Ginger & Scallion (薑葱蒸魚)

The must-have recipe for your classic Cantonese homestyle meal!

flodesk gif
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

The centerpiece of a classic Cantonese meal! A whole fish, complete with head and tail, may look intimidating, but it's in fact very meaningful and not difficult at all.

If you're not used to handling fish that's still, well, fish-shaped, don't worry. Just follow Daddy Lau's straightforward instructions step-by-step. It'll only take few times of making this fantastic recipe to get comfortable. Soon, whole fish will be a regular item on your grocery list.

This dish boasts a delicate and simple flavor that's just right for all ages. Part of why it's a Cantonese classic is because it's a nutritious, refreshing dish that's super easy on the stomach.

Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4

Main Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb tilapia
  • 1 oz ginger (

    or more, to taste

    )
  • 5 stalk green onion (

    or more, to taste

    )
  • 5 piece cilantro (

    optional; can use more or less, to taste

    )
  • 2 tbsp oil

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 0.50 tbsp cooking wine
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 0.50 tsp sugar
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (

    to finish

    )

The best fish for steaming

We typically steam tilapia. In our recipe video, we steamed red tilapia.

This steamed fish recipe also works with striped bass, flounder, and red snapper. No adjustments are needed! If you're steaming a smaller fish, then you can reduce the steaming time. If the fish is on the larger side, then don't forget to make that cut along the back of the fish to allow for even steaming.

Fishy fishy

A major reason why people may avoid cooking seafood at home is because of how fishy it can smell, or taste, like a sketchy seafood aisle. There are several key points in this recipe that help to combat that!

First, you'll want to buy the best quality fish you can find. The fresher the fish, the less fishy it'll be. Quality fish won't smell at all!

We can reduce fishiness as we prepare the fish:

  • Make sure the guts are gone! When we buy fish, it's typically already gutted and de-scaled. If it's not, you can ask someone at the seafood counter for help.
  • Remove parts and bits that contribute to a fishy taste and smell; namely, the belly and any dried blood.
  • Rinse the fish with clean water to really get rid of fishy remnants.

We also fight fishiness with specific ingredients:

  • Ginger, green onion, and cilantro are all aromatics that help combat fishiness. We never skip ginger when we make fish!
  • Cooking wine and white pepper are also important ingredients that reduce fishiness.

First, prepare the tilapia (1.5 lb) (ours was already gutted and de-scaled when we bought it; if yours wasn't, make sure to do that!):

  • Cut away the belly fat. It's softer and spongier in texture than the rest of the flesh. Removing it will greatly reduce the fishiness.
  • Scrape away the dried blood from the bones, particularly from the spine.
  • Rinse the whole fish with clean water, paying attention to rinse the inside to get that bloody residue off.
  • Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Cut off the side fins from both sides.
  • Make a long cut along the back of the fish. This will help the fish cook more evenly because the back of the fish is thicker than the belly; the cut will allow steam and heat to penetrate that thicker side better.

Place the fish in a dish that'll fit into your steamer set-up.

We'll be cutting ginger (1 oz) into two different shapes to use in two different places.

With half the ginger, cut thin slices, then julienne those slices into very fine strips. Put them aside; we'll come back to them at the end.

Cut the green onions (5 stalk) into 3 segments (so we end up with medium-length batons) and put aside the green tops.

With the other half of the ginger, cut into thin slices, and then cut thsoe slices in half. Place those slices along the top of the fish, in a line from head to tail.

The bottom/middle parts of the green onion (that we didn't set aside), we'll carefully shop them lengthwise into fine strips. It's easier to cut them in half first, so they'll lay flatter, and then cut the strips.

Lay the green parts that we set aside under the fish. This way, as they heat up and steam, they'll impart their flavor up into the fish.

Make sure to wash your cilantro (5 piece) now, to make sure it's clean of sand and dirt.

In a small bow, mix together light soy sauce (2 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), cooking wine (0.50 tbsp), white pepper (0.25 tsp), water (1 tbsp), sugar (0.50 tsp), and salt (0.50 tsp).

Get your steaming set-up ready; ours is a steamer rack in a wok. Boil water in (or add boiling water to) the wok, enough water to nearly reach where the dish will sit, although it doesn't need to touch the dish.

When the water is fully boiling, place the dish with the fish (the fish dish, if we may) onto the steamer rack. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 12 minutes on high heat.

If your fish is smaller, it may finish cooking in 10 minutes.

A good indicator of when the fish is ready is the eyes turning white!

When it's finished, turn off the heat and carefully remove the fish dish from the steamer. Pour out the fish juices into a bowl (some people like to drink this) and remove the ginger.

Place your finely sliced strips of ginger and green onions on top of the fish.

Heat oil (2 tbsp) on high heat for about 1 minute, or until shimmering. Then, carefully pour the oil over the fish. Enjoy the sizzle! You can aim for the ginger and green onions to help them bloom; they'll be super aromatic.

Daddy Lau's pro-tip: wipe the oil from the edge of your wok or pot right after you finish pouring, to keep it from dripping down the underside of the wok. This will make clean-up way easier later.

Garnish with cilantro, sesame oil (1 tbsp), and that delicious sauce we mixed up!

Summary

Steamed Fish with Ginger & Scallion (薑葱蒸魚)
The must-have recipe for your classic Cantonese homestyle meal!
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 25 min
  • Yield: 4 servings

Main Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb tilapia
  • 1 oz ginger (

    or more, to taste

    )
  • 5 stalk green onion (

    or more, to taste

    )
  • 5 piece cilantro (

    optional; can use more or less, to taste

    )
  • 2 tbsp oil

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 0.50 tbsp cooking wine
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 0.50 tsp sugar
  • 0.50 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (

    to finish

    )

Step 1 - Prepare fish

↑ Jump to details

First, prepare the tilapia (1.5 lb) (ours was already gutted and de-scaled when we bought it; if yours wasn't, make sure to do that!):

  • Cut away the belly fat.
  • Scrape away the dried blood from the bones, particularly from the spine.
  • Rinse the whole fish with clean water, paying attention to rinse the inside to get that bloody residue off.
  • Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Cut off the side fins from both sides.
  • Make a long cut along the back of the fish.

Place the fish in a dish that'll fit into your steamer set-up.

Step 2 - Prepare other ingredients

↑ Jump to details

We'll be cutting ginger (1 oz) into two different shapes to use in two different places.

With half the ginger, cut thin slices, then julienne those slices into very fine strips. Put them aside; we'll come back to them at the end.

Cut the green onions (5 stalk) into 3 segments (so we end up with medium-length batons) and put aside the green tops.

With the other half of the ginger, cut into thin slices, and then cut thsoe slices in half. Place those slices along the top of the fish, in a line from head to tail.

The bottom/middle parts of the green onion (that we didn't set aside), we'll carefully shop them lengthwise into fine strips. It's easier to cut them in half first, so they'll lay flatter, and then cut the strips.

Lay the green parts that we set aside under the fish. This way, as they heat up and steam, they'll impart their flavor up into the fish.

Make sure to wash your cilantro (5 piece) now, to make sure it's clean of sand and dirt.

Step 3 - Create sauce

↑ Jump to details

In a small bow, mix together light soy sauce (2 tbsp), dark soy sauce (0.50 tsp), cooking wine (0.50 tbsp), white pepper (0.25 tsp), water (1 tbsp), sugar (0.50 tsp), and salt (0.50 tsp).

Step 4 - Steam fish

↑ Jump to details

Set the steamer rack in your wok. Boil water in (or add boiling water to) the wok, enough water to nearly reach where the dish will sit.

When the water is fully boiling, place the dish with the fish in the steamer. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 12 minutes on high heat.

When it's finished, turn off the heat and carefully remove the dish from the steamer. Pour out the fish juices into a bowl and remove the ginger. You can discard or drink/eat these.

Place your finely sliced strips of ginger and green onions on top of the fish.

Step 5 - Heat oil & finish

↑ Jump to details

Heat oil (2 tbsp) on high heat for about 1 minute, or until shimmering. Then, carefully pour the oil over the fish.

Garnish with cilantro, sesame oil (1 tbsp), and that delicious sauce we mixed up!

Step 6 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 7 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.