steamed fish with ginger, scallion, and cilantro

steamed fish with ginger, scallion, and cilantro

If a couple of days go by without any fish in my diet, I go crazy.  I feel almost incomplete because it was such an important part of my diet growing up.  I am not going to lie though, eating the fish seemed almost like a chore sometime.  It just seemed like I was eating the same thing everyday, over and over again.  But no, I realized when I got older that fish had its different flavors, tenderness, and ways of preparation to make it taste awesome.  My mom usually prepared the fish in one of four ways: pan fried, with sweet and sour sauce, in soup, or steamed.  More commonly was the pan fried and steamed.  Whichever, you could be sure that the head was still on.  Yum.

One of the best things about our family’s weekly trip to the Chinese supermarket (99 Ranch Market all the way baby!) was the fish department in the back.  I love going to the fish department in a Chinese supermarket and seeing all the different types of fish out there.  Well, ok there was one time that the fish department was awkward when my not so Asian 7th grade math teacher showed up and started asking my Mom for Chinese food cooking advice.  It made the year very awkward.  However, the one thing that my Mom told Ms. Winter is to always keep the head on.

One thing that I love about my communities’ food culture is that they waste not.  Especially when the most worked muscle on the fish, and most tender, are on the head of a fish.  I loved trying to be the first one to get it.  The head of the fish is usually fought after, and when I was growing up it was usually my cousin that got it.  But if it was a fried fish, I didn’t care whose hands I stabbed with my chopsticks.  Don’t touch my fish head!

If anytime you want to have a way to prepare a fish that highlights the freshness of the fish and really elevates the taste through subtle flavors from aromatics.  The steaming process allows the fish to cook in its own juice so you don’t muddle or mask the real thing you are trying to enjoy.  The hot oil just cooks the aromatics just enough to release the fragrance of the herbs.  Plus it’s fun to hear it sizzle and pop.  So perfect.  This is really a dish that exemplifies the importance of subtlety and simplicity to create a delicious and flavorful dish.  And, because of the simplicity, your fish must be nothing but fresh.  And with head on.


1 lb whole fish, cleaned

4 coins of ginger, ¼ inch thick and halved

2 tbs Chinese rice wine

1/2 cup scallion, 1 inch wide

1 cup cilantro, loosely cut

1 tsp soy sauce

2 tbs canola or vegetable oil


cut four slits on each side of the fish and place a ginger half in each

massage 1 tbs wine into cavity of fish, place on a heat proof plate, and pour remaining wine on the fish

stuff the cavity with ¼ cup of the scallion and ½ cup of the cilantro

steam fish in a steamer until fish is completely cooked through, about 15 minutes

discard herbs in cavity and transfer to another place

pour soy sauce over the fish and top with the rest of the cilantro and scallion

heat oil in a skillet until hot and carefully pour oil over fish and herbs

-serves 4-


1 Response to “steamed fish with ginger, scallion, and cilantro”

  1. 1 Robin
    May 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    nice photo! Can I use a corner of it in a zine I am doing (for trade)? No $ will be changing hands. Thanks.

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