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Steamed Fish Without a Steamer
When people proclaim they don’t like any fish due to a fishy aftertaste, it’s probably because their fish either wasn’t fresh or it wasn’t cooked right. It could be a bad cut. If fish tastes fishy, something is not right. Please, nobody be mad or TP my house 😇 Being an Asian American raised in Southern CA, we basically lived on all the seafood all my life. Steaming hot, aromatic, stunningly flavorful fish was on the dinner table every week.
The best Asian steamed fish involves fresh whole fish and big steamers. In downtown L.A. markets, that means doing some high-jumping plyometrics among a chaos of grandmas in order to get the fish guy’s attention, followed by brazenly pointing to the live red snapper you want for supper. Thankfully, you don’t have to do any of that. This is my toned-down, Monday night version of Asian steamed fish that’s so easy and tasty, it’ll knock your plyos off…
Why This Recipe Stands Out
- This 15-Minute Ginger Soy Asian Steamed Fish is based on the whole-fish recipes I grew up on, but way more manageable for weeknights.
- There are no fish heads, tails, nor bones to mess with.
- It’s so delicious, it doesn’t even need the classic hot oil drizzle at the end, which saves a load of calories.
- You do not need a steamer. Repeat: no steamer needed.
- Do you have a microwave and 6 minutes? Then you’re all set.
- White Fish Fillets- it’s important that they’re about 1-inch thickness throughout.
- Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari sauce, which is naturally lower in sodium.
- Asian Sesame Oil – be sure to get the Asian toasted sesame oil, which is darker brown and highly aromatic.
- Rice Cooking Wine – we love this Shaoxing one.
- Fresh Ginger – thinly sliced into matchstick slivers
- Granulated Sugar – a bit of sweet is important to offset the savory.
- Garlic Powder – you can opt for minced fresh garlic instead.
- White Pepper – white pepper has a brighter, sharper, and earthy flavor compared to black pepper.
- Freshly Chopped Cilantro Leaves, for fragrant garnish
- Thinly Sliced Green Onions, for more aromatic garnish
Key Tips for Success
- Always use clean paper towels to pat dry fish fillets completely, removing as much excess moisture as possible, prior to seasoning.
- Be sure to use a mild-flavored, flaky white fish, such as basa/swai, haddack, sole, flounder, or tilapia.
- If using a thinner fish fillet, such as tilapia, lessen the cook time.
- For thicker fillets, microwave for 6 minutes on high. For thinner fillets, cook about 4 minutes.
- Actual cook time will vary depending on the thickness of fish fillets. Start off with less cook time, and add more minutes as needed.
- Double-wrap the dish with cling wrap, in order to form a strong and tight seal, allowing fish to steam in the microwave.
What to Serve with Chinese Steamed Fish
- Chinese Sticky Rice (Meal Prep Friendly) – this one is so easy and flavorful, a dinner in itself.
- Perfect Instant Pot Brown Rice – super quick and perfectly healthy brown rice is the ideal side dish.
- Chicken Chow Mein: How to Stir Fry Noodles – omit the chicken for a vegetable chow mein.
- Best Easy Roasted Vegetables Recipe – super easy and nutritious side for all meals.
- Chinese Chicken Salad – crispy, crunchy, flavorful salad everyone will love.
- Asian Pasta Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing – change up your pasta salad profile with this tasty option.
- How to Cook Tofu – tofu is one of our favorite side dishes to serve with any Asian style dinner.
commonly Asked Questions
In Chinese cuisine, whole fish with firm and tender flesh are commonly used for steaming. Some popular choices include whole tilapia, sea bass, red snapper, and grouper. However, we use fish fillets for easy weeknight dinners.
Common seasonings and sauces used for Chinese steamed fish include soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green onions, cilantro, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine), and white pepper. These ingredients collectively provide a fragrant, aromatic flavor profile that eaters love.
he steaming time depends on the size and thickness of the fish. As a general guideline, for a medium-sized whole fish, steaming for about 8 to 10 minutes should be sufficient. The flesh should be opaque and you should be able to flake it with a fork easily when cooked. It takes only half the time to microwave-steam fish fillets.
es, you can add vegetables such as bok choy, Napa cabbage, or mushrooms to the dish for added flavor and nutrition. Place the vegetables around the fish during steaming so they can absorb the flavors from the fish and seasonings.
More to cook and eat
- Shrimp Stir Fry (Szechuan)
- Kung Pao Shrimp
- Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken
- Kung Pao Chicken (Healthy!)
- Orange Chicken Recipe (Extra Crispy!)
- Taiwanese Beef Noodle Bowl (Gluten-free)
- Korean Beef Bowl Recipe (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)
- How to Cook Branzino
Video: Watch us Make Swordfish
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Steamed Fish, Chinese Style
- 1 ½ to 2 lbs white fish fillets, 1-inch thickness (see note below)
- 6 TB Tamari sauce, or reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 TB Asian sesame oil
- 2 TB rice cooking wine
- 4 TB fresh ginger, thinly sliced (matchsticks)
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp white pepper, or freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
- 4 stalks thinly sliced green onions
- Dry fish fillets thoroughly with paper towels – this step is important to ensure flavors don't become diluted from excess water. Place fish in a single layer in a 9×13 glass dish or other large microwavable dish.
- In a bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients (except for cilantro and green onions) until well combined. Pour evenly over the fish, ensuring that both sides of fillets are coated with sauce. Sprinkle evenly with cilantro and green onions on top of fillets.
- Tightly cover dish with two layers of cling wrap. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, depending on thickness of your fish; if your microwave doesn't have a turntable, be sure to rotate the dish halfway into cook time. If needed, add another 1-2 minutes of cook time; cooked fish should be firm and flaky at the center. Carefully remove cover and serve immediately.
- It’s important to use the right kind of fish. A mild, semi-firm, somewhat flaky white fish is best. Use 1-inch-thick fillets of: sea bass, flounder, halibut, or snapper (also known as rockfish), or swai. Cod may work if you can get good fillets that are at least 1-inch thick.
- I used toasted black sesame seeds for garnish. Feel free to use regular sesame seeds, if you’d like.
- We use reduced sodium tamari soy sauce, as it’s more pure in flavor and gluten-free.
- For a super healthy meal, serve with Air Fryer Broccoli and Perfect Brown Rice.
- If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ❤️