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15-Minute Steamed Fish, Chinese Style

This easy recipe for This Chinese Style Steamed Fish is spectacularly delicious and healthy. It comes together in just 15 minutes and you don’t even need a steamer. Here’s our technique for steaming fish fillets in the microwave!

Swai fish fillets with sauce in baking dish for Chinese steamed fish
Chinese Steamed Fish is not only healthy, but teeming with flavor!

Steamed Fish Without a Steamer

The best Asian steamed fish involves fresh whole fish and big steamers. In my old hometown L.A. markets, that means doing some high-jumping plyometrics among a chaos of grandmas in order to get the fishmonger’s attention, followed by brazenly pointing to the live red snapper you want. Thankfully, you don’t have to do any of that. This is my super easy Monday night version of Asian steamed fish that’s so easy and tasty, you’ll never need anything else.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Super Easy: 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.
  • No Bones: There are no fish heads, tails, nor bones to mess with.
  • Very Little Oil: It’s so delicious, it doesn’t even need the classic hot oil drizzle at the end, which saves a load of calories.
  • No Special Equipment: You do not need a steamer. Repeat: no steamer needed.
  • Unbelievably Fast: Do you have a microwave and 6 minutes? Then you’re all set.

Key Ingredients

Chinese steamed fish ingredients with labels
Grab these pantry basics, for the most succulent flavors
  • White Fish Fillets– should be 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 in color and highly aromatic.
  • Rice Cooking Wine – we love the Shaoxing style.
  • 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.
  • Cilantro – fresh leaves, for fragrant garnish
  • Green Onions – aromatic garnish

Substitutions and Variations

  • The Fish: Any variety of good quality fish fillets can be used. We really like basa or swai, catfish, bass, tilapia, haddock, flounder, sole, or red snapper. Just be sure they’re about 1-inch thickness throughout.
  • The Soy Sauce: For a gluten-free soy sauce, use Tamari sauce. Tamari is not only naturally gluten-free, but has delicious depth of flavor.
  • The Wine: Use any variety of rice cooking wine found at your local Asian grocery store. We are partial to Shaoxing style cooking wine.

Easy Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Dry fish fillets thoroughly with paper towels. Place fish in a single layer in a 9×13 glass dish or other large microwavable dish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients (except for cilantro and green onions) until well combined.
  1. Pour sauce 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.
  2. Tightly cover dish with cling wrap. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. If needed, add another 1-2 minutes. Fish should be firm and flaky at the center.

Pro 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, haddock, sole, flounder, or tilapia, bass, or red snapper.
  • If using a thinner fish fillet, as tilapia often is, 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.
Swai fish fillets with sauce in baking dish for Chinese steamed fish
Serve Chinese steamed fish over jasmine rice and your choice of vegetables on the side.

What to Serve with Chinese Steamed Fish

commonly Asked Questions

What type of fish is commonly used in Chinese steamed fish?

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.

What are some common seasonings and sauces used for Chinese steamed fish?

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.

How long should I steam the fish?

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.

Can I add vegetables or other ingredients to the steamed fish?

Yes, 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.

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

Swai fish fillets with sauce in baking dish for Chinese steamed fish

15-Minute Steamed Fish, Chinese Style

4.97 from 65 ratings
This super easy recipe for Ginger Soy Asian Steamed Fish is spectacularly delicious and healthy. Here's our technique for quick-cooking it in the microwave!
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 14 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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, cod, or red snapper (also known as rockfish); our favorite option is swai/basa. 
  • 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 has more depth of flavor and is 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 ❤️

Nutrition (per serving)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 598mg | Potassium: 609mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Dinner, Main
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Lactose
Method: Microwave, Steaming
4.97 from 65 votes (56 ratings without comment)

Add a comment

Recipe Rating




23 comments

    • Adam Pritts
    • 5 stars

    This was so delicious and so close to the Chinese buffets I’ll never make it another way anymore

      • Amy Dong

      That’s awesome, Adam, thank you 🙂

    • Gary Fricke
    • 5 stars

    Thank you for a great easy breezy recipe. I used Red Rockfish and was delicious.
    Do you think this sauce would work with steamed chicken?

      • Amy Dong

      Yes, the sauce could work for chicken as well. SO glad you liked the dish, Gary! 🙂

    • mr christopher v mason
    • 4 stars

    4 STARS AT LEAST! For a quick recipe that works so well even if you are not an every week fish cook

      • Amy Dong

      So glad you liked this!

    • MC
    • 5 stars

    I usually don’t like cooking fish at home because it never tastes as fresh or flavorful as going to an authentic Asian restaurant. This recipe is iconic though. So fresh, soooo flavorful. Really appreciate you sharing this recipe with the world. It has become a staple for my partner and I! ♥️

      • Amy Dong

      Awww, that makes me so happy! 🙂 🙂

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