Chinese New Year Special – Traditional Steamed Fish (清蒸魚)

For every Chinese family around the world, February 3rd 2011 is the most celebrated day of the year as it is the first day of Chinese New Year. Around this time, families in China clean their house and decorate it in red, the color that symbolizes good luck. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, there is the feast of the year that everyone’s been waiting for. This is the meal comparable Christmas dinner where people will indulge themselves with delicacies and plenty of alcohol. Follows the dinner, many families will gather together and watch the 4-hour-long CCTV New Year’s Gala.
If the gala didn’t put you to sleep by midnight, congratulations you can now finish the night with some firecrackers…

Being thousands of miles away from China, my celebration of Chinese New Year this time around doesn’t follow the tradition at all. The deviation started out with my move just days before the Chinese New Year. The new apartment is messy at best but chaotic in most areas and certainly has zero Chinese New Year decoration. As I am sitting here on one of the unopened boxes writing this post, I still don’t have a clue where most of my daily necessities are out of many boxes I have around me.

I did do myself a favor though to make this post possible. I unpacked and put away all my kitchen stuff the first thing after I moved in. For me, the Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner is one thing I don’t want to miss. For this year, I actually managed to hammer out a few dishes between unpacking and cleaning. They are all relatively simple dishes I make on regular basis.

For appetizer, I made this classic turnip cakes with Alice C’s help. This is a traditional Cantonese dish for Chinese New Year. All I can say is that after eating the homemade I have no desire to go back to the packaged turnip cake I used to buy. Check out the full recipe if interested in making it at home.

For the soup. I made this abalone chicken soup that I learned from my trip to Hong Kong and Canton. It is perfect for this kind of cold weather in New York

For the entrees I made a traditional steamed fish. This is a must-have dish in any Chinese New Year Dinner. Fish is a symbol of prosperity and surplus. Additional it’s just a delicious dish to have. I have included the step-by-step recipe below. If you are scared of whole fish then please stop scrolling down any further.

Of course, the dinner cannot complete without a plate of dumplings. Next to the dumplings, I also made a plate of blanched lettuce in oyster sauce.  In Chinese, the sound of lettuce resembles “growing money”, or become rich.

Lastly, I made this sweet rice ball with filling. This is a dish normally served two weeks into the New Year but I just could not wait until then. If you are interested in finding out what’s inside of these sweet rice balls and how to make them, please be sure to check back again next week =)

Now on to the steamed fish dish. The recipe calls for sea bass but you are more than welcome to use other kinds of fish as long as it’s not too bony.
[stextbox id=”info” bgcolor=”9fdfd9″]Ingredients

20 oz Fresh sea bass, cleaned and pat dry

2 tbsp Scallion, shredded to tiny strips

1 tbsp Ginger, shredded to tiny strips

2 tbsp Cooking oil

3 tbsp Seafood soy sauce, see more details below

Several pieces of sliced ginger

Several pieces of 2 inch long scallion

½ tsp Salt[/stextbox]

Seafood Soy Sauce

The seafood soy sauce is a compound soy sauce used in seafood cooking. It is available in Chinese supermarkets. It is also simple to make it at home. To make 3 tbsp of this soy sauce, you’ll need:

½ tbsp black bean, finely minced
1 tbsp each of dark soy sauce and regular soy sauce
1/3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cooking wine.

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, boil in low heat until it is reduced to 3 tbsp. About 4 minutes.

[stextbox id=”custom”]Step-by-Step

1. Make 3 cuts on each side of the fish. Rub both inside and outside of the fish with salt.

2. In a plate, place sliced ginger and scallion on the bottom of where fish will be place. This is to create room below the fish for even heat distribution.

3. Place the fish on the plate and steam it in boiling water for 7 to 8 minutes. If you have a bigger fish, be sure to extend the cooking time to have it fully steamed. Also, use high heat for steaming.
[nggallery id=54]
4. Take out the fish as soon as it is done. By now, you should see the eyes of fish are all popped out and the fins should be open. Remove the excess liquid from condensation if there is any.

5. Heat the cooking oil until it gets very hot. Top the fish with seafood soy sauce and shredded ginger and scallion. Pour the hot cooking oil on top. There should be plenty of sizzling.
[nggallery id=55][/stextbox]
Enjoy the steamed fish while it’s still hot. And if you are one of the more traditional Chinese, you’ll purposely leave some of the fish for the symbol of “surplus” or prosperity.

To conclude this post I’d like to wish you all a healthy and prosperous year of the Rabbit. Now tell me what you had for Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner?

24 comments

  1. This recipes was excellent. My popo used to make this for us and this came out close to how she made it. I used tilapia instead, but it was very moist and flaked off. Bravo.

  2. Hi yi
    Thank you so much for posted all your recipes ,
    I love your website, I can’t wait to try
    the steam fish and general tso chicken
    again, thank you

    Nancy ye

  3. Pingback: chinese new year origami fish | Kuplux's

  4. Hi Yi,

    Thanks for the excellent recipies – I’ve been in China for almost four years and recognize several dishes.
    I’ve eaten this fish dish quite often in China but to my knowledge it was also garlic together with ginger and scallion. It’s actually my favorite fish dish….
    Do you have a comment and/or recipe?

    Thank you!

  5. Dear Yi, Your abalone chicken soup looks delicious. I’m waiting for the recipe. Hope u will write it soon. Thank you.

    • Hi Juli, thanks for stopping by. I will post this recipe very soon. The weather is getting cold here so I am all ready post some yummy soup recipes!

  6. Pingback: Fish Fillets in Creamy Corn Sauce (粟米斑腩) | Yi Reservation

  7. Pingback: Eight-Treasure Rice (八寶飯) - Step by Step Recipe | Yi Reservation

  8. Can I cook any kind of fish? Or does it have to be seabass? Also, does it really have to be large?

    • Hello Chinita, thanks for your visit.
      Yes you may steam all kind of fish. However some are more preferred than others. Generally I prefer to steam white fleshed fish over say oily fish such as mackerel. The size doesn’t matter but ideally medium size is preferred. The meat from larger fish tends to be tougher. The smaller fish has tender meat but just not enough :)
      I posted a picture of steamed sunfish on my twitter. They are about 1/3 lb each but very tender though. Find the steamed sunfish picture here!
      Happy Chinese New Year by the way!

  9. Hello Friend,

    This is my first time visiting your site. I cannot wait to make this fish for my father, he loves loves loves it.

    I have never steamed a fish before. I read your instructions but still cant get my head around it, do I need to buy a special kind of steamer?

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hello Laurie,

      Thanks for your visit and your interest. Steaming a fish at home is actually easier than it sounds like.
      I have a very simple setup for steaming: a big wok, a large lid, and a rack like this
      If you can find a large steamer that can hold a hold fish, it’s would work well too.
      Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.

  10. Pingback: Dim Sum Classic – Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕) | Yi Reservation

  11. nonsense – that steaming fish to put high heat. please, after boiling, reduce flame and steam FOR 20 MINUTES. 7 minutes will not work for home cooking. 😀

    • Hi Derek, I appreciate for your comments. I think it depends on a few factors such as the size of the fish, the freshness of the fish, the desired texture of the cooked fish, and etc.

      In this particular recipe, since I had a small fresh fish weight 20oz (or about 1.25Lb/565g) and I wanted to have a tender texture could almost melt in my mouth so I only took me 7 minutes to cook the fish under high heat. For a larger fish it will take slightly longer.

      I totally agree with you that there are many ways to cook a fish and using low heat method can certainly fully cook the fish as well. The rule of thumb I use is to look at the eyes and fins. If the eyes are popped out and the fins are all spread open like a peacock I’d say you have it ready.

  12. Pingback: Hot Chili Oil (辣椒油) | Yi Reservation

  13. Love your website! Can’t wait to try the steamed fish and scallion pancake recipes. I’m so curious about your turnip cake. I buy them pre packaged in Chinatown. Would love to you to post your recipe.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Bobbi, thanks for checking out my site.
      The homemade turnip cake definitely beats the packaged ones by a mile. I like the homemade one because it is more substantial that you can actually see and taste the turnip. I’ll post the recipe in the coming weeks. Please be sure to check back.
      Thank you!

  14. Pingback: Black Sesame Tang Yuan - Chinese Glutinous Rice Ball (黑芝麻湯圓) | Yi Reservation

  15. Hi Miranda, thanks for catching my typo and it has been corrected. Happy Chinese New Year to you too! Wish you all the best in the year of the Rabbit!

  16. 兔年行大運~~恭喜喬遷!New Year, New Start! Great holiday post, there is one typo about 蘿蔔糕, an extra e in “trip”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *