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Chinese Whole Steamed Fish

Chinese Whole Steamed Fish





Chinese whole steamed fish with strips of ginger, scallion, and soy sauce mixture drizzled on top is a favourite for many Chinese households. For my family, we were introduced to this favourite dish by my Dad at one of our more frequented authentic Chinese restaurants in Florida. Now as adults, we all still regularly visit that restaurant always ordering that famous Chinese Steam fish that they make so well.





Who would have thought that this dish was so simple and easy to prepare myself at home. Well it turns out that it is easy and just about as delicious as the restaurants. Whole fish is used mainly for presentation and usually we make a large enough fish that can serve several people. However, fish fillets can be used as well which is easier and quicker.


You can pretty much steam any whole fish of choice or what is in season, but my fish of choice is a fresh snapper. If using fillets, any fish of choice will work too. The trickiest part of Chinese Stem Fish is figuring out how to steam it. I reccommend using fresh fish as you want it to be tender and flaky once its steamed. The steaming method that I suggest and that I used is a large wok or pan which you can place a rack in with water below to steam the fish while it is covered. Or if you have a steamer pot, that is even better. 



Ingredients for Chinese Steam Fish





  • Fish – Whole large fish or if smaller you may use more than one. I recommend snapper but any fish of choice or one in season may be used. Fish fillets may be used as well.
  • Dried Chinese Black Beans – This adds more of an authentic Chinese flavor but is optional and may be done without it.
  • Salt – To add to the sauce
  • Ginger – Some in strips for presentation and some minced
  • Scallion – Some in strips for presentation and some cot fine for the sauce. The ginger and scallion paired with the sauce is the star of this dish to give the fish the flavor you are looking for.
  • Light Soy Sauce – Most of the soy sauce used is light as it is less harsh of a flavor than the dark.
  • Dark or Mushroom Soy Sauce – Just a little is used to enhance the color and flavor of the light soy sauce.
  • Sugar – Just a little to compliment the flavor of the sauce.
  • Sesame Oil – to contribute to the authentic Chinese flavor.
  • Vegetable Oil – Used in combination with the sesame oil heated then poured over your minced scallion and ginger to partially cook it as it sizzles before adding the other soy sauce ingredients.
  • Water – To steam the fish.



How to Prepare Chinese Steamed Fish












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  1. First, you want to make sure your fish is cleaned up properly even if you buy it already cleaned. I always make sure no scales are left on it, if so you can remove scales with a serrated knife. You may also cut off any fins with a kitchen shears and make sure the belly is cleaned out properly. Check the fish head that it is clean, as some people do eat the head, and make sure all gills are removed.
  2. I like to wash off my fish in a water and vinegar mixture which helps to cut down on the raw smell.
  3. Set up your steaming apparatus, as suggested a large wok or deep pot with a cover with a rack that can fit inside. You would place about 1/2 cup of water in your pot below the rack. You may line your rack with foil and place your fish on top and cover. 
  4. Steam your fish about 10 minutes from the time it starts to boil. A larger fish may take more time and smaller or fish fillets may take less time.
  5. You may check your fish for doneness by using a butter knife and slightly peeking to the bone. The fish should be opaque if thoroughly cooked.
  6. While your fish is steaming, you can prepare your sauce. Separate the strips of scallion and ginger that will be used for presentation. Place the minced ginger and finely cut scallion in a small glass bowl.
  7. Heat up your sesame and vegetable oil in a small pot. When hot, pour hot oil over scallion & ginger, it will sizzle a bit and partially blanch them. 
  8. Add your soy sauces and sugar to the oil mixture and stir.
  9. Place your freshly steamed fish on a serving plate or platter, spoon sauce over the fish then place strips of ginger and scallion on top for presentation.
  10. Serve hot with white rice and Chinese vegetables of choice. To separate the meat and served, a large spoon is usually used to take up the fish from the backbone. Push aside the fine bones on the edges and lift up the bone in the centre to get the meat from the other side as well. Spoon sauce over your fish as you serve and delicious over your rice as well.






Chinese Steamed Fish

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Author Dianne


  • 2 - 3 lbs. Fish Whole or fillet
  • 1 - 2 tsp. Dried Chinese Black Beans optional
  • 1/4 cup Ginger mince 1 Tbsp., the rest cut in long, thin strips.
  • 2 stalks Scallion finely cut 2 Tbsp., the rest cut in long, fine strips
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 cup Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dark or Mushroom Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
  • 3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Water


  1. First, make sure your fish is cleaned properly which includes all scales removed, all gills and fins removed, belly cleaned out properly and fish head clean.

  2. Wash fish in a water and vinegar mixture. Then rinse off with water alone.

  3. Set up a steaming apparatus if you don't have a steamer. Suggestions is to use a large wok or pot with a cover which can hold a wire rack inside. The rack will need to be placed in a position where it will be a couple inches above the bottom of your pan where you would place your water. If you don't have a rack with stands, you can use a empty can cut on both sides.

  4. Foil your rack. Place water in the pan below the rack. If using the Chinese black beans, place a couple black beans in the fish cavities.

  5. Cover pot and steam fish about 10 minutes after boiling starts. More time or less time may be required depending on the size of your fish.

  6. After 10 minutes of steaming, using a butter knife, check your fish for doneness by looking if it is opaque to the bone.

  7. Set aside strips of scallion and ginger. Place minced ginger and finely cut scallion in a glass bowl.

  8. Heat your oils in a small pot. When hot, pour oil over scallion and ginger, it will sizzle a few seconds.

  9. Add your soy sauces and sugar to the oil and stir.

  10. Place fish on a serving plate or platter and spoon sauce all over fish.

    Garnish fish with strips of scallion and ginger and serve.

Recipe Notes

Serving Suggestions - White rice and Chinese vegetables or greens.



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