Give the usual ginger-and-scallion topping a little rest and serve your fish differently with more texture and color. Chinese-style steamed whole fish with wood ears is so easy to make and is super tasty too. If you serve it with no rice, it’s a lovely keto-friendly meal.
What fish is good for this dish? Any fleshy fish. Has to be whole though. It’s tempting to use fillets, right? No bones to pick and no fish head to intimidate people who prefer sterile-looking seafood. But so much flavor is lost if you substitute fillets. So, just choose a fish that doesn’t have too many bones. Definitely not bangus (milkfish).
You’ll want your fish without scales nor gills nor entrails. If your local fish monger offers free cleaning, take advantage of it. It isn’t easy scaling and gutting a whole fish especially a large one.
Prepping a cleaned and gutted fish still requires a little preparation though. It has to be scored to prevent the flesh from bursting during steaming. Scoring the fish also allows seasonings to permeate the thickest parts of the flesh more efficiently.
As for the cooking tools you’ll need, well, this is steamed fish so you’ll need a steamer. Unless you’re cooking one small fish meant for one person, that steamer basket that goes on top of the rice cooker won’t be large enough. You’ll need a steamer basket large enough to contain the plate on which the fish laid out and cooked.
Now, about the plate. You’ll need one that can withstand the intense heat inside the steamer. Definifely no plastic plate.
Will a large dinner plate do? I suggest you check what’s written on the back of the plate. If it says it can go into the oven, it is good enough for the steamer. And if it’s microwavable, is it good enough for the steamer too? I’d say no.
With all that out of the way, here’s the recipe for Chinese-style steamed whole fish with wood ears.
- Rinse the fish well and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Score both sides.
- Rub the fish with salt and pepper, including the cavity.
- Start heating about three inches of water in the steamer.
- Julienne the wood ears.
- Core, deseed and julienne the bell pepper.
- Lay the fish on a heat-proof dish.
- Scatter the julienned wood ears and bell pepper on top (yes, some will fall around the fish and that's fine).
- Mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and sugar. Pour over the fish.
- Drop the plated fish in the steamer basket and steam over briskly boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the fish.
- Drizzle sesame oil over the fish and, optionally, garnish with torn mint leaves, before serving.
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