Steamed whole fish is a Cantonese classic, almost always served at an important banquet, or to an important guest, or for a New Year dinner.
one 2-pound whole fresh flounder, scaled, gills removed, and eviscerated (head left on)
2 tablespoons very finely shredded peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons very finely shredded scallion plus additional for garnish
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash and pat dry the fish inside and out. Score the fish diagonally almost to the bone 3 times on each side with a sharp knife. Place the fish on a lightly oiled 9-inch plate deep enough to contain the steamed juices. Fill the cavity of the fish with the ginger and 2 tablespoons of the scallion.
2. Stir together the vegetable oil, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle half of the soy mixture inside the fish and the remaining half on top of the fish; rub it into the fish with your hands, especially where the fish is scored. Let the fish stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Put the plate into a 10-inch bamboo steamer and cover with the steamer lid. Fill a wok one third full of water. Bring the water to a simmer and place the bamboo basket over the water. Steam over moderate heat for about 10 to 12 minutes per inch (measuring at the thickest part), or until the fish is opaque throughout. Spoon the juices that have accumulated in the plate over the fish just before serving. Serve the fish in the basket sprinkled with the remaining finely shredded scallions.
Steamed whole fish is a Cantonese classic, almost always served at an important banquet, or to an important guest, or for a New Year dinner. Steaming is a very pure way of cooking whole fish; it's the best way to retain the delicate flavor and texture, without losing any of the precious juices. It is not necessary to add flavors to the steaming liquid, since the fish cooks too quickly to allow the flavors to penetrate the flesh; it's much better to put any flavorings on, in, or under the fish sitting on its plate in the steamer. Bamboo steamers are favored by the Chinese because they absorb condensation and prevent the juices of the fish from becoming diluted. Flatfish, like flounder or fluke, are delicious cooked this way, though a little tricky to bone. Black sea bass is a good and widely used alternative. Serves 2