This very traditional Chinese dish was hands-down one of my favourite things to eat growing up. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest things to make as the fish takes less than 20 minutes to cook. In fact, my mom calls it her “I’ll make this cause I have no time for anything else” dinner.
The cooked ginger-scallion soy sauce pairs amazingly with white rice, so you might want to make extra for your guests. I’ll pass down words of wisdom from my late grandfather: as delicious as the fish is, never mix it with your rice and scarf it down in the event you choke on a tiny fish bone.
2 whole sea bass (1lb to 1 1/2lbs each), cleaned
4 green onions, julienne
1/3 cup ginger, peeled and julienne
10 slices peeled ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 teaspoon sugar
1. Place a metal trivet into a large wok or pot (or use a small heatproof plate placed upside down). Pour water in; just enough to almost reach the top of the trivet. Bring the water to a boil.
2. In the meantime take a heatproof dish, one that is big enough to hold the fish as well as fit inside the wok/pot with the water, and line the bottom with some of the green onions so that the fish won’t stick when cooking.
3. Rinse the fish in cold water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Rub the entire fish with a light coat of cornstarch. Place three slices of ginger inside each fish and two on top of the fish. Place the fish on the dish.
4. When the water in the wok/pot is boiling, place the dish on top of the trivet. Cover with a lid and steam for 15 to 18 minutes until the flesh is opaque.
5. While the fish is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan. You can test when it’s hot by placing a chopstick into the oil. When bubbles form around the chopstick, it’s ready. Toss in the julienne ginger and cook for 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and soy sauce. Add that mixture to the hot oil and stir until the sugar has melted and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
6. When the fish has cooked, discard the slices of ginger from the fish and drain any excess liquid. Pour the cooked soy sauce over the fish and serve immediately.
Pair with bok choy or Chinese broccoli sautéed with minced ginger and garlic, and steamed white rice. Two fish will serve four to five people.
Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.