It has been such a long time since the last time this dish is prepared at home. One of the reasons is that my mother does not do grocery shopping herself anymore – our cook lady does. My mother is convinced that she does not know her fish, hence we don’t get to enjoy steamed fish as much as we would like.
Steaming fish gets real fancy in local Chinese cuisine when a particular type of fish is used, silver pomfret (ikan bawal putih). Silver pomfret is shaped like butterfly and V-shaped tail and flat body, a type of seawater fish, mainly found in Indian ocean. They can grow up to 4 kg, but due to overfishing, they can only be found in the market in less than 1 kg per piece. In this region, it is considered one of the most expensive fish. It is also very popular in Japan and Malaysia. Because of its high profile, naturally, the best way to serve it is by steaming – using the least amount of ingredients and seasoning possible.
Before steaming, the fish is poached in boiling water to shorten steaming time and get rid of the fishy smell. After that, it is smeared with salt and soy sauce inside out and laid on top of and covered with other ingredients. Hot water is added before steaming to make sure the fish does not dried out.
The fish is at its best when steamed with low heat and just nicely cooked. The flaky meat would then be nicely infused with chilies, garlic and ginger. Served with steamed rice and some soy sauce for dipping.
500 gr silver pomfret
4 (20 gr) garlic cloves, thinly sliced
40 gr ginger, cut thinly, match stick-like
15 gr thai bird's eye chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/4 cup hot water
Wash the fish and remove innards (if not cleaned already when you bought it). Make diagonal cuts on both sides of the fish. Pat dry
In a large pot, boil some water. Drop the fish into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside
In a large plate (enough to hold the whole fish), arrange mixture of half of ginger, garlic and chilies on the plate. Place the fish on top and sprinkle some salt
Cover the fish with the rest of the ginger, garlic and chili. Sprinkle soy sauce and sesame oil. Add hot water
Steam the fish for 15 minutes under low heat (the water should be boiling already while starting steaming). Check whether it is done by poking the middle part of the fish with chopsticks / fork. If it flakes easily, it is done
Garnish with some chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice