This Chinese Steamed Fish with Soy Sesame Sauce is a classic dish that’s traditionally made using a whole fish. Here, I use fish filet which makes this recipe an easy preparation for dinnertime.
There are so many different cooking techniques in Chinese cuisine that I find fascinating. Most people are familiar with stir-frying when it comes to Chinese cooking, but I find many are not familiar with steaming and poaching in Chinese cuisine. There’s also the velveting technique that ensures the most tender chicken and fish.
The Chinese have many different ways to prepare fish, but one of the simplest and most delicious preparations is the recipe I’m sharing today for Chinese Steamed Fish with Soy Sesame Sauce. The most important thing is to use the freshest fish you can find because no matter how good a cooking technique is, nothing can cover up the smell of fish that’s past its prime.
The only piece of equipment you’ll need to make this fish is a steamer basket or a steamer set. When I use my steamer set, I place the fish on a plate, but when I use the steamer basket, I line the basket with napa cabbage or some other leafy vegetable. The best part is you can eat the veggies as part of your meal. Steaming time depends on the type of fish you use and the thickness. Here, I’ve used halibut, but tilapia, flounder, sea bass, red snapper, or barramundi would be great too.
The trick to this recipe is in the final sauce. A drizzle of soy sauce and some fresh scallions are laid on top of the steamed fish, and hot sesame oil is poured on top. The sesame oil sizzles as you do this, so be sure to do this in the sink to avoid splattering. The end result is a fragrant sauce that just barely cooks the scallion and brings out the flavor in the fish.
Watch my cooking video to see how easy this Chinese Steamed Fish is to make.
Chinese Steamed Fish with Soy Sesame Sauce
- 4 ounces halibut filet or other fish filet try tilapia, cod, barramundi
- 1 teaspoon rice wine white wine or sherry
- dash of salt
- 1 slice ginger minced
- 1 scallion cut into 1 1/2" lengths
- 1 teaspoon gluten-free soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
Sprinkle rice wine over fish; sprinkle with salt. Place minced ginger and a few pieces of scallion on top. Steam for about 10-15 minutes, or until just tender. Steaming time will depend on thickness of fish.
When fish is just about done, heat sesame oil in small skillet until hot.
Remove fish from steamer and remove ginger and scallion on top. Sprinkle soy sauce on top of fish and lay a few more pieces of scallion on top of fish. Pour hot sesame oil on top of fish (I do this in the sink in case of splattering).
3 freestyle points
It’s true, you really don’t hear much about Chinese steaming methods! I do love how simple this is. And I’m a huge soy sauce fan, so that sauce sounds good enough to drink to me!
Joanne – it is so funny that few people know about Chinese steaming – it’s used a lot actually and it’s such a healthy cooking method.
Krista@ Digital Health says
I just love chinese. The smell of scallion and ginger in soy sauce is awesome. Nice recipe Jeanette!
Krista – the sauce is the best!
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
This is how my mom makes the steamed fish! This is so fresh and delectable!
Angie – this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh fish and it’s so easy!
David @ CookingChat says
Definitely saving this to try! I haven’t tried steaming fish, usually pan sear or grill it. Good to mix things up though.
David – this is a nice easy, and light way to prepare fish, and a great alternative to searing and grilling. Let me know if you try it.
Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking says
So fresh, flaky and delicious. I love this summery and simple dish, Jeanette!
Thanks Georgia – yes, this is definitely a lighter dish, great for the start of warmer weather.
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
I like the scorching hot sesame oil at the end! I heard about this method somewhere but I didn’t know how and when to use it. I’m going to try this! I have to buy those steaming basket first. 🙂 Thanks for the quick recipe!
Nami – the hot sesame oil at the end if the trick. If you have a steamer (the Asian stacking ones work really well), you can use that too.
Hi, I clicked through one of your comments on Nami’s site and found this recipe. My boyfriend’s grandmother makes steamed fish similar to this, and it’s so delicious. Is there a good rule of thumb for steaming time related to fish thickness, or do you usually just check? I agree with Nami’s comment about the seared hot oil… nice touch.
Kate – I don’t really have a good rule of thumb for timing the fish, although it never seems to take more than about 10 minutes for fish filet. Poke it with a chopstick and if the fish flakes, then it’s done. The hot oil is the key to this dish – hope you try it.
EA-The Spicy RD says
Just gorgeous Jeanette and looks like it should be served in a restaurant! I really wish my kids liked fish more, but maybe I’ll have to try and tempt them again with this recipe 🙂
Thanks EA – fish with kids can be tricky. My boys are not huge fish eaters either, but they do like this one when I use mild white fish varieties.
Alyssa (Everyday Maven) says
This is one of my favorite ways to eat fish!
Me too Alyssa – easy right?!
Christine from Cook the Story says
This looks SO healthy and delicious!
Thanks Christine 🙂
Pietro's Cafe says
Thanks! This is so easy – hope you’ll try it.
Sylvie | Gourmande in the Kitchen says
What a wonderfully healthy and flavorful way to prepare fish!
Thanks Sylvie – it’s so easy and very fresh tasting!
Oh, I love this Jeanette! My mom used to make fish like this for us when we were growing up. Yours looks gorgeous – just like the restaurant! I can’t wait to try this myself now. Pinning and thanks so much for sharing 🙂
It looks ideal for one or two servings but I have to feed six people and steaming sounds problematic. How do the Chinese deal with that? (I suppose they just have giant pots…!) I have a 4-pound steelhead trout and will have to bake it this time.
Traditionally, a whole fish is steamed, not filets. Baking is definitely easier for larger groups. If you want to maintain a moist top, I would try covering the fish with foil before baking (pour a little wine on top before covering and baking)