Steamed Fish with Black Beans

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    2 to 3

    as a Main Course.

Appears in

Chinese Technique

By Ken Hom

Published 1981

  • About


  • 1 whole fish (sea bass, whitefish, pike, trout, rock cod), about 1½ to 2 pounds, cleaned and scaled
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 large chunk (1 inch) fresh ginger root, smashed
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fermented black beans
  • 2 whole scallions, shredded
  • 3 diagonal slices fresh ginger root, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • Pinch of sugar
  • tablespoons peanut oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil



  1. Place the fish on a platter large enough to hold it, and sprinkle it with salt. Squeeze the chunk of ginger in your hand to extract the juice, letting it sprinkle over the fish. (The ginger must be fresh and you must have strong hands to do this; as an alternative, use a garlic press.)

  2. Chop the garlic and fermented black beans together. Don’t chop too fine or the mixture will become a paste and turn bitter.

  3. Scatter the beans, garlic, shredded scallions, and shredded ginger over the fish.

  4. Mix the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar. Pour it over the fish.

  5. If the plate is too long to fit in a bamboo steamer or a wok, improvise a steamer. In this case, a roasting pan serves the purpose. A trivet stands in the middle to hold the plate.

  6. Set the plate on the trivet. Pour boiling water into the pan, but not enough to reach the plate.

  7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and crimp the edges to seal it. Put the pan over low heat to keep the water simmering. A fish 1 inch thick at its widest point will take 10 minutes in the steamer. (The covered pan can also be placed in a 400-degree oven to cook for the same length of time.)

  8. When the fish is done, remove the plate from the steamer. A thin sauce will have formed on the plate. Heat the peanut oil and sesame oil in a small saucepan almost to the smoking point, and pour the mixture over the fish for the final touch to produce a sheen and add richness and flavor.

  • Suggested Beverage: Dry Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre