Steamed Sea Bass in Stir-fried Yellow Bean Sauce

This is the perfect recipe to serve at Chinese New Year as the Mandarin word for fish is ‘Yu’, which also sounds like the ‘Yu’ in the Chinese phrase ‘Nian Nian You Yu’, which means ‘Every year you have abundance’ whether it’s wealth, health, happiness, luck or love. This is a phrase you say to family and friends to wish them well in the New Year. The Chinese are superstitious and believe that you should serve the fish whole including the head as it symbolizes completeness and unity. So if it is Chinese New Year and you are serving this recipe, please ask your fishmonger to keep the head on! The Chinese New Year falls on a different day each year and follows the lunar calendar. There are many customs and one of them is to give Hong-Bao meaning ‘red packets’, red envelopes stuffed with money to give to your elders or young children... as a child I must admit I thought this was the best part! The color red is also very symbolic and is a very lucky color so on this occasion perhaps sea bass would not be the ultimate choice and instead you might choose a red mullet.

Read more
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 7 minutes


  • 2 whole sea bass, head off if preferred, scaled and cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons shaosing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 tablespoons yellow bean sauce
  • 8 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large spring onion, chopped
  • small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Wash the fish in cold water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Cut some slits into the skin of the fish. Season with salt and pepper and place them on a heatproof plate and transfer to a bamboo steamer. Pour the shaosing rice wine over the fish.
  2. Fill a wok or pan with boiling water to a depth that will not immerse the base of the steamer. Place the lid on the steamer and steam for 12 minutes.
  3. Heat another small pan or wok over high heat and add the peanut oil.
  4. Stir fry the garlic and ginger for less than 1 minute. Add the yellow bean sauce and light soy sauce and stir well. Add a few dashes of toasted sesame oil.
  5. Add the spring onions and cilantro to the wok and take it quickly off the heat.
  6. Pour the sauce over the steamed fish and serve immediately with Jasmine Rice and Steamed Pak Choy.