Steaming is a very Chinese approach to fish cooking and is a great technique as long as the fish are cooked whole and on the bone. The fish does not have to be expensive; lemon sole is excellent cooked this way and so is whiting If you want to go up-market, try steaming a sea bass or a Dover sole.
You may have a dedicated piece of kit to do the job, but others can improvise. A large wok with a lid and a rack is ideal. You steam the fish on the plate on which you serve it, allowing
If serving the fish as part of a Chinese meal, a
Cut the carrot, spring onions and ginger into julienne strips, putting them immediately into a bowl of iced water and tossing to mix the strands. Cut the garlic clove into paper-thin slices and the chilli into thin rings.
Put the sesame and sunflower oils in a small pan with the garlic and chilli and heat gently
Test that it is done after 10 minutes by sliding the tip of a knife into the back at the centre and pulling upwards. The flesh should detach easily. You do not want it undercooked because it will not come off the bone. Conversely, it is difficult to overcook because steaming is a gentle, forgiving technique and you would probably have to leave the fish for about 20 minutes before it was actually ruined.
Remove the fish and plate from the steamer and wipe round the edge of the plate for a neat presentation. Drain the vegetable julienne and heap on top of the fish. Pour the now hot and aromatic oil on top to wilt the vegetables and complete the dish by scattering whole coriander leaves over.
Eat immediately – if the oil is allowed to cool it will make the dish greasy.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.