Traditional Steamed Whole Pike

This was always a special culinary treat, and pike remains one of my favourite fish today. Its sweet, firm and slightly flaky flesh makes it perfect for steaming. We enjoyed it simply steamed so that its fresh, natural flavour could shine. Then we quickly doused it with a shower of freshly shredded spring onions, a touch of light soy sauce, and hot, smoking oil that was ladled on as a last-minute touch, like butter in Western cooking. We served the pike whole in my uncles restaurant, and it appeared frequently at the family table on special occasions. I remember how other restaurant patrons would look on curiously when the fish came to the table, whole and steaming. After we enjoyed the delicate pike, there was always a struggle to see who got to enjoy the fish head, which contains the highly prized cheek meat. I was taught as a young child to extract the cheeks with my chopstick and to place them dutifully in my mother’s bowl as my filial gift to her. Every adult at the table would then nod with approval, and I knew that I was on the right path.

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Ingredients

  • 1 × 1.35 kg (3 lb) cleaned and gutted whole pike or whole firm white fish, such as cod or sea bass
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 spring onions, white and green parts finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil

Method

Rub the fish evenly inside and outside with the salt and set it on a heatproof platter.

Set up a steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill it with 5 cm (2 in) of water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat. Carefully lower the platter onto the rack. Turn the heat to low and cover the wok or pan tightly. Steam gently for 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. When ready, the fish should be firm to the touch.

Remove the fish and pour off any excess liquid. Sprinkle the spring onions and soy sauce evenly over the fish. Heat the groundnut oil in a wok until it is very hot and smoking. Pour the hot oil over the fish and serve at once.

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