Steamed Tilapia with Ginger, Scallions, and Onions

Cá Hắp Gủ̀ng Hành

Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine And Culture In Southern California's Little Saigon

Little Saigon Cookbook

By Ann Le

Published 2011

  • About

Steaming a whole fish is a way to appreciate a perfect, fresh, and beautiful fish; you are not hiding anything by covering it with a glaze or by pan-frying it in a sauce. For this recipe, the fish can be prepared without the bones, but the cavity needs to be filled with herbs and skewered closed so that the shape is maintained. This recipe is an ideal way to cook a variety of fish; I have enjoyed it with halibut, king mackerel, and sea bass.


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 fresh Thai bird chile, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-size piece fresh ginger (approximately ¼ size of a palm), peeled and cut into thin slivers 1½ to 2 inches in length
  • tablespoons ground black pepper
  • tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons oil
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 pound whole tilapia or other flat fish with firm white flesh
  • 5 scallions
  • ½ large yellow onion, cut into thin slices
  • Fresh cilantro


    1. To begin, you will need to prepare two marinades, one that the fish will be steamed in and another that will be drizzled over the cooked fish. To make the first marinade, combine in a small bowl 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, chopped chile, ginger slices, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¼ cup oil. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the olive oil has emulsified with the soy sauce. Set aside.
    2. For the second marinade, whisk together in a separate bowl 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, ½ tablespoon black pepper, ½ tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons oil, and ½ tablespoon lime juice. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the oil, soy sauce, and lime juice have emulsified. Set aside.
    3. Begin by cleaning the fish, removing the entrails but leaving the bones and skin intact, if the fishmonger has not already done so for you. On each side of the fish, cut three diagonal slashes, evenly spaced and cutting almost halfway to the bone (or cavity if you have deboned the fish).
    4. Cut 3 of the scallions into 4-inch pieces. Stuff the scallions and half of the onion slices into the cavity of the fish. Cut the remaining scallions into 2-inch pieces and, with the remaining sliced onions, create a bed for the fish in a shallow, heat-resistant china dish or pie pan.
    5. Place the fish in the dish or pie pan over the bed of scallions and onions. Pour the marinade for the steamed fish (it’s the marinade that is larger in quantity) all over the fish, coating it entirely and making sure that the liquid penetrates the flesh through the slashes. Cover and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
    6. Prepare the steamer. When the water begins to boil, uncover the fish and place the dish in the steamer. Steam for about 5 to 8 minutes. Check for doneness every few minutes by studying the slits of the fish. The fish should be flaky but firm to the touch, and the flesh should be whitened.
    7. Remove the dish from the steamer and immediately drizzle the second marinade over the entire fish. Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice and the salad platter.