Scale and gut the fish, wash it under the cold tap and dry it well both inside and out with a cloth or kitchen paper. Trim the fins and tail if not already trimmed, and slash both sides of the fish diagonally as far as the bone at intervals of about 1cm with a sharp knife. (In case you wonder why it is necessary to slash both sides of the fish before cooking, the reason is twofold: first, if you cook the fish whole the skin will burst unless it is scored;
and secondly it allows the heat to penetrate more quickly and at the same time helps to diffuse the flavours of the seasoning and sauce. Also, as the Chinese never use a knife at the table, it is much easier to serve the fish if you can pick up the pieces of flesh with just a pair of chopsticks.)
Rub about half the salt and all the sesame seed oil inside the fish, and place it on top of
Mix the mushrooms and pork with the remaining salt, a little of the soy sauce and the rice wine. Stuff about half of this mixture inside the fish and put the rest on top with the ginger root. Place in a hot steamer and steam vigorously for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly shred the remaining spring onions and heat the oil in a little saucepan until bubbling. Remove the fish dish from the steamer, arrange the spring onion shreds on top, pour the remaining soy sauce over it and then the hot oil from the head to tail. Serve hot.
If you don’t possess a steamer big enough to hold a whole fish, it can be wrapped in silver foil and baked in the oven at 230°C/450°F/Gas 8 for 20–25 minutes.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.