Chinese Steamed Fish

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 15/01/2024 Updated: 15/01/2024
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes
Chinese steamed fish made with fresh ginger, green onions, cilantro, and a tender white fish and topped with a seasoned soy sauce is the perfect showstopper for your next dinner!
Chinese Steamed Fish

When it comes to any special occasion or family feast, this Chinese steamed fish is the perfect main course. This Chinese steamed fish recipe is easy to make, incredibly tender, and packed with rich ginger, and scallion flavors. The best part about this steamed fish recipe is that it is ready in under 30 minutes!

A top down view of a table spread featuring a Chinese steamed fish.

You can choose any white fish that you prefer for this Chinese style steamed fish such as sea bass, tilapia, flounder, cod, haddock, etc. If a whole fish isn’t your style you can always opt for a fish filet instead! For more Lunar New Year inspiration, check out our pork and chive dumplings, Chinese almond cookies, and Chinese turnip cake.

Steamed sea bass on a bowl of rice ready to eat.

What is Chinese steamed fish?

Chinese steamed fish or Cantonese steamed fish is a traditional dish that is most commonly served for Lunar New Year, weddings, and celebrations. It involves steaming an entire fish with ginger and green onions until it is tender, then seasoning it with soy sauce, and then finishing with a drizzle of hot oil. The fish is then topped with fresh ginger, scallions, and cilantro.

Chinese style steamed fish is a common dish that is eaten during the Lunar New Year because the Chinese character for “fish”(鱼) is similar to the character for “plenty” (充). So, eating a whole steamed fish represents plenty of abundance, wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

A detail shot of a Chinese steamed sea bass.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Chinese steamed fish with ginger and spring onion is incredibly delicate and easy to make! Here are 3 reasons why you will love this Chinese fish recipe.

  1. Delicate flavors. Cantonese steamed fish is known for its subtle delicate flavors from the soy sauce, ginger, and scallions that elevate the natural taste of the white fish without overpowering it.
  2. Easy to make. while it may seem daunting to cook an entire fish, this Chinese style steamed fish recipe is really easy to make with only a few staple ingredients and easy-to-follow steps!
  3. Customizable. You can easily customize this steamed fish dish by selecting your fish of choice or even your fish filets of choice if you do not want to cook an entire fish.

Kitchen Equipment

For this Chinese steamed fish recipe, you will need the following kitchen equipment items. I’ve linked everything that I used for you below.

  • Green onion slicer: (optional) For easy curly long green onion slices, use a green onion slicer.
  • Sharp Knife: you will use a newly sharpened knife to lightly score the fish on both sides to allow the flavors to penetrate better. I used a sushi knife for clean easy cuts.
  • Large Steamer: to steam the fish, you will need a large steamer to hold the fish on a plate. You can use a metal steamer, a bamboo steamer, or a wok.
  • Small mixing bowl: to create the sauce, you will need a small mixing bowl.
  • Small Skillet: you will need a small skillet or small saucepan to heat up the oil.

Ingredients

You can find all of the ingredients for this Chinese style steamed fish recipe at your local Asian grocery market. I’ve linked everything that I’ve used for you below.

A sea that has been gutted, scaled, and cleaned.
A sea bass scaled, cleaned, and prepped.
  • White Fish: for this Chinese steamed fish recipe, I used sea bass, but you can use any type of white fish of your choosing. I’ve listed some suggestions for that below.
  • Shaoxing Rice Wine: Shaoxing rice wine adds a slightly sweet, nutty, briny flavor that gently seasons the steamed fish.
  • Green Onions: green onions are one of the main aromatics that add freshness to Chinese fish.
  • Ginger: thinly sliced ginger is a strong aromatic that enhances the flavor of the tender white fish and eliminates any unwanted fish odors.
  • Light Soy Sauce: light soy sauce is the base of the dish. It has a thin consistency, a strong umami flavor, and a savory, salty taste with a subtle soybean flavor.
  • Sugar: sugar balances out the salty flavors from the soy sauce.
  • Salt and White Pepper: salt and white pepper season the soy sauce for more depth.
  • Water: water dilutes the soy sauce so that it is less salty and easier to eat.
  • Canola Oil: canola oil is a mild neutral-flavored oil that does not take away from the flavors of Chinese steamed fish with ginger and spring onion.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro is used to garnish and add more fresh herbs to the soy sauce fish.
All the ingredients for seasoning Chinese steamed fish organized and labeled.

Substitutions and Additions

You can customize your Chinese fish recipe with the following suggestions for substitutions and additions that I’ve listed for you below.

Substitutions

  • White Fish: you can opt for sea bass, flounder, snapper, tilapia, cod, or halibut for your Chinese style steamed fish.
  • Soy sauce: instead of light soy sauce, you can experiment with low-sodium soy sauce, tamari, or your choice of soy sauce.
  • Oil: you can use any neutral flavored oil such as vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil.

Additions

  • Garlic: for a richer aromatic garlic flavor, add a few smashed pieces of garlic to the inside of your Cantonese steamed fish.
  • Chili: for added spice to your Chinese fish, add sliced chilis or chili oil for a kick.
  • Sesame oil: for a toasted nutty finish, add a drizzle of sesame oil.
  • Sauces: for additional flavors to your sauce, you can experiment with adding different sauces such as oyster sauce, dark soy sauce or fish sauce.

How to Make Chinese Steamed Fish

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to make this whole Chinese steamed fish recipe.

  1. Prepare the fish. Gut the fish and cut the fins from the sides and bottom of the fish with kitchen shears. Scrape against the fish to remove any remaining scales. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Clean the bloodline at the backbone of the fish. Place the fish onto a cutting board and slice the fish at a 45-degree angle on each side for more flavor to penetrate. Season both sides with the Shaoxing wine.
  1. Season the fish. Place a few pieces of the white parts of the green onion and a few slices of ginger on the bottom of a heatproof plate. Then lay the fish on top. Stuff the fish with the white parts of the green onions and julienned ginger.
A stuffed cleaned sea bass.
  1. Steam the fish. Fill your steamer with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the fish into your steamer basket, and cover and steam over high heat for 10-12 minutes or until the fish is tender. The fish’s eyes will be opaque, the meat should be opaque and the bone lightly translucent when it is ready.
  1. Mix the sauce. While the fish is steaming, in a small bowl, mix the light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, salt, white pepper, and water until combined and the sugar has dissolved.
Mixing together the sauce for steamed fish.
  1. Heat oil. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until the oil begins to smoke.
  2. Transfer the fish. Remove the fish, place it on your serving plate, and remove the stuffing. Pour the sauce over the fish. Then, place the cilantro, and the green parts of the green onion and julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  1. Drizzle and serve. Drizzle the hot oil over the green onion, ginger, and cilantro. Serve immediately with rice. Enjoy!
Pouring hot oil on to a seasoned and garnished steamed sea bass.

Tips for the Best Chinese Steamed Fish

  • Choose fresh fish. Make sure to choose a fresh fish from a reliable source. A fresh fish will have clear eyes, shiny scales, and a clean smell that is not fishy.
  • Have the fishmonger clean the fish. At most grocery stores, you can ask the fishmonger to clean the scales off the fish and gut the insides of the fish. This will save you a lot of time.
  • Cook time will vary. You may need to adjust the timing depending on the size of your fish. Generally, for 1-1.5 lb fish, you will steam for 10-12 minutes, and for 1.5-2lb fish, you will steam for 15-20 minutes.
  • Opaque when cooked. The Chinese fish will be cooked when the flesh and eyes are opaque and the meat should easily flake.
  • To curl the green onions. Place the thinly vertical sliced green onions in cold water to curl them up.

Storage Instructions

Ideally, this Chinese steamed fish recipe is best if enjoyed immediately after cooking. You can store this soy sauce fish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Reheat: you can either steam the fish until warm or microwave covered until warm. The texture and quality of the steamed fish may change upon reheating.

Frequently Asked Q’s and A’s

What type of fish are commonly used for Chinese steamed fish?

Typically, any white fish is used for Chinese steamed fish with ginger and spring onion such as sea bass, flounder, tilapia, haddock, flounder, and snapper.

How do I know which fish is best?

When choosing a fish, opt for a fresh fish with clear eyes, firm flesh, and a clean smell that is not fishy.

What is the idea of steaming time for steamed fish?

The time for steaming the Chinese fish will vary depending on the size of the fish. Generally, for 1-1.5 lb fish, you will steam for 10-12 minutes, and for 1.5-2lb fish, you will steam for 15-20 minutes.

How do you serve Chinese style steamed fish?

Cantonese steamed fish is typically served with rice and a side of vegetables such as bok choy or broccoli.

Did you make this Chinese Steamed Fish Recipe?

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Recipe

A table spread featuring a Chinese steamed fish.

Chinese Steamed Fish

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Chinese steamed fish made with fresh ginger, green onions, cilantro, and a tender white fish and topped with a seasoned soy sauce is the perfect showstopper for your next dinner!
Servings: 2 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb white fish gutted and descaled, sea bass, flounder or tilapia
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 6 stalks green onions julienned, whites and green separated
  • 2 inch knob ginger julienned
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro

Instructions

  • Prepare the fish. Gut the fish, and cut the fins from the sides and bottom of the fish with kitchen shears. Scrape against the fish to remove any remaining scales. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Clean the blood lin at the backbone of the fish. Place the fish onto a cutting board and slice the fish at a 45-degree angle on each side for more flavor to penetrate. Season both sides with the Shaoxing wine.
  • Season the fish. Place a few pieces of the white parts of the green onion and a few slices of ginger on the bottom of a heatproof plate. Then lay the fish on top. Stuff the fish with the white parts of the green onions and julienned ginger.
  • Steam the fish. Fill your steamer with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the fish into your steamer basket, and cover and steam over high heat for 10-12 minutes or until the fish is tender. The fish’s eyes will be opaque, the meat should be opaque and the bone lightly translucent when it is ready.
  • Mix the sauce. While the fish is steaming, in a small bowl, mix the light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, salt, white pepper, and water until combined and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Heat oil. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until the oil begins to smoke.
  • Transfer the fish. Remove the fish, place it on your serving plate, and remove the stuffing. Pour the sauce over the fish. Then, place the cilantro, and the green parts of the green onion and julienned ginger on top of the fish.
  • Drizzle and serve. Drizzle the hot oil over the green onion, ginger, and cilantro. Serve immediately with rice. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Choose fresh fish. Make sure to choose a fresh fish from a reliable source. A fresh fish will have clear eyes, shiny scales and a clean smell that is not fishy.
  • Have the fishmonger clean the fish. At most grocery stores, you can ask the fish monger to clean the scales off the fish and gut the insides of the fish. This will save you a lot of time.
  • Cook time will vary. You may need to adjust the timing depending on the size of your fish. Generally, for 1-1.5 lb fish, you will steam for 10-12 minutes, and for 1.5-2lb fish, you will steam for 15-20 minutes.
  • Opaque when cooked. The Chinese fish will be done steaming when the flesh and eyes are opaque and the meat should easily flake.
  • To curl the green onions. Place the thinly vertical sliced green onions in cold water to curl them up.
  • Storage Instructions: Ideally, this Chinese steamed fish recipe is best if enjoyed immediately after cooking. You can store this soy sauce fish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • Reheat: you can either steam the fish until warm or microwave covered until warm. The texture and quality of the steamed fish may change upon reheating.

Nutrition:

Calories: 461kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 2134mg | Potassium: 901mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 629IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3mg

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