A light, steamed fish dish with big, bold flavors
The first time I had to test a recipe for steamed fish was back in the '80s, when I was working in the test kitchen at Gourmet magazine. And truthfully, the very idea seemed preposterous.
Steaming anything over water had always struck me as boring. And the idea that you could count on a good result by applying such an intense method to a protein as delicate as fish seemed highly unlikely.
But the recipe in question relied on the Chinese method of steaming fish, and I became a believer the very first time I tried it. As is typical in Chinese cuisine, the secret is in the seasoning. Given their blandness, fish are a wonderful canvas for intense ingredients such as ginger, chilies and toasted sesame oil. Steaming them concentrates and amplifies their flavors. And an added bonus is that steaming requires very little fat.
This recipe works wonderfully using any thin fillet of fish, including char, catfish, trout and striped bass. And if you increase the cooking time, you can swap in any number of thicker fillets, including cod, sablefish and halibut. How do you know when the fish is cooked? Stick a knife through it. If it goes through easily, it's done.
For this recipe I chose tilapia because it is a sustainably raised farmed fish. I prefer American-raised, as the quality is much higher than imported.
Ideally, you'd cook this fish in a Chinese bamboo steamer. But if you don't have one of those, you can use a collapsible metal steamer lined with foil. I love those steamer baskets. They are great for steaming vegetables or meat, fit into most saucepans, store easily and are virtually indestructible. I'm still using one I bought during my college days.
This recipe is quick, healthy and delicious. You might want to think of it as a jumping-off point for other steamed fish dishes. In fact, if — like most of us — you're recovering from a month or two of holiday overindulgence, this little gem could enter your regular rotation as a lighter dish for the new year.
Chef Sara Moulton writes this column for the Associated Press.
Chinese-Style Steamed Tilapia
Start to finish: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)
5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
11⁄4 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 4 portions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
3 green onions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced (about 1⁄3 cup)
1⁄2 large jalapeno chili or 1 serrano chili, very thinly sliced crosswise
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the sake or sherry, ginger, 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil and the cornstarch. Transfer the mixture to a zip-close plastic bag, add the tilapi, then shake to coat the fish with the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Fit the pan with a steamer basket, then line the basket with foil. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Bring the water to a boil.
Remove the fillets from the bag, then arrange them on the foil, folding if necessary to make them fit. Pour the marinade over the fish. Cover and steam the fish for 3 to 6 minutes, or until just cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over high, heat the vegetable oil until hot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the scallions and chili and cook for another minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Transfer the fillets to plates and spoon the mushroom mixture over them. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 330 calories (170 calories from fat), 20 grams fat (3 gram saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 830 milligrams sodium
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Virginia county hears arguments on proposed smoking ban
- City, Jordan Miles continue fight over legal costs
- Steelers are in familiar territory going into training camp in Latrobe
- Truck crashes into Dairy Queen, five injured in Penn Hills
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- MSA Safety posts drop in profit
- Scientists: Earth in midst of 6th ‘mass extinction’
- Beaver DA believes girls might have lived had dad responded faster
- Fishing report: Pymatuning walleye fishing remains tough
- Friday’s scouting report: Pirates at Rockies
- Poverty programs would be merged