Chinese Steamed Fish – a simple recipe using sea bream

Chinese New Year is just a week away, and fish is a must on the menu (年年有余), so we’d like to share this simple yet eye-catching steamed fish recipe. Fish cooks really quickly in the steamer, so once you’ve done all the prep work, it only takes 5-10 minutes before it’s done! Not only so, you won’t get all the oil splatters you’d get from stir-frying.

The “must” ingredients are fish (sea bream here, but you can also use other types of smaller fish with white meat such as halibut, pike, sunfish and carp), loads of ginger, spring onions and all the seasoning/sauce ingredients. The carrot, luncheon meat, shiitake mushroom and chillies are optional. However, if you decide to go without fresh chillies, then you can also add a little chilli sauce into the sauce at the end. The amount of chilli included here will make a very spicy version, so please tone if down as per your own taste!

We’re using seafood soy sauce here – you can usually find it with a green label. If you don’t have it, then use a light sauce sauce and add an extra teaspoon of oyster sauce, then 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.As the cooking time is so short, it’s absolutely necessary to fill the steaming pan with boiling water and only add the plate/bowl with fish once the water is boiling. It’s like preheating the oven!

Ideally you should marinate the fish overnight. Minimum time of marination is 30 minutes. Afterwards, prep time is roughly 15-30 minutes, depending on how complicated you make the design. Cooking time is 5-10 minutes, depending on how thinly you’ve sliced the fish. We’re using 10 minutes here as we’ve kept the fillets whole.


1 sea bream, cleaned and descaled
1 tbsps of Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tsp of salt
1 large piece of ginger
2 shiitake mushrooms
1 small section of carrot
50g of luncheon meat
2-4 red chillies
2-4 green chillies
2-4 spring onions
Small bunch of coriander
2 tbsp of seafood soy sauce
1 tsp of oyster sauce
A few drops of sesame oil


Prep step 1: cut off the head and tail of the sea bream, clean the fillets and remove any major bones. If you are planning to slice the fish into smaller pieces in the final design then do so now. If not, place the head, tail and fillets into a food bag, shake together the rice wine and salt then pour this into the bag, push out any air and leave the fish to marinate.

Step 1: take cut off a small piece of ginger and set aside. Slice the rest vertically into long strips. Place this at the bottom of a flat-ish bowl or plate so that the middle is covered.

Step 2: slice the shiitake mushrooms and arrange these at the edges of the bowl so that they don’t cover the ginger too much.

Step 3: slice the rest of the ginger, carrot and luncheon meat into half circles, as thinly as possible.

Step 4: remove the fish from the marinade and arrange it over the ginger. An example design is for the tail to rest in the middle, head vertical on top, then the two fillets to the side like wings.


Step 5: arrange the ginger, carrot and luncheon meat into a pattern on and around the fish. Make sure the ginger slices are on the fish.


Step 6: chop the chillies and arrange these over the design.


Step 7: chop the green parts of the spring onion vertically to form long slices. Remove one of the white sections and place it in the fish’s mouth.


Step 8: boil water to fill the steamer. Once it’s boiling on the hob, place the fish onto the hob and steam for 5 minutes on high heat, then 5 more minutes on medium. Remove the lid immediately.

Step 9: garnish with the green parts of spring onion and coriander. Place the lid back on for a minute without turning the heat back on.


Step 10: mix the sauce by shaking together the seafood soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Pour this over the fish, let it sit for a minute and it’s ready to serve!


A more complicated design to try would be the peacock steamed fish, though you’d need a very sharp knife and make sure that the stomach parts are all connected at the end.

Why not try this with our crab and tofu recipe this year?


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