Chinese Steamed Fish Teochew Style
This steamed fish is a Teochew dish that I grew up eating at home or at a restaurant with my family in Penang, Malaysia. Teochew is a small ethnic Chinese community group in Penang. The early Teochew descendants came from Guangdong province in China during the mid-19th century. The early settlers came to work in the plantations on the mainland strip of Penang state, then known as the Province Wellesley. Some of the early Teochew settlers eventually resided on the island side of Penang and worked as traders in wholesale for dried food.
Although the Teochew community is small in Penang, they like to keep a low profile in terms of their wealth and success on the island, which is largely a Chinese Hokkien community. Penang Teochew food is quite different from Penang Chinese Hokkien food. Penang Hokkien food has evolved over centuries influenced by the local Malays and Indians, adopting the local tastes and flavours, whereas the Teochew has kept to their food custom and tradition with a mild subtle flavour and almost none or less competing flavours in spices and chillies.
Growing up in a Penang Chinese Hokkien family, my palate is more accustomed to food with strong tastes and flavours. However, if there is one Teochew dish that I loved most, it is the Teochew steamed fish that is salty, sour and sweet. As a Hokkien, I love my chilli so I added a bit of kick in my Teochew steamed fish with a bit of spiciness.
Prepare the fish for steaming
Cut all the ingredients into thin slices and strips
Assemble all the ingredients and fish on a steaming plate or tray
Steam the fish
Garnish the fish with spring onions, coriander and fried garlic
How to make
Rinse, clean and pad dry the fish. Slit both sides of the fish and sprinkle a bit of salt and ground white pepper. Rub all over the fish including the inside of cavities. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Cut the shiitake mushrooms into thin strips. To soften the dried mushrooms, they need to be pre-soaked in warm water for 20 minutes. Set aside.
Wash and cut the spring onions into thin strips. Set aside.
Wash and roughly chop the coriander leaves. Set aside.
Wash and cut the long red chilli into thin strips. Set aside.
Cut the tomato into thin strips. Set aside.
Cut the silken soft tofu into thin strips. Set aside.
Peel the ginger skin. Then cut into thin slices. Set aside a 4-5 thin slices, and slice the remaining into finely thin strips. Set aside.
Wash and rinse the preserved mustard green stem. Then cut into thin strips. Set aside.
Squash and remove the seeds of the preserved salted plum. Put the flesh in a small bowl and add about 1 tablespoon of the salted plum juice from the jar. Set aside.
B. Prepare the fish for steaming
First place a few slices of tomato and mushrooms in the centre of a steaming tray or plate. Then place the fish on top.
Stuff some ginger slices in the cavity of fish.
Place all the ingredients around the fish - sliced tomato, sliced mushrooms, sliced chilli, sliced tofu. Then place the squashed salted plum over the ingredients with the salted plum juice.
Add 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 cup of water over the fish and ingredients.
C. Cooking - steaming the fish
Add water in the steamer or pan or wok and bring to a boil.
Once water is rapid boiling, place the fish (in the steaming plate or tray) to sit slightly above the water surface. Steam the fish for 10-13 minutes depending on the type and size of fish.
Once fish is steamed and cooked, remove from the steamer.
Garnish with sliced spring onions and chopped coriander leaves.
Heat up 1/4 - 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Once oil is hot, pour over the garnishes and fish.
Sprinkle with some homemade fried garlic and drizzle of garlic oil.
A whole fish (I used red snapper in this recipe. You can use any firm white fish)
1 large knob of Chinese preserved mustard green stem
3 pieces of Chinese preserved salted plums
1 fresh long red chilli
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 large knob of fresh ginger, about 3 inches thick
1 spring onion
1 sprig of coriander leaves
1 small punnet of silken soft tofu
1 fresh tomato
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 cup of water