Steamed fish with black bean sauce and tomato

Chinese New Year is just a week away. In Chinese tradition, fish is always a must have for the festive meal. Fish is auspicious to symbolise there will always be plenty year after year. In Chinese phrase it is called 'nian nian you yu' 年年有餘 or 年年有魚. Here the word fish 魚 sounds the same as 餘 which means plenty left.

Steamed fish is very popular for any Chinese festive meals. Fish for steaming should always be fresh not frozen because frozen fish tends to be tougher, less juicy and can smell quite fishy.

Steamed fish with black beans is a common Chinese recipe. I have modified this to suit my taste. This is probably one the most repeated recipes I have done. It's quick, easy and irresistibly scrummy.

The recipe is steamed fish with a black bean sauce topped with tomato slices. The final touch or step of this recipe I find very important is to pour sizzling hot oil over the spring onion and sauce which really brings out the flavour. Adding tomato is something I learnt from mum which adds a sweet and sour taste and mellow down the strong flavour of black beans.

For the fish any fresh juicy fish is fine with or without bones/skin. I have done the same recipe with salmon, trout, whole lemonsole, skate wings and super fresh cod. If you want to do this for special occasion you can use monk fish or turbot. Mackerel is too fishy smelling for this recipe unless is it super fresh straight from the sea. If you use fresh tuna cooked it medium rare or it will be too tough cooked through. Sword fish or similar large fish is far too meaty and tough for steaming. If you are outside UK, you can use any other fresh local fish. Fish fillet, fish steak with bone or whole fish are all suitable. Fish with skin make sure you remove the scales.

Here is the recipe,


300 - 400g whole fish or thick chunky fish fillet or steak, for this time I used salmon fillet
1 large tomato
some finely shredded ginger
some finely shredded spring onion

For the sauce:
2 tbsp fermented black beans or dousi (whole beans not sauce in a jar)
2 - 3 tsp light soy sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
some red chilli, chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
pinch of sugar
1 tsp cornflour mix with 1 tbsp water
few drops of sesame oil

Sizzling oil:
2 tbsp of cooking oil
1 slice of ginger
few sichuan peppercorns

Before steaming
  1. Clean and put the fish onto a deep dish. 
  2. Make the sauce. Rinse the beans then mashed it with a fork. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Microwave for 15 - 20 seconds till sauce is thickened. Stir and spread this sauce on the fish. (precooking the sauce thickens it so it will coat the fish then slip down onto the bottom of the dish.)
  3. Cut the tomato into thick slices. Spread them on the sauce. 
  4. Spread the shredded ginger on top.
  5. Get the steamer ready. When water is boiling heat high and steam for 8 - 10 minutes. To check if the fish is cooked pierce the thickest part with one chopstick if goes in easily it's cooked through. If you use a electric steamer this may take a bit longer to cook. If you don't have a steamer, you can cook this in the oven. To cook in oven make a few adjustments; i.e. add 2 - 3 tbsp of boiling water onto the bottom of the dish to create steam and keep the fish moist, cover the dish with foil and cook/roast at 200 deg for about 20 - 30 minutes. Or alternately, this can also be cooked in the microwave. You will need some extra water like oven method, cover the dish with a lid or cling (piece with a hole or two) then microwave at medium high heat for about 6 - 8  minutes.   
  6. When the fish is cooked. Turn the heat off. Heat couple of tbsp of cooking oil in a small pan, add ginger slice and sichuan peppercorns heat till the oil is fragrant. Remove ginger and Sichuan peppercorns with a slotted spoon. Quickly spread the spring onion onto the fish, do not cover with lid. While you spread the spring onion, continue heating the oil at medium low heat till slightly smoky. Stand back and pour the hot oil over the spring onion and sauce. This will sizzle rapidly and wilted the spring onion. 
  7. Ready to serve straight away. 
Pour the hot oil onto the dish. Sorry for a very fussy picture I was too busy pouring the oil than focusing the camera. No second chance!
This recipe is enough for up to 2 persons. If you cook for more people increase the quantity and cooking time. Steaming time for double the quantity will probably take another 3 - 5 minutes more.


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