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Steamed Fish

Growing up, we had steamed fish three to four times a week. It was a different type of fish each time with a slight variation on the toppings. It was never boring although it made such regular appearances on our dinner table.

Any white fish is good for this recipe. Here in France I've used Sebaste (rockfish), Julienne (ling), Cabillaud (cod), Bar (seabass) to name a few. In Asia we almost always cook our fish whole. Here I also tend to cook fish whole, but occasionally for the sake of serving convenience, I do opt for filets.

Ginger is used in the Asian as lemons are used in the Western style of cooking fish. This steamed fish is light and delicate with layers of flavours. It has the freshness of the ginger, the tang of the salty preserved vegetables, the earthiness of the mushrooms, the fragrance of the toasted sesame seed oil, the spice of the fresh chili (which I didn't have this particular day and so its not in the photo)... need I go on?

This dish is very easy to put together. The only thing to remember to do a little in advance is to reconstitute the dried mushrooms by soaking them in hot water for about fifteen minutes. Otherwise fresh shiitake mushrooms will be a perfect substitute for the dried.

Another version of this steamed fish is using preserved sour plums instead of mustard leaves. I've also used fresh sliced lemons and topped with spring onions or left over radish that was dying a slow death in the fridge. Other days I've served fish garnished with some young beetroot greens.

This is the best way I love to eat fish: steamed. When you have a good piece of fresh fish, there is nothing much you need to do it. Filet of the ling fish is commonly found in French markets. Not to be confused with the cuts of vegetables called Julienne (which, strictly, are long thin cut vegetables), the ling is a fish not so different in taste and texture to cod. I have a little bamboo steaming basket which I find extremely useful that I place over a wok of boiling water, but honestly, you can steam this any method you like. You may use your electric multi-tiered steamer or the steam function of your microwave oven.

The only thing you may be unfamiliar with in this recipe is the preserved mustard leaves which you are able to find in an Asian grocery store. You need only a small amount, but the rest will keep very well in an airtight container in the fridge. When I have not had any in my fridge, I have simply used some lemon slices.

This steamed fish makes for very good solitary eating. It demands little effort, is not at all fancy but makes you feel like you are eating properly and with no guilt attached. Just reduce the recipe and adjust accordingly. You can’t go too wrong even if you have just the slightest notion of cooking! If you are entertaining, you can prepare everything in advance and just put it in the steamer when your guests arrive.

Steamed Fish


serves 6 to 8

Prep Time 15 mins/Cook Time 15 mins/Total Time 30 mins

  • 800 g ling filet (filet de Julienne)

  • salted preserved mustard leaves, soaked in water for 5 minutes

  • 1 small shallot, peeled and sliced thinly

  • 2 cm length ginger julienned

  • 6 - 8 cherry tomatoes

  • 1 tbsp soya sauce

  • pepper

  • 1 tbsp sesame seed oil

  • handful of coriander or spring onions

  • a few slices of fresh red chilli, sliced thinly


  1. Get your steamer ready.

  2. Wash and pat dry the fish fillets with a paper towel, cut into single-sized portions.

  3. Squeeze out water from soaking mustard leaves and cut them into long strips.

  4. In a shallow bowl, place half of the cut mustard leaves, then the pieces of fish. Layer over the top the remaining mustard leaves, ginger, shallots and tomatoes.

  5. Season with a pinch of white ground pepper, soya sauce and sesame seed oil.

  6. When your steamer is ready, put the fish to steam about 15 minutes.

  7. Remove carefully, garnish with sliced red chillis, coriander or spring onions. Serve hot.


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