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Dec 17, 2012

Chinese Style Ginger Steamed Fish

After going to Kam Sen, I was definitely feeling the Asian theme, and I didn’t want to eat my bean curd salad alone, so…. I had stumbled upon a recipe for ginger steamed fish a while ago but didn’t make it because I couldn’t find any good fresh fish and no bok choy to boot. But, while I was in White plains, I decided to cruise over to Eastchester Fish Market, a small fish shop with four large cases filled with fresh, never frozen fish, and it was my lucky day because they had a tray full of thick, glistening halibut steaks. You could really use any white flesh fish like striped bass, sole, flounder, trout, etc, but I think the fatty, buttery and firm flesh of the halibut would stand up to the strong ginger flavor well.

When I got home, I did a little research and found a very simple recipe on accompanied by a great demonstration video by Culinary Institute of America’s Chef Shirley Cheng. The dish was very, very easy to make and after goofing around experimenting with the spicy pepper bean curd stick salad for a couple hours, I was grateful to have a quick and easy dinner recipe. I did not have a basket steamer that would fit a large bowl in it, so I just put two small panna cotta ramekins in the bottom of my broadest stock pot with a couple of inches of water and placed a large shallow bowl with my fish filets on top of them and sealed the pot with a tight lid to improvise.

I really liked the results, the flavor was very delicate and the shot of piping hot oil at the end released all the fragrance of the scallions and ginger. The best part was the texture of the halibut, which I had never steamed before. it was perfectly moist and fork tender, yet the thickness of the filets and the skin helped hold the flesh together. For me, the start ingredient was the five spice powder. Five spice powder is a common Chinese spice blend that has many variants (like masalas), but the most common mixture includes star anise, cloves, and cinnamon, sichuan pepper and ground fennel. A little bit goes a long way, so just a dash of this spice really adds a lot of complexity.  

My only complaint was that there could have been more ginger flavor. In some bites, I would get a matchstick of ginger and the ginger would be overpowering, however in other bites without ginger, the flavor was unrecognizable. I would tweak this by mincing the ginger and adding a dash of ginger juice to the marinade to infuse the dish.

Ginger steamed halibut with baby bok choy

Adapted from Epicurious July 2008 “Steamed Scallion Ginger Fish Fillets with Bok Choy”

Bok Choy Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds baby bok choy

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 2 tablespoons water


Trim off tough bottoms of each head, separate leaves and rinse thoroughly.

Heat oil in wok until hot and then fry ginger, scallions and garlic until fragrant (about 45 seconds). Stir in bok choy, salt, sugar, pepper and water and mix to coat evenly and then cover for 2 minutes.

Remove lid, stir again and remove from heat.

Ginger Steamed Halibut Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup Shaohsing rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
    • 1 teaspoon ginger juice
    • 2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 8 pieces
    • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely minced
    • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 8 scallions (white and green parts), cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths, then thinly julienned lengthwise


Combine soy sauce, sugar, rice wine and five spice powder and drizzle 1 tbsp. of the mixture over each fish fillet (reserve remaining marinade for later). Place ginger on top of each fillet and refrigerate for 15 minutes to marinate.

Place steamer basket in a large saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place plated fish into basket and cover to steam for 7-8 minutes or until done.

Remove fish from steamer to clean plate. Heat vegetable oil in small skillet until hot. Garnish fish fillets with scallions and drizzle with remaining marinade. Drizzle hot oil over fish fillets and serve immediately.