I am not sure where I tasted this classic dish for the first time. It might have been on my early trips to Asia in the 1970s. I have often wondered whether I first savored the perfect pairing of steamed fish with thin shavings of ginger and scallion in Singapore back in the day when Raffles was a hotel and not a city, or in Taiwan at the oh-so-very-grand Grand Hotel that is featured in the classic film "Eat Drink Man Woman," or perhaps when I spent a day wandering around in Hong Kong dining with the legendary bon vivant, Willie Mark. In truth, culinary memories aside, I may have first had the dish in one of my favorite downstairs restaurants in New York's Chinatown, back in the day.
No matter what the genesis of my love for the dish, it has for decades been one of my go-to orders at Chinese restaurants around the world. The dish is one that is equally at home on a weekday dinner table and at a multi-course feast, and I delight in checking out the subtle ways that chefs take on the classic and transform it into their own.
Special equipment required: Steamer basket
- 1 (1½-pound) porgy, cleaned with head on
- 1 thumb-sized piece ginger, scraped and cut into thin matchsticks
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (Shaoxing wine)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 scallions, whites and 2 inches of green part, cut into thin matchsticks
- 5 sprigs cilantro
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- white rice, for serving
Rinse the fish with cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on to a heatproof plate that will fit into the basket of your steamer.2.
Place half of the ginger into the fish's cavity and spread the remaining amount on top of the fish, then season with salt and pepper.3.
Place water into the wok, making sure that it will not touch the bottom of the steamer. Set the steamer on top of the wok and bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place the plate with the fish in the steamer, cover and allow to steam for 8 to 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.4.
While the fish is cooking, mix the soy sauce, rice wine and water in a small bowl and reserve it.5.
When the fish is ready, carefully remove the hot plate from the steamer and pour off any liquid. Place the scallions and cilantro on top of the fish.6.
Heat the oils in a small saucepan until hot and pour them over the fish and aromatics to quickly cook them. Drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the dish and serve immediately with rice.