Steamed Fish (Teochew Style)

Fish is a common sight during meal time in my home (well, at my mom’s), something that I took for granted for many years until I started living in France. There, I started to miss having fish, not that France doesn’t have fish at all, but because I don’t know how to cook fish – steamed, pan-fried or oven baked. Luckily my in-laws came to my rescue 🙂. They love fish so I get my fix whenever we dine at their place. On the other hand poor hubby hates fish (too many bones he says!) and is a true red meat eater. However, he has since come a long way living with me – now he doesn’t mind eating salmon once a week. Now that’s a rare treat for me. If I want to eat any other fish, I will just have to cook it for myself and he will cook himself some other stuff. At least now I have Little One, it’s nicer to cook for 2 than 1. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how to cook for one.

My craving for this fish dish drove me to calling my mom from France for her recipe. As usual with all traditional Asian cooks (from grandmothers to mothers), there aren’t any exact measurements – just a bit of this & that, no exact timing either 😛. Like they say, once we have wok a few times in the kitchen, we’ll do the same like our mothers & grandmothers. I know I did with some dishes, I stopped weighing and just know the approximate amount by eye.

So when my friend Emilie (was my classmate at Nantes’ University) came and spent a week with us in May, she wanted to sample some of these delicious Singapore food that she heard me bragging all the time at the university. I thought this dish would be a wonderful representation of what home-cooked Singapore food is all about, besides the Char Kway Teow, Satay and my Mutton Curry.

Steamed Fish (Teochew Style)
  • 1 seabass or pomfret (scaled and cleaned)
  • fresh coriander
  • spring onion
  • light soya sauce
  • salt
  • sesame oil
  • ginger (cut into fine thin slices)
  • sour pickled mustard (cut into thin slices)
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes (cut into slices)

Steamed Fish Teochew Style

  1. Prepare steamer (I use my big wok).
  2. Make 2 or 3 diagonal slits on each side of the fish (depending on how big your fish is).
  3. Place the fish on a big dish, rub a bit of salt, light soya sauce onto both sides of the fish including inside the belly of the fish.
  4. Sprinkle some ginger, coriander, spring onion and preserved pickled mustard on the dish (underneath the fish).
  5. Stuff some of the same inside the belly of the fish.
  6. Sprinkle the rest of it on top of the fish.
  7. Drip a bit of sesame oil on top of the fish.
  8. Placed a few slices of tomatoes on top of the fish and the rest around it.
  9. Place the dish inside the steamer and steam it until the fish eyes popped out which signifies fish is cooked.
  10. Serve hot with white rice.

Steamed Fish Teochew StyleSteamed Fish Teochew Style

The Verdict

The aroma of this dish is enough to make your stomach go growling – the mix of tomato, ginger & seasoning giving off a sourish sweet fragrant smell that fills the air. The fish is very tender and fragrantly immersed with the spices. Do not waste the sauce – it’s full of flavour and goes very well with rice. My friend Emilie loved it very much.


Normally this dish is usually steamed with the above ingredients plus 1 or 2 sour/pickled plums, sprinkled with a tiny pinch of sugar. However if you don’t have sour plums in your kitchen like me, it will taste as good sans it.:-) If you like to have some spicy kick for your taste buds, put a few freshly sliced chili over the fish before putting it to steam. It tastes excellent.

For a prettier presentation, remove the steamed coriander and spring onion from the dish and just sprinkle some fresh ones on top right before serving. Some would even remove the fish, put it on a new platter, prepare fresh seasoning and pour it all over the fish and decorate it with fresh coriander and spring onions. As far as I’m concerned, I like it the way it comes out of the steamer.

Steamed Fish Teochew Style