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潮式蒸午鱼 Teochew-styled Steamed Threadfin

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Haven’t had Teochew-styled steamed fish in quite a while. This used to be such a common and popular fare on our dining table, but since my mum passed on and my sister moved out after she got married, this dish stopped appearing for quite a while. Just two weeks back I saw my friend Hock Chai from Zi Zai Restaurant in Penang featuring this dish on his facebook and sent me craving to have a taste of it again.

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As with all forms of steamed fish, the subject must be fresh, just bought from the wet market earlier in the morning. The gills must be still crimson red with laden with mucus while the scales glistening and the eyes clear. The fresher the fish, the less you have to do and add to enjoy its succulence and sweetness. There are two main ways to prepare steamed fish, i.e. (1) steam the fish with all the ingredients and condiments added at the same time or, (2) steam the fish as it is with very little seasoning if not at all, or only with some slices of ginger. A sauce is then prepared and drizzled over the fish, often with hot scallion oil as well just before serving.  I prepare steamed fish both ways and enjoy them equally and thoroughly. Teochew-styled steamed fish follows usually the first method which is generally thought of as more traditional and old-school.
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Even within Teochew styled steam fish, there are a few “standard options”. The combination of pickled plums in brine and salted vegetables is by far the most common for many. Silken tofu, chinese mushrooms and tomatoes are added to steam together as “sides”  as they mop up the juices that are so full of flavour. For many older folks, this single dish alone is enough to make one hearty meal!
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At home, white pomfret 白鲳 or Chinese pomfret 斗鲳 is usually the fish of choice for this dish, but no thanks to Chinese New Year, seafood prices have gone up quite a bit over the last week or so. Thus, I followed Hock Chai’s lead and used black spotted threadfin 午鱼/马友鱼 for yesterday’s dinner. Threadfin, also known as ikan kurau is one of our favorite fish at home too, often steamed with just slices of ginger and fermented soya beans aka taucheo. We also eat it with steamboat! But steaming it Teochew-style is a first for me!

Teochew-styled Steamed Threadfin 潮式蒸午鱼 (serves 2-3)

Ingredients and Mise en Place

1 medium sized threadfin, gills and innards removed, sliced lengthwise to open up . If the flesh is thick, make diagonal cuts also the flanks of the flesh as well.

1 box of silken tofu, cut into large chunks

2-3 chinese mushrooms, pre-soaked and sliced

1 thumbsize knob of ginger, finely julienned

1 large red chilli, julienned

1-2 bracts of chinese salted vegetables (咸菜) , washed thoroughly to remove excess brining liquids and julienned

2 medium tomatoes or 1 large tomato, cut into large chunks

2 salted plums pickled in brine (酸梅)

1 tbsp of cooking oil

2-3 tbsp of water

1 stalk of Chinese coriander and spring onion each, rinsed and chopped into long strips.

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Bring a large wok of water to a strong boil. Meanwhile prepare fish.

Add water onto steaming plate and place fish opened up into a “butterfly”. Request fishmonger to cut it open if one is not confident of doing it.

Scatter julienned ginger over the fish and tug some under as well.

Gently squeeze the sour plums to break them apart and place over fish.

Arrange tofu cubes, tomato and mushroom slices on the sides.

Place julienned salted vegetables and red chili over fish as well as tofu

Drizzle cooking oil over the top of the fish

Place plate only a steaming rack over fast boiling water, and steam for about 10-15 min, depending on the size of the fish and thickness of flesh. The eyes of the fish turn cloudy white and JUST pop out of their sockets. Do not oversteam the fish as it would lose its succulence.

Scatter chopped spring onions, Chinese coriander leaves over.

Serve immediately with piping hot rice.

Try this at home! Super easy and so gratifying for dinner. Just make sure that the fish is fresh! Otherwise, pop by my friend Hock Chai’s 自在饭店 Zi Zai Restaurnt when you are in Penang for this simple but delicious dish!

Meanwhile, take a look at my family’s Teochew-styled Braised Duck and Teochew Taro Paste (Orh Nee) for an all-rounded Teochew fanfare!

Teochew-styled Braised Duck 潮式卤水鸭

Teochew Orh Nee 潮式芋泥

10 responses

  1. I’m happy to have just this with a bit of rice. Yum Yum!

    January 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yes! I love to drizzle the sauce/juices collected at the bottom of the plate after steaming onto hot rice and eat it as it is! so flavourful!

      January 25, 2013 at 9:13 am

  2. chefnsommelier

    Hi Alan! I love fish steamed Teochew style more than Honk Kong or any other styles. The juice is just so tasty to go with rice.

    There is this Teochew eatery (许德盛) at Joo Chiat area where I visit at least once a month to fix my craving for this dish. Go try it if you have the chance.

    January 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yes!!! another fan of the fish steaming juices!!! Must check out the eatery you’d mentioned one of these days! thanks for the heads up

      January 25, 2013 at 9:14 am

  3. Hi Alan! I love both Teochew and Hong Kong steamed style and I love it when my mom makes this dish. I agree during CNY the prices of fish is really crazy! Can’t wait for CNY to be over so I can bug my mom to make this again haha 😉

    January 24, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha no need to wait until CNY’s over Jasline! Just make it yourself! super easy…. but during CNY, don’t eat salted vegetables or drink porridge on the first day. Chinese pantang!

      January 25, 2013 at 9:15 am

      • Oh I didn’t know about that, but come to think of it, I think my grandparents (they are the chefs for CNY) never cook these on the first day, there is always lots of meat instead!

        January 25, 2013 at 9:18 am

  4. Alan, you just reminded me another way of steaming the fish. Slice them into half! and that fish certainly looks fresh!

    January 25, 2013 at 8:10 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      I always tell the fishmonger to prepare it for me by telling them to “butterfly” the fish. Saves me the hassle of doing it myself!

      January 25, 2013 at 9:16 am

  5. Pingback: 豆豉炒魟鱼 Stir Fried Stingray with Fermented Black Beans | travellingfoodies

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