Teochew steamed gunard

Teochew steamed gunard

“This Teochew style steamed fish with a heart-warming broth will rival
any classic French bouillabaisse in taste and flavour.”

Chopinand, Co-author of ChopinandMysaucepan


Along with French and Italian, Chinese is truly one of the great cuisines of the world because its food culture and history dates back thousands of years. Flavours, cooking style and ingredients are distinctively different as one travels across different regions in China.

Fine Cantonese cuisine has defined many great Chinese restaurants in major cities around the world over the last century. But increasingly, Chinese restaurants now feature food flavours from Sichuan, Hunan and many more lesser known regions of China.

One of my favourite ways to cook fish is the Chinese style of steaming. Unlike western cuisines where many recipes use fish cutlets and fillets, it is an important element of Chinese culture to cook and share a whole fish during family dinners and gatherings.

Chinese style steamed fish has different variations and one of the classic and most popular Cantonese recipes is using finely sliced ginger, shallots with a special light soy sauce.

This recipe works well with white flesh fish that has a soft texture such as coral trout, barramundi, grouper, parrot fish and morwong.

Whole gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

Whole 1.6 kg gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

My personal favourite is the Teochew style steamed fish where the use of salted plums gives this dish a slightly tangy broth that is truly appetising. Ladled over a bowl of steamed Jasmine rice, the fish soup adds so much flavour to a winter meal.

When I saw whole gunards at the Sydney Fish Market last weekend, I knew it was going to be a beautiful recipe to share with you.

The flesh is firmer than most white fish and they looked so fresh among all the seafood. My only regret is not taking a photograph of all those gunards huddled together in their their gleaming bed of shaved ice.

The best thing about Sydney seafood is the sheer variety and abundance.

This particular gunard is among the smaller ones that weighed 1.6 kilograms. At $6.99 per kilo, this fish is an absolute bargain at $11.20!

Find me a Sydney Chinese restaurant with this awesome steamed fish for $20 and I’ll be there.

Whole gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

Whole 1.6 kg gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

A reason which might explain why the gunard’s flesh is firmer is this fish does not have a protective armour of scales on its body.

The skin is completely smooth when you run your fingers along its body. You need to navigate around its hard protective skull to get to the soft flesh around the cheeks, eye-sockets, lips and gills.

For fish head connoisseurs, this is a maze made in heaven.

Essential ingredients: Salted plums, soup stock (bonito flavour), Shao Xing wine, pickled cabbage

Essential ingredients: Salted plums, soup stock (bonito flavour), Shao Xing wine, pickled cabbage

A good Teochew style steamed fish is all about the steaming hot, tangy broth that is great for a cold winter evening. This Teochew style steamed fish with a heart-warming broth will rival any classic French bouillabaisse in taste and flavour.

To get a good balance between a tangy and savoury taste in the broth, I recommend the Pun Chun brand of salted plums. The plums are  preserved in a clear salt brine and are soft enough to tear apart just before cooking.

The Ajishima brand of bonito-flavoured soup stock (or equivalent) is an absolutely essential ingredient to give the eventual stock the unmistakable umami flavour.

Most Teochew steamed fish recipes from South East Asia would use salted cabbage (or ‘harm choy’ in Cantonese) but I prefer using the Ma Ling brand of pickled cabbage because its salt intensity is subtle without any compromise in taste and it is convenient to cook with.

A few good splashes of Superfine Hua Tiao Chiew Shao Xing cooking wine will complete the taste and flavour complexity of the eventual broth.

Teochew steamed gunard

Teochew steamed gunard

This Teochew steamed gunard is truly an excellent winter warmer because it is a dish that has natural protein from the fish and soft tofu, vegetables from the tomatoes, shallots and coriander and most importantly, a heart-warming fish broth from the steaming process.

So here is my Teochew steamed gunard recipe to keep you warm this winter – Enjoy!!

All you need to accompany this fish while it is cooking in your oven is to prepare some steamed white rice.

Whole gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

Whole 1.6 kg gunard, grape tomatoes, pickled cabbage, soft tofu, sour plums, ginger & shallots

Soft and silky steamed tofu with fresh tomatoes, succulent fish and pickled cabbage in a tangy fish broth, this is one of my all-time winter favourites because it is a convenient and utterly heart-warming one dish wonder.

Presented properly, this is one beautiful dish to impress your friends with this winter!

So dear readers, what is your favourite dish to cook with in winter?

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19 Responses to Teochew steamed gunard

  1. I’ve eaten many kinds of fish growing up in Japan, yet I’ve never heard of Gunard before! I LOVE Chinese steamed fish. I love pouring the extra sauce over fish and eat it with rice (okay… my husband makes fun of me that Japanese always need rice to go with fish, but true!). Tofu is a good addition that I’ve never tried – must try it next time!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Nami,

      I think many Chinese would also eat steamed rice with fish too. The tofu would be similar to those in a bowl of piping hot miso soup.

  2. msihua says:

    That is one scary looking fish, but oh so delicious to think of!

  3. I’ve always felt attracted by Chinese cuisine (how many Chinese cuisines are there actually? There’s so much local variation), however I only got the experience of *real* Chinese cuisine in a small Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, San Francisco, 15 years ago. My parents and I were the only non-Asian people and had a hard time to read the menu (which was completely in Chinese), so we just ordered blindly. I remember I had some dish with straw mushrooms that were very hard to eat with chopsticks because they came in a slippery sauce. But they tasted very good!

    One of the things I especially love about Chinese cuisine is that there’s always a variety of dishes served at once and shared by everybody, so you can try everything you want and don’t have to stick with your own dish.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Kath,

      Some Chinese restaurants in SF would be quite good since there is a big Chinese population there and I can imagine how slippery mushroom can be to pick up with chopsticks especially if you don’t use them often. Sharing dishes among all the diners is really a big part of Chinese culture and I agree it’s a great way to try all the dishes compared to western style dining although we sometimes share western dishes as though we are eating it Chinese style.

  4. celia says:

    Now this is a new one to me, I’ll have to ask my folks about it! Looks and sounds delicious though! :)

  5. The look of the fish is kinda creeping me out, but I know it tastes delicious.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Tina,

      The fish does look quite gnarly but it was delicious and only bones at the end did not resemble that creepy look.

  6. Oh Gee!!
    I am sure the dish is amazing but OMG!!! I really don’t know if I could do it, the eyes and the mouth look like the fish is getting set to eat me!!!

    I love reading food blogs… it is such an opportunity to experience all different food styles and cultures. Thanks for sharing :)

  7. LOL wow at the opening pic! The fish looks as though it is ….smiling?

  8. Raymund says:

    Wow that fish looks so fresh!

  9. Oh my! Haha not sure I would be able to stomach that fish seeing it plated up with such an animated face!

  10. tigerfish says:

    I love steamed fish, or should I say steamed whole fish. I have not tried Gunard fish though. Is there any meaty flesh at the cheeks? 😛 This is authentic Teochew steamed fish with the salted plum.

  11. Never seen this Gunard fish before. Is it available in Melbourne? The spots resemble the ‘Siak pan’…… Garoupa. Teochew style steamed fish is quite popular here too.

  12. This is a very simple dish and the key to a successful steamed fish lies in the freshness of the star ingredient – Fish! Here we have Threadfin or what we locals called Ikan Kurau in Malay.

  13. Very simple to make, and delicious! I’ll definitely be making this again, and again. I love fish and with this recipe I can use lots of different types. Also, very little washing up, which is always good.

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