“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
- 1 whole gunard or equivalent white flesh fish such as barramundi, coral trout or parrot fish
- 10 pieces soft white tofu, cut into small cubes
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved (or ripened truss tomatoes)
- 1 small knob ginger, finely julienned
- 1 can Ma Ling pickled cabbage
- 5 Pun Chun brand salted plums, torn apart, do not discard seed
- 3 heaped tablespoon Ajishima brand of bonito-flavoured soup stock, dissolved with 3 cups of cold water
- 5 tablespoon Superfine Hua Tiao Chiew Shao Xing cooking wine
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 large red chilli, finely julienned
- 3 – 4 stalks shallots, finely julienne
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced and cooked with 6 tablespoon cooking oil until crispy and golden brown (see Tips below)
- Lightly score the fish on each side of its body with a sharp kitchen knife to promote even cooking and to allow flavours to permeate the flesh.
- Salt the fish with 2 – 3 teaspoon of cooking salt.
- Place the fish in a large baking dish and add tofu, tomatoes. ginger, pickled cabbage, salted plums.
- Pour into the baking dish the 3 cups of bonito-flavoured fish stock and Shao Xing wine.
- Add a few sprigs of julienne shallots onto the fish and sprinkle with some white pepper.
- Completely cover the baking dish with its glass cover or seal the entire baking dish with aluminium foil.
- Depending on the size of the fish, place entire baking dish in pre-heated oven of 180 degrees Celcius and cook for approximately 30 minutes. For this particular 1.6 kg gunard, it was steamed in a 180 degrees Celcius oven for 35 minutes. It was nicely cooked, that is, the texture of the flesh should be firm yet succulent without any hint of mushiness which is the first signs of over-cooking.
- Once cooked, remove the cover / foil and sprinkle all the remaining garnish of shallots, coriander and chilli over the fish. Then pour the boiling hot garlic oil over the fish to sear the garnishes.
- An easy way to cook the diced garlic is to put it in a small bowl together with the 6 tablespoon of cooking oil and microwave for approximately 2 – 2.5 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Be cautious as over-cooked garlic tastes bitter and should not be used.
- If you do not have a baking dish with a glass cover, ensure the entire baking dish is completely sealed with aluminium foil to prevent moisture from escaping during the steaming process.
- Be cautious not to over-cook / steam the fish. If the fish is under-cooked. it can still go back into the oven but not when it is over-cooked.
- Soak the julienne shallots in cold water to refresh and remove any overpowering ‘onion’ aromas before using.
- This dish is best accompanied by steamed white Jasmine rice.
All you need to accompany this fish while it is cooking in your oven is to prepare some steamed white rice.
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?