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Cecilia Chiang’s Steamed Fish

This recipe appeared in The Mandarin Way cookbook by Ceclia Chiang. To read Mark Eshman’s, “In the elevator with Mrs. Chiang,” click here.

1 rock cod, carp, sea bass or red snapper, 2-3 pounds
5 scallion tops, 4 inches long
3 slices ginger root, 1/4 inch thick
garnish: 4 scallions, finely shredded, and fresh coriander

2 1/2 tablespoons cottonseed oil
3 drops sesame seed oil
3 or 4 drops light soy sauce
dash of Chinese cooking wine

Make incisions one-half inch apart on both sides of the fish (Lay the fish on a chopping block, holding the head firmly in a cloth since it is apt to slip, and with a Chinese cleaver make an incision about an inch below the gills, with the blade upright and parallel to the side of the fish. When the skin is penetrated, slice in a semicircular motion, across the width of the fish, with the blade angled slightly inwards. This makes a deep slash to the bone. Repeat the slashing at inch internals–there will be five or six–down the fish on both sides).

Arrange the scallions on a platter, and lay the fish on its side on top; stick the slices of ginger into the incision nearest the head.

Place the platter on a rack in a wok or roasting pan (having brought some water in the pan to a boil first). Cover, and steam for 17 to 18 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the cottonseed oil with the sesame seed oil, soy sauce and wine, and cook for two to three minutes to blend the flavors. When the fish is ready to be served, pour the sauce over it, and garnish with the scallions, shredded lengthwise, and some chopped coriander. The fish thus prepared has just sufficient seasoning to bring out, rather than mask, its delicacy, and in that respect is typical of the restraint of the northern Chinese cuisine.


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