Easy Chinese steamed fish dinner

Chinese steamed fish and riceNeed a quick, no-fuss, healthy dinner? Steamed fish, rice, and green vegetables is my go-to meal that cooks in one versatile pan—a Chinese multi-layer steamer. With relatively little effort, I am rewarded with a complete meal highlighted by moist succulent fish.

The origin is Chinese. In a Hakka restaurant in Meizhou, China, we ate a steamed whole fish, very simply seasoned with a bit of ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, and green onions (page 39 in The Hakka Cookbook). Throughout China, we ate different variations of steamed fish, sometimes with fermented black beans, chiles, red peppers, and pickled mustard greens. In Meizhou, we also ate rice steamed in small clay bowls (page 270 in The Hakka Cookbook). I merge these two in this easy, quick meal. Chinese stacked steamer

With a big Chinese steamer this meal cooks efficiently in about 30 minutes.  I use a  self-contained multi-layer metal steamer. You could also use two stacked bamboo steamer racks over a 14-inch wok. Cook bowls of rice on one layer and fish on the top layer. When both are done, plunge vegetables into the boiling water in the base pan and cook briefly, then drain. Look for the steamers at the Wok Shop, Asian cookware stores and Asian supermarkets, and online. Choose steamers or bamboo steamer racks at least 11- to 12-inches wide to accommodate wide plates.

Steamed Fish and Rice for 2

In this easy version, I often use a piece of fish fillet. You can also use a small whole fish and increase the seasonings. Season fish as you like: choose from shiitake mushrooms slivers, sliced chiles, dried hot chile flakes, pickled mustard green slivers, lemon slices, fresh herbs. If desired, lightly mix the cooked green vegetables with Chinese oyster sauce and sesame oil to taste.

2/3 cup white long grain rice

12 to 16 ounces fish fillet such as rock fish, salmon, or halibut

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (shaoxing)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon thinly slivered fresh ginger

1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed (optional)

Salt to taste

1 green onion, thinly sliced or slivered, included tops

6 to 8 ounces Chinese green vegetable such as Chinese broccoli (gai lan) or yau choy (ends, trimmed and cut in 3-inch lengths), or baby bok choy (cut in halves or quarters lengthwise)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or sesame oil

Cilantro leaves (optional)

 

1.  Fill the base of a Chinese metal steamer half to two-thirds full of water or a 14-inch wok (if using bamboo steamer racks). Set wok over a ring if it has a round bottom to stablize.  Bring water to a boil over high heat.

2.  Rinse 1/3 cup rice in fine wire strainer; drain. Place rice in a small Chinese rice bowl (about 1 cup size). Fill bowl with 1/3 cup water. Repeat for second bowl. Repeat if you want additional bowls of rice. Place rice bowls in one steamer rack. When water boils, set filled steamer rack over water, cover and steam about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile rinse fish and pat dry. Place fish (skin-side down, if attached) on shallow heatproof dish (such as a 9-inch Pyrex pie pan) that will fit inside a steamer. Drizzle fish evenly with wine and soy sauce. Sprinkle evenly with ginger, black beans, and salt. Sprinkle white part of onion over fish. Set fish in second steamer rack.

4. After rice has steamed 15 minutes, set steamer rack with fish on top of rack with rice. Cover fish. (In a wok, you may need to add more boiling water as it evaporates.) Continue steaming until fish looks almost opaque in thickest part, 8 to 10 minutes for about 1 inch thick piece and rice is tender. In a wok, you may need to add more boiling water as it evaporates. When fish is done, lift off both steamer racks and set the stacked racks on a towel-covered counter. (Be careful, steam is very hot.) Keep steamer racks covered and allow fish to rest.

5.  Add more water to pan if pan is less than half full and return to boil over high heat. Add vegetable and cook until bright green and barely tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, place vegetable in a serving bowl.

6.  Sprinkle remaining green onions over fish. In a small pan over high heat, cook the vegetable oil until very hot and pour over green onions and fish. If using sesame oil, do not heat. Sprinkle fish with cilantro. Serve fish with rice and vegetables.

Learn the secret to moist chicken breasts

Last week my friend Lorraine Witte at The Chinese Lady posted a youtube video of the two of us cooking together. We cooked Steeped Chicken Breasts (page 22) with Fresh Ginger-Onion Sauce (page 66) from The Hakka Cookbook.

The recipe uses an easy Chinese steeping technique uses residue heat to gently cook chicken so the meat remains moist and juicy. Learn how to do it in this video. The zesty sauce of minced fresh ginger and green onion also uses a Chinese technique with boiling hot oil that preserves the fresh flavor of the ingredients but tames their harsh raw bite. Add these techniques to your go-to cooking secrets.

If you would like to see my other food videos check out the ones I have on grokker.com . I demonstrate how to cook Chinese dishes, some are Hakka. There is a free 14-day trial period if you register. Afterwards, use my personal discount code– lindaa9monthly –to get the reduced price of $9 a month. You are not limited to my recipes. There are almost 1700 food videos from 52 experts that teach baking to healthy cooking. Also if you are a yoga or fitness devotee, there’s over 80 teachers and1800 videos to choose from with a monthly price cheaper than a single yoga class.

Cooking classes at home

grokker videoInterested in watching cooking, yoga, and fitness classes at home on demand from your computer or other device? I cook Chinese dishes (including some Hakka recipes) on a subscription food and fitness website www.grokker.com  You will find 59 experts teaching cuisines from all over the world plus other topics such as healthy eating, baking, gluten-free, vegan, and techniques. After all that eating, choose from over 2000 yoga and fitness videos with topics that range from pilates to Hatha yoga.

Grokker is offering a special promotional price to my friends. For $99 for a 1-year subscription (45% off normal price) you have full access to the site. If you’re interested in this special price, use these codes: Checkout code: lindaa99 OR https://grokker.com/create-account/lindaa99 OR http://grok.kr/yhr9da  Cancel anytime.

For a preview glimpse, check out this video on how to cook Hakka Noodles with Pork and Mushroom Sauce.

Salt-baked shrimp

The Hakka Cookbook appears in Flavours July 2013 issue.

The Hakka Cookbook appears in Flavours July 2013 issue.

Last month a beautiful magazine arrived in the mail from Malaysia. A bookmark stuck between the pages of Flavours, a lifestyle magazine published in Kuala Lumpur, marked “The Hakka’s traveling kitchen,” a ten page story about The Hakka Cookbook. The writer, Julie Wong, interviewed me in Paris at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards where The Hakka Cookbook was recognized as the Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World.

The beautifully designed and photographed story featured five recipes from the book, adapting the recipes to their Malaysian readers, many who are Hakka.

I was curious about their version of salt-baked shrimp. I had eaten the shrimp in Beijing and Hong Kong. The shrimp version is likely adapted from the Hakka classic, salt-baked chicken. With no ovens, the Hakkas buried the chicken in a pit lined with hot rocks and salt. The salt absorbed the heat from the rocks and transferred it to the chicken. A chef from Beijing, suggested  the technique was invented by a clever Hakka who sold salt. Since the recipe requires pounds of salt, he could make a lot of money.

Hakkas who lived near the sea, likely created the shrimp version. Today’s chefs have replaced the pit with a large pan, and a flame under the pan for the hot rocks. The chef inserts a long skewer down the length of large head-on, unshelled shrimp. He buries the skewered shrimp in the pan of hot salt. The skewered shrimp are dramatically served in a wood bucket of hot salt as seen in the painting on the book’s cover.The Hakka Cookbook (med)

To adapt the recipe to a western home kitchen, I tried both the stove-top and the oven. On the stove, I found it was difficult to heat the salt evenly without stirring the heavy mass often. The salt also scratched the pan. So I decided to bake the salt in the oven in two pans. It takes longer, but requires no attention. Once the salt is hot, plunge the skewered shrimp, head first, into the salt in one of the containers, then pour remaining salt around shrimp. Return to oven, and shrimp will be done in a few minutes.

In Malaysia, a western oven is not so common, so the editors adapted my recipe to a technique of baking the shrimp (without skewers) in the salt on the stove top. Since the Flavours’ story is not available online without a subscription, they agreed that I could share their recipe and photos here. This recipe is for readers who live outside of North America and prefer to use a stove top.

For my oven technique and American measurements, please see page 62 in The Hakka Cookbook.

Original photos by Yap Chee Hong & various sources. Food prepared by Debbie Teoh.

Original photos by Yap Chee Hong & various sources. Food prepared by Debbie Teoh.

Salt-baked Shrimp (from Flavours July 2013 pg. 63)

Makes 2 to 3 servings as a main dish or 6 to 8 servings as an appetizer

500 g shrimps (16 to 20), in their shells

2 tablespoons minced spring onions

2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced red or green chilies

 3 kg rock salt, or as needed

With scissors or a small sharp knife, cut through the shell of the shrimp along the centre of the back and make a slit about 1 cm deep into the flesh. Remove the vein, if present, Rinse shrimp and drain.

In a bowl, mix shrimps, spring onions, wine, garlic, ginger, and chilies. Rub some of the marinade into the slit of the shrimp. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

To bake on stove top: Place the salt in an old wok or claypot, cover with lid, and heat until the salt is very hot, about 10 to 15 minutes. The prawn should turn pink immediately when it is buried in the salt.

Open lid and bury the shrimps in the hot salt. Put the lid back on and cook for about 1 minute, or to desired doneness. Remove shrimps from the hot salt.

Need a Chinese cooking teacher?

grokker videoA few months ago I was asked by Grokker.com to be one of their experts on their website which features cooking and fitness videos. It seemed a perfect fit for me since I love food and yoga. We spent four long days shooting cooking segments in my kitchen. This week three of my videos were released. I demonstrate some variations of recipes from The Hakka Cookbook and also show how to prepare some other popular Chinese dishes. I always loved developing recipes, especially for the home cook.

If you are interested in learning how to cook Chinese food, click on the following links. You will see about two minutes of the video and then it stops. To see the complete video, you will need to register (it’s free and easy). Once registered, you will be notified of my upcoming cooking demos. You can also view videos from other cooking and fitness experts. Since grokker.com is in beta stage (testing phrase), it is a great opportunity to register and visit the site now for free. Get recipes and lessons from cooking experts from gluten-free to ethnic.

I demonstrate some Hakka recipes in these videos. Click here to learn about the Hakka.  I tasted Chinese Eggplant with Pork (click here for video) in a  tea house in the Hakka village of Beipu in Taiwan. A Hakka woman from Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, shared her recipe for Chicken Fried Rice with Tomato Chutney; click here for video. Since Mauritius has a multicultural society, people often blend cuisines. She paired Chinese fried rice with an Indian-style fresh chutney to add a spicy hot taste.

Want to know how to cook Chinese broccoli like served in many restaurants? It is really easy, check out Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce. Click here for video.
Or see a short overview of my Grokker eggplant video. Click here for video on youtube. Join me at Grokker.com to learn how to cook Chinese food, my way.  I believe in realistic, simplified recipes for the home cook with authentic tastes. Share with your friends, especially those who love to eat but need some help in the kitchen.

 

How to make wontons

Ready to make wontons? Start with a great filling. I have a delicious option in The Hakka Cookbook, page 148. Ground pork is flecked with dried orange peel (use fresh, if you don’t have dried). Tianjin preserved vegetables (use soy sauce as a substitute) contribute a savory saltiness.  And chunks of water chestnut pebble the filling with crunchy texture. Use the mixture as a filling for wonton or pat it into even layer and steam to make a juicy pork hash, Chinese comfort food.

For wonton, wrap the filling in a square pasta-like wonton skin, available in supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. There are many ways to fill wonton. My three-year grand daughter proved that to be true as she created her own technique for filling them. When boiled, it doesn’t make much difference. When I wrote the recipe to make wontons, I tried to find the technique that would be the most easily understood without photos. Unfortunately, the publisher had no budget for photos but you can see them here.

Place filling in center of wonton skin. Fold skin over filling to make a triangle. Pull ends down and seal tips with a little beaten egg.

For fried or boiled wontons, try this method: Place a wonton skin on a flat surface with a corner facing you. Cover the remaining skins with plastic wrap to keep moist (this is important, if they dry out they will crack when folded). Mound 1 level teaspoon of the pork filling in the center of the wonton skin. Fold the bottom half of the skin over the filling to make a triangle. Moisten one side corner of the base of the triangle with a little beaten egg. Now this is where it gets tricky without visuals. Pull the side corners down below the filling and overlap; press to seal. They should sort of resemble a tortellini with a triangular flap. I wanted to say “resemble a nurse’s cap” but nurses no longer wear white starched caps with wing-like flaps.

Place filling in center of wonton skin. Gather wonton skin up and around filling. Squeeze gently so filling sticks to wrapper.

If this seems too complicated, you can simply drop the filling in the center of the wrapper. Bring the wonton skin up around the filling, gather the skin around the filling and gently press the moist meat to the wonton skin so it sticks. I think this method is better for boiled wonton, but they can be fried. They’re just not as pretty as the first method when fried.

The filled wonton can be placed on flour-dusted baking sheets. Cover them so they don’t dry out. When done filling the wonton, cook, refrigerate for up to 8 hours, or freeze. When solid, pack the frozen wonton in containers, ready to boil whenever you need a quick meal or snack.