asian, Fish, Seafood

Asian Steamed Whole Fish


So one of the items on my food bucket list was to cook an entire fish….it just seems so exotic and different that I had always been too intimidated to try it. But then….one day I was shopping at Target and on the one of the sale racks they had this bamboo steamer and I figured, yes, I definitely needed it.

I’m going to be honest here….while the fish was moist and delicious – eating an entire fish with bones in it was kind of annoying. It was hard to pick through and I bit into one too many bones…so while I am glad I did it – I don’t know if I will want to eat a whole fish again! A fillet would be just as delicious and easier to eat! N loved it…he picked his clean. The good thing is that this recipe can be adjusted to use fillet as well as whole fish – so whatever your preference is – go for it!

Here’s what you’ll need: fish (I used black sea bass), sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallions, and lemon.

To cook fish in a bamboo steamer – line the bottom rack of the steamer with parchment paper or use a small plate that fits into the steamer – but leaves room for the steam to come through the bottom. All of my plate were too large or too small. Make sure when using the parchment paper that you also leave room for the steam to escape and move through the steamer.

Prepare the fish: Remove any scales and fins from the fish and then slice three large slits into the side of the fish. I got my fish without heads….which was nice. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry completely with paper towels.

Mince the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Then stuff that mixture into the slits of the fish and spread the rest on top so it looks like this:

Place fish into the steamer (on top of the parchment paper) and sprinkle the soy sauce and sesame oil on top of the fish. Finally, slice a lemon into thin slices and lay the lemons on top of the fish.

Finally – it’s time to steam! Get a pot that is slightly smaller than the steam filled up with water ½ way. Heat the pot over medium high heat until boiling. Now you just place the bamboo steamer on top of the pot and let it simmer away. Be careful not to let the water get to a jumping boil b/c otherwise you’ll boil your fish!

The fish took about 25 minutes to cook….I was surprised it took that long. I also cooked snow pea pods on the top bamboo rack…..which….lesson learned – overcooked! Next time I’ll add them in after the fish has been cooking if the fish take longer than 5 minutes.

And then that’s it – the fish is ready to eat. It was a really fun way to cook food….I’m excited to keep using the steamer to cook other fish and veggies!


Asian Steamed Whole Fish
Serves 2

2 sea bass whole fish – or two 8 ounce fish fillets
1 lemon
2 t. low sodium soy sauce
2 t. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 T. ginger
2 scallions


  1. Prepare the fish: remove all scales and fins and cut three large slits into the side of fish. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Cut a square piece of parchment paper and place into the bottom rack of the bamboo steamer that allows the steam to come through some of the bamboo steamer.
  3. Heat a pot (slightly smaller than the steamer) over medium high heat that is filled 1/2 way with water. Allow to get to a simmer.
  4. Mince the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Slice the lemon into thin slices.
  5. Take the scallions, ginger, and garlic and stuff into the slits in the fish. Place the fish into the bamboo steamer.
  6. Drizzle the soy and sesame oil over the fish.
  7. Top fish with lemon slices.
  8. Place steamer over the simmering water and cover with lid. Allow to cook for 7 minutes (fillet) to 25 minutes (whole fish) until cooked through completely and fish is flakey.
  9. Serve with a lemon wedge, a steamed vegetable, and sushi rice!


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