Along with stir-frying, steaming is one of the popular cooking methods in Chinese cuisines. Many dim sum dishes are cooking by steaming. And, along with frying, steaming is the preferred method for cooking whole fish.
Bamboo steamers with baskets that can be stacked on top of each other is the default in Asia. The bamboo allows the steam to evaporate and there is very little condensation that falls back into the food in the baskets.
Metal steamers are more popular outside Asia. If you’re using a metal steamer and the lid isn’t or is only slightly domed, evaporation may fall back in condensed form into the fish and create a small pool of liquid around it. Some people like to spoon that liquid on rice. Others don’t.
If you want to minimize the amount of liquid, tie a tea towel around the steamer lid, covering the underside, to catch the evaporation. Alternatively, stretch a tea towel over the steamer basket before putting on the lid. Be careful though to make sure that the tea towel does not touch the fish.
Steamed Whole Tilapia
- Fill the steamer pot with enough water to reach a depth of two inches and start heating it.
- Wipe the tilapia with paper towels and score both sides.
- Rub the salt and pepper on the entire fish including the cavity.
- Tie the scallion stalks into a knot.
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with the knotted scallions and half of the ginger.
- Lay the tilapia in shallow heat-proof bowl.
- Scatter the sliced scallions, remaining ginger and chilies over the fish.
- When the water is boiling briskly, lay the bowl in the steamer basket and cover the steamer.
- Turn the heat to medium and steam the tilapia for 20 minutes.
- Carefully lift the bowl from the steamer basket and serve the steamed whole tilapia immediately.