Steamed Fish, Swimming in Flavor

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Fresh and sizzled aromatics give soy-steamed fish a lively flavor.

Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

There are many ways to approach a pescatarian dinner. The next time you buy a piece of fish for dinner, instead of pan-frying, poaching or broiling, why not consider steaming? It’s fast, easy and makes a remarkably satisfying light meal.

Chinese cooks have long been experts at steaming fish — especially whole fish, which may seem daunting. But boneless fillets are also excellent when prepared in the same way. The technique is not at all difficult to master, and the aromatics — like ginger, scallion and sesame oil — are readily available.

Most vegetables, whether small potatoes or carrots or asparagus, benefit from steaming, which accentuates their innate sweetness. The same holds true for fish.

Of course, spanking fresh fish is required. Look for white-fleshed fish such as halibut, sea bass or cod, preferably about two inches thick. In a pinch, you could use salmon, but avoid stronger-tasting fish (like mackerel) for this method.

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Steaming fillets in a bath of soy sauce lends the fish sweet and salty flavors.

Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

It’s worth investing in a good steamer with a sizable diameter. One made of stainless steel, though expensive, will last a lifetime. The inexpensive bamboo steamers available in Asian markets are quite sturdy, though, and come in every size. However, a large wok with a lid works, too. It just needs a rack of some sort to hold what’s being steamed well above the boiling water below. Chopsticks can do the job, or a cake rack propped up securely. Absent a wok, a wide deep skillet with a domed lid will suffice, or some pasta pots have a steamer basket included.

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