A few weeks ago I talked up a big game about my dad’s steamed whole fish with ginger and scallions, and a few lovely friends pointed out that it’s a little unfair to tout its deliciousness without actually sharing the recipe (okay, there may have been some yelling and hand waving involved, too).
Those of you who have actually shared meals with my parents know that my dad isn’t a recipe sort of guy, and so one afternoon recently I had him make his fish at our house so that I could photograph and document it. I’ve made this steamed whole fish with ginger and scallions many times before myself, but my dad, accompanied by my sous chef mother, are the masters.
Julienned green onions and ginger that are then sauteed in hot oil
The first step is to julienne some fresh ginger and green onions (about 3 spring onions and an equal amount of ginger). It’s important not to shred or grate to maintain the integrity of the flavor of these ingredients.
Rigging up a steamer for the fish using chopsticks and a plate
Then, it’s time to rig up a steamer. Some people use steamer baskets, but my family is much more Macgyver than that. We take a plate (better to find one with a dip, like the one pictured above), and a few chopsticks. Then, lay each whole fish perpendicular across the top of the chopsticks. Set the whole plate over a pan of barely-simmering water. Make sure the pan has a tight-fitting lid, and steam the fish until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork (anywhere between 8-12 minutes).
While the fish is steaming, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onions and ginger until the onions are wilted and the ginger is tender. Plate the ginger and onions and allow them to cool slightly.
A sidenote here — if you’re wondering what type of whole fish you should buy, my absolute favorite is freshwater trout. They’re local to the waters where I grew up (in upstate South Carolina), and to this day it’s the fish I crave the most whenever there are ginger and scallions involved. But really, any small to medium-sized fresh fish will do (the fish we used here were whiting caught by my dad off of the dock near their house).
My dad told my mom to add the finishing touches so that she’d look like she was the master chef
After the fish is fully cooked, gently remove the fish and place them on a plate. Liberally drizzle soy sauce over the fish, then top with the onions and ginger. Serve immediately to oohs and ahhs.
Update: Since I published this post, my dad informs me that low sodium soy sauce is best to use for this recipe because it allows you to use more without oversalting the dish, and that, for maximum flavor, you can use double the amount of green onions and ginger pictured here.