chinese steamed fish with black bean and garlic

One of my favourite foods growing up was Chinese steamed fish smothered in fermented black beans and garlic.  I know fermented black beans doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing but they are sooooo delicious and even if you don’t think you’ll like them, you’ve probably had them in some Chinese dishes.  You can find these beans at any Asian grocery store.  Anyway, I just started cooking with fermented black beans for the first time a few weeks ago so I thought I’d try and make this fish dish.  I haven’t had it in many many years and I don’t even remember if it’s something that my family made or we had when we ate out at restaurants but I remember loving it.  From some lazy googling, it seems like there’s countless variations on how to make it so I decided to adapt my usual Chinese steamed fish recipe and it turned out great!

It would be ideal to use a fresh whole-head-and-tail on firm, white-fleshed fish such as cod but that’s not always possible so then you can go with some nice fillets.  Cod is my favourite but it was sold out at my nearest supermarket today so I picked up some haddock fillets instead and it still turned out good.

1 whole white-fleshed fish or roughly 500 grams of fillets, ideally cod  /  1 bunch of green onions  /  1 medium sized piece of ginger  /  4 tbsp of fermented black beans  /  4 cloves of garlic  /  3 tbsp seasoned seafood soy sauce (or regular soy sauce mixed with about t 1 tsp of sugar)  /  1 and 1/2 tbsp grapeseed oil or other flavourless cooking oil you have on hand

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Put the black beans in a small bowl and rinse with water a couple of times and drain.  Mince the garlic or if you’re lazy like me, grate it on a microplane.  Toss the black beans, the garlic and 2 tbsp of the soy sauce in a mortar and pestle and just give it a quick little mash or if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just mash everything together a bit with the back of a wooden spoon.  You don’t wanna pulverize everything as you still want some of the beans intact.

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Fill a wok with water and place over high heat to bring the water to a boil. Cut the white parts of the green onions off and scatter in a pie plate.  Slice up the ginger and toss a few pieces in with the green onions and then lay the fish or fish fillets over top.  Tuck in a few more pieces of ginger just for kicks. Then using a spoon, spread the black bean and garlic mixture over the tops of the fish.

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Now you’re ready to steam the fish!  Place your steaming rack on the wok and slide the pie plate.  Cover with the lid and steam the fish until cooked through which will take, depending on the fish you use, somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes approximately. Best to test for doneness by using a fork to check that the fish is cooked through and flaking.  Just before the fish is done cooking or right after, thinly snip up the green parts of the green onions, about 2 tbsp or so.  Also, in a small saucepan, heat up the oil over medium to medium high heat until the oil is very hot. When the fish is done cooking, you can either carefully remove the cooking liquid from the pie plate or use a spatula and take the fish out and place on another plate.  Scatter the green onion over the fish and drizzle the hot oil over the green onion.  Finish off with your remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and serve with steamed white rice.

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