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  • Lydia Gerratt

Cantonese style sea bass with ginger and spring onions



My Chinese mother-in-law made this beautifully fragrant sea bass for me (among a feast of many dishes squished on her dining table) when I was pregnant with her first grandchild. This recipe is what I absolutely love about Chinese cooking, a few ingredients whose sum total creates a heavenly sublime flavour which leaves you completely satisfied and fully satiated.

If you don’t have a bottle of Shaoxing rice wine in your kitchen cupboard, please buy one. It’s the most brilliant stuff for tenderising meat and fish, and gives everything you cook that very essence of Chinese flavour we crave on our side of the world.

Serve the sea bass with a lot of steamed rice (I like basmati to complement the fragrant fish, though you probably should use a short grain rice like Thai jasmine….). My two boys, now age 6 and 8 years, go crazy when I serve this dish, it always amazes me how much they love the flavour. It’s the ultimate recipe to get your children to eat more fish.

The best way to cook the sea bass is to steam a couple of fairly small fish. However, the sea bass I buy from Billingsgate fish market are massive (enough to feed 4) and I don’t have a steamer big enough, so I cheat and steam/bake the sea bass in the oven in foil. I picked up a good trick from a Chinese food blog recently, lay the fish on a couple of chopsticks in the foil, the fish won’t stick to the foil and the chopsticks will create some space for the steam to circulate.

Miraculous ingredients: very fresh whole sea bass, soya sauce (Clearspring is a good brand), Shaoxing rice wine (Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients is good quality)

Cantonese style sea bass with ginger and spring onions

Ingredients

1.5kg whole sea bass or 2 x 500g whole sea bass (scaled, cleaned and gutted)

6 spring onions

5cm ginger piece, peeled

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients)

3 tablespoons soya sauce (Clearspring)

1 tablespoon sesame oil (Lee Kum Kee)

3 tablespoons groundnut oil, or a vegetable oil

Method

If you have a steamer that fits the sea bass, set it up.

If you don’t have a steamer, preheat the oven to 180C and cut a piece of aluminium foil which is large enough to completely and loosely cover the fish.

Clean the fish in cold water and dry with kitchen paper. Put the fish on a plate and make 3-4 cuts on each side of the fish just to the bone. Pour the Shaoxing rice wine over the fish and rub it into each cut. Leave to marinade for 15 minutes.

Cut the peeled ginger piece in half and leave one half to the side. With the remaining half, cut it into 3 pieces and bash it a little with the handle end of your knife to release fragrance. Take 3 spring onions and cut into 3 pieces each. Lightly bash these pieces to release fragrance and stuff into the fish cavity along with the 3 bashed pieces of ginger.

With the remaining spring onions and ginger piece; cut the spring onion into 5cm lengths and finely slice, cut the ginger piece into further pieces and finely slice into skinny batons. Leave to one side.

Steaming method: Place the sea bass in a steamer and steam on a high heat for 10-12 minutes.

Baking/oven method: Lay a couple of chop sticks onto a large piece of foil. Put the sea bass on top, add 2 tablespoons of water (to steam the fish in the foil) and cover the fish loosely with foil and seal tightly. Place the foil parcel in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.


Use a knife to check if the fish is cooked by pushing the flesh at one of the cuts at the thickest end of the fish to see if it’s white/opaque all the way to the bone. When cooked, move the fish onto a warm plate.

Heat the groundnut oil to very hot in a small pan.

In a bowl, add and mix 2 tablespoons of hot water to the soya sauce.

Discard the bashed spring onion and ginger from the cooked cavity of the fish and then place the fresh slices of spring onion and ginger on top of the whole fish.

Pour the diluted soya sauce as well as the sesame oil around the fish on the warm plate and then drizzle the very hot oil over the fresh slices of spring onion and ginger along the whole fish. The fragrance that’s released from the sizzling spring onion, ginger and sea bass will bring everyone running to the table!

Serve immediately with a good amount of steamed rice to soak up all the flavoursome juices.

Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes, serves 2 adults, 2 children

All rights reserved © 2020 by Lydia Gerratt