Growing up half Vietnamese and half Chinese, many family dinners revolved around fish and vegetable dishes straight from the motherland. Mom’s creations were always simple, fresh and super delicious. She never had a recipe for any of them. Not one. They were all passed down through word of mouth and simple observation from my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all previous generations before them. One of my all-time favorite dishes involved the steaming of catfish, with a sauce for dipping that was good enough to drink.
I remember years ago, while living in Chicago, I had dinner at a very popular, so-called “upscale French-Vietnamese restaurant”. I was already rather skeptical (and quite disturbed) upon entering what appeared to be a Hollywood set of Casablanca. All the diners even looked like actors pretending to eat. Perusing through the menu, I spotted their steamed fish and decided to give it a try. Besides being served on a small banana leaf, it tasted almost exactly the same as Mom’s. From that evening on, I knew what the term “French-Vietnamese restaurant” really meant. It meant being able to charge $40 for a dish that could be made for less than $10.
It was a good lesson learned. I still love steamed fish, and in particular, steamed halibut. And, I love my handy, dandy steamer. I truly couldn’t live without it. In less than 10 minutes flat, the fish is perfectly cooked and a healthy, delicious dinner is on the table. Thanks, Mom!
Kiss My Spatula’s version of her Mom’s steamed catfish
Feel free to substitute the halibut for any flaky, white fish such as red snapper, catfish, cod or sea bass.
Music Pairing: Old Friends, Simon and Garfunkel, The Concert in Central Park
- 2 halibut steaks, 1-inch thick, skin removed (about 1 pound total)
- 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 tbsp thinly sliced ginger (more, if you are a ginger lover like me)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
- handful of chopped cilantro
Add 2-3 inches of water to the bottom of a steamer and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place halibut steaks on a plate that fits inside the steamer. Lightly salt and pepper steaks. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper in a small bowl. Spoon sauce over halibut steaks. Get every last bit. Top with ginger and 1/2 of the scallions. Steam for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of halibut steak. Check water level occasionally during cooking to ensure steaming water does not evaporate fully. Add more boiling water if needed. Remove from steamer and top with reserved scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately with rice and a side of stir fried vegetables.