Traditionally, Chinese prefers to use steaming as a cooking practice, either in everyday home cooking or even for baking. Steamed whole fish is often the most popular dish in Chinese restaurants worldwide. This cooking method is to maintain the fish’s fresh quality and best flavour, plus whole fish has the best value compared to filleted fish. Steamed whole fish is not only easy to cook, when served on a platter, it is a remarkable showpiece that makes an impressive presentation. Steamed whole fish is constantly included in the Chinese sumptuous and multicourse meals for special occasions when you have family and friends for a feast at home or in a restaurant.
Many of the festive dishes served during Chinese New Year have symbolism. Particular for steamed whole fish, one prevalent proverb “Leen Leen Yow Yu” (Cantonese) and “Nian Nian You Yu” (Mandarin) means “every year be plentify”. The word plentiful/abundant/ample or “Yu” rhymes with fish in Chinese. Types of fish that are good for steaming are cod, halibut, threadfin, grouper, sea bass, trout, snapper, tilapia, pomfret, trevally, barramundi, bream or even salmon. When steaming the whole fish choose fish that are very fresh with clear eyes, moist firm-flesh and red gills. For my gluten free recipe, I am using fresh whole silver perch, steamed and served with a shiitake mushrooms and goji berries sauce. Check out my other steamed whole fish recipe called Teochew steamed whole fish. This recipe is also dairy free, egg free, corn free and nut free.
Silver perch (bidyanus bidyanus) are medium-sized freshwater fish native to the Murray-Darling River system of southeastern Australia. They have a subtle flavour, high level of oiliness and medium firm flesh with delicate flakes and few bones that can be easily taken off. Silver Perch is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. They are low in saturated fats and cholesterol compared to chicken, pork, beef and lamb. Omega-3 fatty acids helps protect the body against coronary heart diseases, maintains healthy brain and retina functions, prevent high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 6,000 years. They have no roots, leaves, blossoms or seeds and they are actually fungus. They are not only full of flavour but also have lots of nutritional benefits. Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of copper, Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and selenium. A good source of protein, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), zinc, manganese, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin), choline, vitamin D, folate (folic acid) and dietary fiber. Shiitake mushrooms also has a compound called D-Eritadenine (DEA) which aids in lowering cholesterol and maintains cardiovascular health. In addition, shiitake mushrooms also contain lentinan, a compound that can reduce inflammation, fight infections and diseases due to bad bacteria, viruses and fungus and potent antioxidant, L-ergothioneine which inhibits growth of tumorous cancer cells. Thus shiitake mushrooms are often hailed as a superfood or healing food, dubbed the “miracle mushrooms”.
Goji Berries (Lycium barbarum) have also been used for thousands of years in China and Tibet, in cooking as well as medicinal uses to treat eye, liver, kidney diseases, to increase strength and promote long life. They are most commonly used in soups in Chinese cuisines. Goji berries have all essential amino acids, the most amount of protein in fruits. They are rich in vitamin c, carotenoids and are high in dietary fiber. They have iron, calcium, zinc, selenium and other trace minerals. They also contains natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungus ad anti-inflammatory composites. Their potent antioxidant properties, especially zeaxanthin and polysaccharides help to boost the immune system. Often referred to as a nutritional powerhouse.
- 1 silver perch 850g/30oz/2Ib, cleaned, gutted and descaled by your fishmonger
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cm ginger peeled and cut into fine chopsticks
- 1 spring onion scallions, sliced into 4cm to 5cm lengthwise (white and green parts)
- Steamed rice to serve
For the Shiitake mushrooms and goji berries Sauce:
- 12 60g/2oz dried shiitake mushrooms, soak in hot water for 20 minutes until soften. Stems removed and thinly sliced
- 60 g 2oz goji berries
- 2 spring onion thinly sliced crosswise (white and green parts)
- 1 long fresh red chilli deseeded and finely sliced
- 3 tablespoons gluten free light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons gluten free pure sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons pale or medium dry sherry
- 5 tablespoons water
For the Marinade:
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon of pale or medium dry sherry
For the Garlic and Ginger Oil:
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 8 cm ginger peeled and cut into fine chopsticks
For the Garnish:
- 1-2 sprigs of coriander including stems roughly chopped
- Heat up 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the garlic and ginger until lightly golden on low heat. Remove and set aside in a small bowl.
- Marinade the fish by rubbing the whole fish with salt, ground white pepper and dry sherry.
- Make three diagonal cuts about 1 cm deep across the fleshy part of the fish on both sides.
Cooking the shiitake mushrooms and goji berries sauce:
- Heat up the frying pan with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, add in the shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 minutes on medium heat. Then add in the gluten free soy sauce, sesame oil, dry sherry and water and cook for another 3 minutes on low to medium heat.
- Lastly, add in the goji berries, spring onion and red chilli, and stir-fry for another 1 minute on low to medium heat. Set aside.
- Steaming the Fish:
- Place a steaming rack in a large wok and fill the wok with one third full of water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Put the fish in a large deep plate then place into the wok and steam for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through on high heat. Steaming time depends on the size of the fish.
- When fish is ready, pour the shiitake mushrooms and goji berries sauce onto the top of the fish and distribute evenly.
- Garnish with coriander, then drizzle the garlic and ginger oil on top of the shiitake mushrooms and goji berries sauce.
- Serve immediately with steam rice.