Steamed Whole Fish / Jing Yu

Janice Wong’s Chow: From China to Canada: Memories of Food + Family is both utilitarian (you can cook from it) and “chatty” to quote Nora Ephron’s Heartburn via Susan Leonardi of the oft cited PMLA article “Recipes for Reading”. Chow offers recipes for Dungeness Crab with Dow See or Black Bean Sauce and Chinese Style Barbequed Spareribs, punctuated by Wong’s stories of family life: migration, settlement, love, food. Chow has the look of a scrapbook with its photographs, hand written recipes, and photocopied menus.

Since we have devoted ourselves to the task of bringing you “fish food” over the next few months, I have selected Wong’s recipe for Steamed Whole Fish.

I was looking forward to the task of photographing a whole fish, as per Wong’s instructions.

“Whole fish: preferably white fish such as rock cod, pickerel, halibut or snapper”

Schooled (and thankfully not scolded) by my local fishmonger on the finer points of fish size and price per kilo, I elected to try my hand at rock cod . . . filleted.

If you do not have a bamboo steaming rack, Wong provides ample instruction on how to improvise one.

Marinate your fillets for two hours with the following:


That is to say . . .

2 teaspoons salt


1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil

sesame oil

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine or cooking sherry

rice wine or cooking sherry

4 large slices ginger root, peeled and cut into matchstick slivers


2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus ½ teaspoon sesame oil for topping fish

gently steam until cooked through


and then garnish with 3 green onions, finely diced, for sprinkling on top of fish and 2-3 cha gwa (preserved tea melons), finely sliced. You’ll note the omitted tea melons in this first attempt.

fish, steamed

fish, steamed II


Text and photographs by Alexia Moyer

Leonardi, Susan J. “Recipes for Reading: Summer Pasta, Lobster À La Riseholme, and Key Lime Pie ” Modern Language Association 104.3 (May) (1989): 340-47. Print.

Wong, Janice. Chow: From China to Canada: Memories of Food + Family. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2005. Print.

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