Friday, April 4, 2014

Fragrant Steamed Fish

by Sheila Connolly

Spring is going to come this year, isn’t it? In a way I’m sorry when the cold weather retreats, because that means the end of rich soups and stews. But it also means the beginning of fresh vegetables and grilling and all manner of other good things. It’s a fair trade. 

Anyway, as I watched yet another Nor’easter roll through recently, I found myself craving something that was not full of cream and butter and all that good bad stuff. I had a nice piece of pollock in the refrigerator (you could use any firm-fleshed white fish for this, like cod or hake), and I was thinking of something light and flavorful. 

Many, many years ago, I gave my not-yet-husband a wok for his birthday. We have used it often over the years (and it shows). It came with a steamer tray, which we have not used over those years (I had to peel off the original label to use it here). Then I settled into one of those “what if?” moods.  

Let’s give the fish some flavor. So I made a very simple marinade (the amounts will vary depending on the size of your fish—you can start with a tablespoon of each of the liquids—but not the sesame oil!): 

Soy sauce

A dash of sesame oil (not too much!)
Sliced lemon grass (if you happen to have any)
Peanut oil
Freshly ground pepper 

I rubbed that into the fish and let it sit while I sliced other things.  What did I have? Garlic. Ginger. An onion. Green onions. Nice bright flavors.  

Then I found a bag of dried wood ear fungus lurking in my pantry. You have to soak that in boiling water for a bit before you use it, but that’s easy. 
Shredded wood ear
So I sliced the onion, and spread the slices over the steamer tray. Then I sliced the garlic and the ginger very thinly and added those. I drained the wood ear shreds (reserving the liquid) and scattered those over the top. Then I cut lengths of the green onion and made a layer of those.  

I laid my fish filet (I happened to have one piece, but you could do it with individual serving-size pieces) over the sliced vegetables. I poured an inch or two of boiling water carefully around the side, and added the reserved wood ear liquid. Then I covered the wok and set it over a low flame for about ten minutes (time will vary according to the thickness of the fish). 
Ready to steam
The fish emerged moist and flavorful. I served it with white rice and the vegetables from under the fish. And maybe it smelled just a little like spring.

The next Museum Mystery, coming June 2014


  1. Brilliant!!!! I had to laugh when you mentioned that you had some wood ear fungus lurking in your pantry......don't we all???!!! Thanks so much for a recipe using fish on a Friday. Some of us do not eat meat on Fridays and more people give up meat on Friday during Lent.

  2. Mmmm, sound delicious Sheila. Except I'd skip the fungus:)

  3. I'm always looking for ways to cook fish since we don't eat nearly enough of it. This looks great! And I hear you about the soups and stews. Will miss those when the heat hits but I, too, am looking forward to grilling and hitting the farmer's market.

  4. Lovely recipe, Sheila. I admit I felt a bit faint over the dried ear fungus, but recovered to admire this recipe. Looking forward to trying it.



  5. Sheila - Gorgeous dish. I love that you made the fish with a wok that's seen you and your husband through years of marriage--and that you just peeled the label off the steamer. (In fact, you reminded me that I have a kitchen utensil I bought last year and have yet to take it out of its packaging; perhaps it's time!) Back to that fish, great timing for a Friday in Lent, and I love all the spring flavors. Thanks for sharing this elegant recipe and have a delicious weekend.

    ~ Cleo

  6. Brilliantly conceived and executed. Thanks

  7. Beautiful fish. I love a simple recipe like this. Thanks, Sheila.

    Daryl / Avery

  8. I'm for anything that smells like spring! Our daffodils are in full bloom, so at least it looks like spring, even if it's cooler than I'd like.

    This is a great idea. I haven't used my wok in years. You've inspired me, Sheila!