"When thinking of Chinese food, it’s easy to imagine a lot of deep-frying: all those crispy noodles, spring rolls with pastry that crackles satisfyingly in the mouth, crunchy strips of chilli beef and battered chicken drenched in gloopy neon sauce. But at the other end of the spectrum, you have a whole range of delicious Chinese dishes that rely on perhaps the healthiest method of cooking there is: steaming."
Steaming requires no fat, just heat and water. It locks in moisture and allows gentle flavours to shine. It’s also a quick, uncomplicated method of cooking, and great for putting together a healthy dinner with the flavours of the east. One of the best ingredients for steaming is fish: it cooks quickly, its delicate texture and flavour are preserved, and there’s no danger of it drying out. All you need to do is add your flavourings, then let the steam do its work. A simple mix of shredded ginger, chilli and garlic mixed with a little soy sauce, sugar and dry sherry forms a beautiful savoury sauce when added to fish, one that just begs for a bowl of rice to soak it up (try brown rice if you want to keep it extra healthy).
Here, I’ve steamed a whole rainbow trout on a bed of baby pak choi, doused in this aromatic mixture. While the Chinese would use a bamboo steamer for this dish, I’ve adapted it to use a regular oven (because few of us own bamboo steamers large enough for a whole trout). Sealing your oven dish tightly with foil ensures the fish steams in the liquid you add to it, remaining moist and packed with flavour. You could adapt this to use whole sea bass or bream, or salmon or white fish fillets (if using fillets, reduce the cooking time by about half).
1 whole rainbow trout, gutted (or another fish of your choice)
A 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 red chillies, deseeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp flavourless oil (I use rice bran oil)
150g baby pak choi (or normal pak choi)
2 spring onions
1 tsp sesame oil
Set Oven Temp: 180C/Gas Mark 4
First, wash the trout well and dry it on kitchen paper. Slice the ginger, garlic and chilli into fine shreds and place in a small bowl with the soy sauce, sherry and sugar. Mix. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Lightly oil a baking tray with the flavourless oil. Separate the leaves on the pak choi stems, then scatter them over the tray. Cut three crosses in the skin of the trout on each side using a sharp knife. Spoon half of the ginger and soy mixture over the pak choi, then place the trout on top.
Spoon the other half over the trout, putting a little inside the fish and rubbing it into the slashes in the skin.
Cover the tray tightly with a double layer of foil so that no steam can escape. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, finely shred the spring onions. When the fish is ready, scatter the spring onions over the top, drizzle over the sesame oil, and serve immediately with some rice and the cooking juices.