Within this recipe post you’ll how to steam a whole fish, it will cook perfectly and wow your guests. It’s easier than you think and you should totally try it! Plus you’ll learn an easy way to cut and serve this beautiful whole steamed fish.
Oven steamed Soy Sauce Glazed Whole Steamed Fish. Easy whole cooked fish baked in oven comes out super moist and tender. Ginger, garlic, maple and soy sauce glaze on top.
Fish is a commonly enjoyed dish during Chinese New Year and ideal for the Lunar New Year. The Chinese word for fish, yú, sounds like the Chinese word for abundance. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than with abundance. To celebrate this tradition, I’m making a whole steamed fish, which is a first for me, but was way easier than I thought it would be! Once cooked, add a homemade maple ginger soy sauce glaze.
To be honest I’m a bit squeamish with whole fish, but this recipe is so simple that anyone can do it. When you buy fish at the store, make sure you get the freshest one you can find; the eyes should be clear and not cloudy. The fishmonger will clean and descale the fish, which is the most difficult part. I used snapper, but you could sub with bass, sole or trout.
Now that the hard part is out the way you can get to prepping and steaming the fish. I don’t have a steaming basket large enough to hold a whole fish, so instead I wrapped it in foil and baked; steaming it in its own heat and juices. Stuffing green onions, cilantro and garlic into the fish while steaming embeds those flavors throughout.
I used soy sauce in this recipe, as well as most of my Asian inspired dishes. It can also be used as a versatile ingredient in so many more dishes. I use it to add umami flavor to my Mexican fajita marinade. You could also sub it out for salt in some dishes. Using a ½ teaspoon of soy sauce, instead of ½ teaspoon of salt, cuts the sodium content by 1,000 mg. For this Soy Sauce Glazed Whole Steamed Fish recipe, no salt is needed, not even sprinkled on before steaming the whole fish.
Whole steamed fish, with the soy sauce glaze is an impressive, creative and unique recipe for Chinese New Years. Steaming ensures you’ll end up with perfectly cooked, moist and tender fish.
How to serve a whole steamed fish
Once you steam your whole fish in the oven and the glaze is ready, unwrap from foil and serve immediately. I recommend placing it on the table whole for that wow effect.
To serve, carefully use a knife to cut along the top of fish, near the spine. Just a light cut to loosen the meat. Then with a fork, loosen the meat completely along the spine. Use a spatula to lift the top fillet off the fish. Now you can easily remove the entire spine and bones by lifting from the tail and carefully removing (the head will most likely come off with it). The bottom half of the fish will be ready to eat now as well, besides any loose bones that may need to be picked.
Flavor profiles: Overall flavor depends on the fish used. Glaze adds a umami, salty and sweet flavors that pair perfectly (plus it has a bite of fresh ginger).
Texture: Soft, flaky and moist perfectly cooked fish.
Dietary Options/Substitutions: Use low sodium soy sauce to reduce sodium.
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Soy Sauce Glazed Whole Steamed Fish
- 1 whole fish, about 1-2 pounds, cleaned and scales removed (snapper, bass, trout or sole)
- 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 stalk green onion, largely chopped
- 4 small garlic cloves, peeled (plus one large clove, minced)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 2 cups pea shoots, or similar small greens
- Sesame seeds, as garnish
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Stuff center of fish with cilantro, green onions and whole garlic cloves (do NOT add salt to fish). Wrap entire fish with 2 layers of foil to completely seal; this is what keeps the steam in so make sure it’s enclosed. Bake about 40 minutes, until meat is tender and flakes off with a fork. Remove from oven and keep in foil until ready to serve. You can make glaze while fish is in oven.
- To make glaze: In a medium pan add soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, remaining minced garlic and chili flakes. Heat over medium, stirring often and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
- Remove foil from fish and place on a large platter and add pea shoot leaves around it. Drizzle half of glaze on top and garnish with sesame seeds.. Cut fish and serve (see cooking tips section above for an easy method). Drizzle additional glaze on top of fillet meat.