cantonese steamed sea bass
Steamed Sea Bass, Cantonese Style

I use “steamed” in quotes because this dish forgoes the traditional method of steaming in a covered wok in favor of a more contemporary technique: the microwave.

Before you shun me, just try it.

The fish ends up steaming in its own juices, and soaks up all the great flavor of the seasonings, fresh ginger and scallion.

This is one of the first recipes my mom ever taught me, and I love teaching it to newbies because it’s shockingly fast, easy, healthy and delicious. With the help of the ol’ dinger you can have this dish done from start to finish in 15 minutes.

Black Bean Garlic Sauce (which is delicious on pork ribs too) and Seasoned Soy Sauce for Seafood are the secret ingredients worth hunting down for this dish. Lee Kum Kee is a common brand that makes both products, and they can be found in Chinatown or an Asian-mart like Ranch 99.

Serve the fish over some white jasmine rice or soba noodles and you’ll have a light, summer dinner ready in no time.

cantonese sea bass ingredients
Ingredients for Cantonese Sea Bass

“Steamed” Sea Bass, Cantonese Style

Serves: 4

4 (6 oz.) Chilean sea bass fillets (or 1 1/2 lb. Chilean sea bass steak, you can commonly find these frozen in Asian-marts, just it thaw out first)
Pinch of salt and white pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon black bean garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
2-3 slices peeled ginger
2-3 pieces scallion
1 teaspoon soy sauce for seafood (Lee Kum Kee)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Rinse and pat dry fish.
2. Sprinkle salt, white pepper, and cornstarch on both sides.
3. Coat all over with black bean garlic sauce.
4. Julienne the slices of ginger; place on top of fish.
5. Remove the wilted tops and root ends of the scallion. Make a slit, splitting the bottom white part lengthwise. Cut on the bias in 2 inch pieces. The pieces will look large, but don’t worry, they will shrink when you cook it; place on top of fish.
6. Drizzle the soy sauce and vegetable oil on top.
7. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for about 8 minutes.

“Steamed” Sea Bass, Cantonese Style 14 July,2009Stephanie Hua

  • Diane

    Not everyone HAS a microwave – I’ve never owned one. Alternate directions for traditional methods would be nice.

  • DianeIf you have a steamer, you can cook it in that for about 15 minutes. Or, my mom’s traditional steaming method has always been to place a steaming rack in a large wok, place the fish on a dish on top of the rack, cover and steam over boiling water for about 15 min.

  • Dave Ching

    Microwaves vary in power. What do you look for to tell if the fish is not quite done? over-cooked? or just right?

    I assume the plastic wrap holds the juices inside. Can I use a covered dish or bowl to achieve the same effect? or is the tightness of plastic wrap required to get the right cooking environment?

    Thank you for the great recipe!

  • Dave: You can check for doneness with a fork if the meat flakes off easily.

    You can use a covered dish, but I find that plastic wrap works really well for holding in all the moisture.


  • Amy

    my mom taught me microwave-cooking for fish – she made it on her visit and it is so simple, but i keep forgetting since i always just reheat and not ever really ‘cook’ with the microwave.

    the trick is, according to her, pour out any ‘juice’ when your fish is done, when you take it out of the microwave. Most often, the juice is what smells really fishy, and might trigger the seafood-smells-fishy instincts from people that aren’t used to having seafood a lot at home.

  • Amy: thanks for sharing! moms are so full of great tips 🙂


Stephanie Hua

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and there is no room in life for non-fat cheese and crappy chocolate. Also, a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.

Stephanie has been known to choose her company based on how much they can pack it down. Ability to endure cramped quarters, sketchy back alleys, and uncharted paths to seek out that special dish is also a plus in her book. If you fit the criteria, drop a note. You’ll probably get along just fine.

Stephanie’s writing and photography have been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Serious Eats, and Sundance Channel. Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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