This is a really elegant dish, full of flavour and colour. There was something really special about eating this – separating the fish flesh on the plate itself and then serving up with all the juices on our plates. It made our mid-week supper feel like a special occasion!

Steaming the fish is really easy if you have a big wok. You’ll need a metal steamer or something to hold your plate in place and a lid. I didn’t have a lid so I ended up covering the wok with foil. Slightly slower cooking time but still the same delicious result! If you don’t have a steamer, you can bake the fish in a foil parcel instead. Serve with fragrant jasmine rice.

Steamed sea bream with chilli, lime and lemon grass

Serves 2 | Prep 15 minutes | Cook 10 minutes
Moderately Easy | Gluten-Free | Dairy-Free

Thai Steamed Fish

You’ll need:

  • 1 whole sea bream (400- 600g), scaled and gutted
  • 1 lemon grass stalk
  • 2-3 dried kaffir lime leaves
  • 75ml fresh chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 3-6 green or red Thai chillies
  • small handful coriander, plus extra to garnish
  • 40ml fish sauce
  • 50ml freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2-3 limes)
  • handful celery leaves, from inside a bunch of celery

Score the fish with 3 equally spaced diagonal slits on each side, cutting almost, but not quite, to the bone. Bruise the lemon grass with a rolling pin and stuff it into the cavity of the fish with the lime leaves.

Put the fish on a plate and place in a steamer (or lidded wok) and fill with water below the plate. Steam for 8-10 minutes, until the flesh comes away from the bone.

Meanwhile, heat the stock (or water) in a pan to the boil, then add the sugar. Boil for a few seconds to completely dissolve the sugar, then take off the heat. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Use a knife to mince the garlic, chillies and coriander (with the stalks too). Mix into the stock, along with the fish sauce and lime juice. It should taste sour, garlicky, spicy and a little salty with a hint of sweetness.

Carefully transfer the steamed fish to a serving dish (use a lipped one to hold the sauce). Pour over any juices from the steaming plate, then spoon the chilli and garlic sauce all over the fish. Garnish with extra coriander and the celery leaves, and serve with steamed rice, if liked.

Original recipe from Waitrose Food magazine, issue November 2016, available here.