Foodie Friday: Steamed Fish

Steamed fish: whole fish in a soy sauce broth, garnished with ginger and scallions

steamed fish

Happy Chinese New Year! One of the best dishes served during this festive time is steamed whole fish. It’s a symbol of prosperity because the characters for “fish” and “surplus” sound very similar. The fish must be served whole, which signifies a lucky year, from start to end. I love this simple dish because it’s quick and tasty while using minimal ingredients.

Growing up, I heard that you should never flip over a fish to get to the meat on its underside. This superstition stems from fishermen, who believed that turning over the fish would lead to their boat capsizing. As a result, I’ve seen some very deft chopsticks debone a fish in almost artistic maneuvers.

My favorite part of the fish (at least as a child)? The eyeballs. Yep, those round spheres are delicacies. We used to squabble over them as kids to see who would get the first pick. I remember associating them with pearls, both in their shape and value.

What interesting food traditions or eating preferences do you have?

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  1. This dish sounds tasty, easy and healthy too, which is always a plus. I love ginger! And everyone at home loves soy sauce. So it should be a winner. I really enjoy your Friday Food, especially because we all like Chinese food at my home. Also it’s interesting to discover a Chinese tradition from somewhone like you. The eyeballs of the fish make me smile because when I was a kid growing up in France my favorite dishes were a little gross (at least now that I live in the US). I loved blood sausage, pig feet, the stomach (I don’t know the word in Englsih) of the chickens…
    My mother was a great cook (still is) and we ate well, but I had a reputation for eating everything most people disliked.
    Somehow I outgrew these habits. I don’t know if I should be happy about it or if it means that I lost some of my wild curiosity. Thank you again.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      Thanks for your encouragement, Evelyne! It was neat to hear about your unique childhood tastes.

      • I just discovered your blog and love it! I am looking forward to reading your new book – it’s on order from Amazon. I am Taiwanese (born there in 1963). My family (Hsin-Chu) date back to well before the KMT/Chiang Kai-shek took over. Sadly I had never heard of the 228 massacre! Clearly the hush-hush was effective! I am now better understanding why there has been such discontent in my family toward the “washin-dlang” (Taiwan citizens originally from Mainland China).

        BTW – the eyeballs were always my favorite as a child!

        • Jennifer J. Chow says

          Glad to meet you, Mimi! I hope you enjoy my book. And thanks for the camaraderie with the fish eyes :)

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