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Fish with black bean sauce – traditional steamed fish recipe

Steamed fish with black bean sauce 清蒸豆豉魚 is a traditional Chinese style cuisine popular among the Cantonese. Black bean (douchi, 豆豉) is a fermented bean with a concentrated savory flavor. It is also the main ingredient for steamed spareribs with black bean sauce and black bean chicken, the other related Chinese recipes on this food blog.

I want to introduce you to how to make this traditional dish. For those who already know, please give me your thoughts on Chinese steamed fish. I hope some of the tips will be useful to you.

Let’s get started.

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Steamed fish with black bean sauce 清蒸豆豉魚 is a traditional Chinese style cuisine popular among the Cantonese. This article explains all the right steps to prepare this dish in the traditional Cantonese way.

How to prepare steamed fish with black bean sauce (Chinese style)

Here is a detailed explanation of preparing steamed fish with black bean sauce. You may want to cross-check some of the information in another recipe, Steamed Fish with Ginger Paste. Both recipes involve a similar technique, with a different set of seasonings.

1. Clean the fish thoroughly to remove unwanted smell

Clean and gut the fish. Wash the fish under running water to remove all the dirt and blood. Pay attention to the belly of the fish, as this part is always neglected.

2. Choose the type of fish you like

Most Chinese like to steam the whole fish. The ideal size of fish for steaming is between 500g to 1kg. The flesh is relatively thin, allowing the steam to quickly reach the fish’s interior and evenly cook through the whole fish.

The most common fishes for steaming among the Chinese in Asia are tilapia, red snapper, seabass, halibut, cod, and pomfret 鲳. garoupa 石斑 and soon hock 筍殼 (marbled goby). If you prefer to use the fish fillet, substitute the whole fish of equal weight in the recipe.

3. Rinse the fish with boiling water

Once you have cleaned the fish, pouring hot water over it a few times is a good practice. Boiling water helps to remove the fish’s fishy smell.

4. The black bean sauce

Black bean is also called douchi 豆豉, which is the fermented black soybean. It is the flavoring agent for many typical Chinese cuisines. You should be able to purchase it at your regular Asian grocery store.

It may not look appetizing, but after cooking with other ingredients, it will transform even the most tasteless foodstuff into an umami-packed delicacy.

  • If you are using the whole black bean, soak it in water until adequately hydrated before use. Put the black bean in a mortar with the garlic, some sesame oil, and sugar and blend it into a paste. This is the basic black bean sauce recipe.
  • If you use ready-made salted black bean paste, mix it with sugar and sesame oil, and you have your black bean paste. Test the saltiness of the paste, as you may not need to add any salt if you are using store-bought salted black bean paste. Some black bean sauce is combined with garlic as black bean garlic sauce,

Spread the black bean paste evenly on the top surface of the fish.

Note: Another similar bean paste called mianchi 面豉 is widely used in Chinese cooking. This item differs from the fermented white soybean paste suitable for other recipes, such as Zhajiangmian 炸酱面.

Dried tangerine peel

Dried tangerine peel has a rich, aromatic flavor that pairs perfectly with black beans. I like to soak a piece of dried tangerine peel 陳皮, then chop it finely and add to the black bean paste to give it an extra kick.

It is also used in another recipe, Steamed spareribs with black bean sauce.

5. The essential ingredients: ginger, garlic, and scallions

The three primary ingredients for Chinese steamed fish are ginger, garlic, and scallion (green onion/ spring onion). You can find them in almost every Chinese fish recipe! They help to remove the unwanted smell and introduce their aromatic flavor to the fish.


We cut the ginger into thin slices and fine julienne. If you steam the whole fish, insert the ginger slices into the belly of the fish. Cut a few slits on the surface and insert some julienned ginger there too. Keep the remaining julienned ginger for garnishing.


Cut the scallion into four to 6cm sections. Place the white sections on the plate below the fish to create a gap between the plate and the fish. The gap allows better steam circulation to cook the fish evenly and imparts some flavor to the fish during steaming. Cut the green section lengthwise into fine threads. They will curl up and are best for garnishing.


The garlic is coarsely chopped and mixed with the black bean to form a paste. Garlic is a powerful ingredient for getting rid of the smell of fish. We will mention more about garlic and the black bean in the following section.

Steamed fish with black bean sauce 清蒸豆豉魚 is a traditional Chinese style cuisine popular among the Cantonese. This article explains all the right steps to prepare this dish in the traditional Cantonese way.

6. How to steam the fish

Place the white sections of the scallion on the plate. Place the fish on top of the scallion sections. This arrangement creates a space between the plate and the fish to allow the steam to pass through, resulting in even steaming of the fish.

If you do not have enough scallions or the fish is too big, place a pair of chopsticks parallel to each other on the plate to support the fish. Another way is to support the fish with a metal spoon instead of the chopsticks.

Setting up the steamer

  • The simplest way to set up the steaming station is to use a wok and a steamer rack.
  • Fill the wok with water. Place the steamer rack in the wok and ensure the water level is below the steaming rack. The boiling water will spill onto the plate if the wok is too full. Cover the wok with the lid and wait until the water is boiling.
  • Once the water is boiling, put the plate of fish on the steamer rack. Cover immediately and start steaming. Use medium to high heat to generate enough steam to cook the fish.

Generally, a fish of about 500g takes eight minutes to cook. Increase the steaming duration to ten minutes for a bigger fish close to 1kg. The timing depends on the heat generated by the stove, the thickness of the fish, and whether the fish is fresh or frozen.

When the time is up, check the doneness of the fish. The fish is cooked if:

  • You can easily remove the fish meat from the bone with chopsticks or a spoon.
  • The fish’s internal temperature should reach 63°C/145°F. You can check the temperature with a kitchen thermometer.
  • The eyes of the fish are protruded and turn white.

Remove from heat immediately. The meat is now tender and silky.

Note: Most Chinese steamed fish recipes call for using whole fish. However, you can also use white fish fillets and follow the same recipe. Steaming requires the freshest fish possible, and fish fillets are generally not as fresh as freshly caught whole fish.

8. Transfer the fish to a serving plate

After steaming, discard the water released by the fish on the plate, which has a ‘fishy’ smell. Transfer the fish to a serving plate.

Heat light soy sauce, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then pour the sauce over the fish.

9. Finish with a ladle of hot oil

Place some fresh spring onions, julienned ginger, and cut red chilis on the fish.

Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a small pan. When it becomes very hot, drizzle the oil on the scallion and ginger on the fish. You will hear the sizzling sound, and the scallion and ginger will partially cook to release the aroma. Peanut oil is an excellent choice for high-heat cooking, but other oils with high smoking points can also be used.

Serve immediately.


Steamed fish with black bean sauce 清蒸豆豉魚 is a traditional Chinese style cuisine popular among the Cantonese. This article explains all the right steps to prepare this dish in the traditional Cantonese way.

Steamed fish with black bean sauce

Yield: 1 fish
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Steamed fish with black bean sauce 清蒸豆豉魚 is a traditional Chinese style cuisine popular among the Cantonese. This article explains all the right steps to prepare this dish in the traditional Cantonese way.


  • 1 fish about 500g
  • 2 stalks scallions
  • 20g young ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1 red chili

For the black bean sauce : (A)

For the soy sauce mixture: (B)


  1. Clean the fish thoroughly. Pour a few ladles of hot water to the fish to remove the fishy smell.
  2. Cut the green section of the scallion into threads, and leave the white portion as long sections.
  3. Cut half of the ginger into thin slices, and the other half fine julienne.
  4. Insert some ginger slices into the fish belly. Cut a few slits on the fish surface and insert some julienne ginger there.
  5. Spread the black bean sauce on top of the fish.
  6. Setup the steaming station. Steam for 8 minutes over medium to high heat.
  7. Transfer the fish to a serving plate. Top with chopped chili and shredded scallion.
  8. Pour the soy mixture onto the fish.
  9. Pour the hot oil onto the fish. Serve.

For the black bean sauce:

  1. Soak the dried tangerine peel for 15 mins or until soft, then mince finely. Also finely mince the garlic.
  2. Coarsely chop the garlic and black bean.
  3. Put all ingredients in (B) into mixing bowl.

For the soy sauce mixture:

  1. Heat up all the ingredients in (B) in a pan until the sugar is dissolved.


If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 whole fish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1661Total Fat: 84gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 54gCholesterol: 386mgSodium: 3353mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 6gSugar: 22gProtein: 171g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 4/18/2019


Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

Nice Good luck

KP Kwan

Monday 18th of January 2021

I think there is no fish easier than the other one :). I normally use garoupa or tilapia.


Wednesday 11th of November 2020

Hi KP Kwan If you use a fish fillet or fish cutlet do you have to discard the water after steaming?

KP Kwan

Friday 13th of November 2020

Hi Margaret, I will discard the water for fish fillet. It is 'fishy' and not worth keeping. Thanks, KP Kwan

KP Kwan

Thursday 18th of April 2019

Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

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