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Fish with black bean sauce – How to steam in the traditional way

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 the fermented bean which has a concentrated savory flavor. It is also the main ingredients for steamed spareribs with black bean sauce and black bean chicken.

I want to introduce how to make this traditional dish to you, and to those who already know about Chinese streamed fish, feel free to give me your thought, and hope some of the tips will be useful to you.

Let’s get started.

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.

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

Here is the detailed explanation on how to prepare 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 which allows the steam reaches the interior of the fish quickly, and cooked through the whole fish evenly.

The most common fishes for steaming among the Chinese in Asia are tilapia, snapper, seabass, halibut, cod, 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, it is a good practice to pour some hot water over the fish a few times. Boiling water helps to remove the fishy smell of the fish.

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.

It may not look appetizing on its own, but once 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.
  • If you are using the ready-made black bean paste that has been salted, just mix with some sugar, sesame oil, and you have your own black bean paste ready. Test the saltiness of the paste, as you may not need to add any salt if you are using the store-bought, salted black bean paste.

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

Note: There is another similar bean paste called mianchi 面豉. This item is different from the fermented white soybean paste which is suitable for other recipes, such as Zhajiangmian 炸酱面.

Dried tangerine peel

Dried tangerine peel has a rich aromatic flavor which pairs perfectly with black bean. I like to soak a piece of dried tangerine peel 陳皮, then chopped 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. You can find them in almost every Chinese fish recipes! 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.


As for the scallion, cut them into four to six cm sections. Put the white sections on the plate below to fish to create a gap between the plate and the fish. The gap allows better circulation of steam to cook the fish evenly. It also imparts some flavor to the fish during steaming. Cut the green section lengthwise into fine threads. They will curl up and is best for garnishing.


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

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

Put 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 passes through, which will result in even steaming of the fish.

If you do not have enough scallion 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 up the wok with water. Put the steamer rack in the wok and make sure the water level is below the steaming rack. The boiling water during steaming will spill into the plate if it is to0 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.

In general, a fish of about 500g takes eight minutes to cook. For a bigger fish close to 1kg, increase the steaming duration to ten minutes. The actual 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 remove the fish meat easily from the bone with a pair of chopsticks or a spoon.
  • The internal temperature of the fish. It 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.

8. Transfer the fish to a serving plate

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

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

9. Finish with a ladle of hot oil

Place some fresh scallion, julienned ginger and cut chili 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.

Serve immediately.


Yield: 1 fish

Steamed fish with black bean sauce

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 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.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 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:



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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