Here’s an easy weekday dish that takes only minutes to prepare and is delicious eaten with steamed rice – steamed pomfret. In this traditional Chinese Teochew dish, the salty notes of preserved plums and mustard greens are delicately balanced by the tart juices of tomatoes and the sweetness of Shiitake mushrooms, creates a super delicious broth you’ll want to soup up!
When our family feels like having fish, this Chinese steamed pomfret is almost always first to come to mind. This is truly one of my favourite ways to prepare steamed fish and it’s a classic Teochew dish.
White or silver pomfret is steamed with salted plums, mustard greens, fresh tomatoes, Shiitake mushrooms, silky tofu, ginger and spring onions. A delicious touch is a drizzle of lard or shallot oil.
And if all that isn’t goodness enough, you’ll be absolutely amazed and dead-hooked on this dish’s tasty, lightly saltish-sourish, tangy, soupy broth. I guarantee you’ll be slurping away!
Who are the Teochews?
The Teochews are people who originated from the Chaozhou ( 潮州) region in the eastern Guangdong province of China. As with many immigrant Chinese at the time, the Teochews also settled predominantly in South-East Asia.
Like the Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, and Hainanese people, the Teochews left their homeland in China and settled predominantly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Thailand.
What is Teochew cuisine?
Teochew cuisine is widely regarded as a delicate cuisine. It is well-known for its seafood and vegetarian dishes. Unlike other Chinese cuisines, Teochew cooking is less heavy-handed.
Teochew cuisine relies predominantly on the freshness and quality of ingredients for taste and flavour. Well-known Teochew culinary delights include braised duck, Teochew steamboat, steamed soon kueh, and sweet desserts like orh nee (mashed yam with gingko nuts and pumpkin).
As a lighter cuisine, it’s no surprise that food preparation revolves around poaching, steaming, braising, and stir-frying.
If you want your family to go healthy, try incorporating more Teochew dishes in your family meals.
About Teochew-style steamed pomfret
Steamed pomfret is a dish that represents quintessential Teochew cooking.
The unique and distinct flavour of the broth reflects the delicate taste and freshness of the fish.
And the complementary addition of salted plums and mustard greens brings out the soul of Teochew cuisine. There’s no other flavour quite like it.
What fishes can I use?
- White or silver pomfret. This is commonly the fish of choice for Teochew-style steamed fish. It has a delicate, white flesh and a ‘non-fishy’ flavour profile which compliments the other ingredients. Do not use grey pomfret though, as it is not suitable for steaming but more suited for fried dishes.
- Red snapper or white snapper. Also an excellent choice for steamed fish dishes. Red snapper, in particular, is very adaptable to a lot of ingredients. Its flesh is moist and lean with a firm texture and a sweet, almost nutty flavour. Like the white or silver pomfret, it too has a ‘non-fishy’ taste.
- Sea bass. Sea bass is a white fish with a mild delicate flavour and a subtle sweetness similar to cod. The flesh is moist and tender and with a firm texture as well. Similarly, it doesn’t taste ‘fishy’ and would appeal to people with a sensitivity to ‘fishy’ flavours.
How can I reduce the sodium content in the dish?
As a force of habit, I always try to reduce sodium content in the food I cook.
For a dish like steamed pomfret, salted plums and preserved mustard greens are essential to its unique flavours. But they are loaded with high-sodium content.
If you need to watch your sodium intake or have a sensitivity, here’s how you can reduce sodium content:
- Soak the salted plums in water for a few minutes. This allows the excess salt to leech out. Drain and use as per the recipe.
- Similarly, soak the salted mustard greens in water for 15 minutes. Drain and slice thinly.
- Alternatively, you could place preserved mustard greens in a small saucepan. Fill with enough water to cover. Bring the water to a gentle boil, and let boil for about 5 minutes to remove excess salt.
Please bear in mind that some degree of saltiness is essential for the overall flavour of steamed pomfret.
Other than lard or shallot oil, salt is the major seasoning used to flavour the broth. Also, you’ll want to use your sweetest, riper tomatoes to balance the salty notes in the broth.
How do I eat steamed pomfret?
Teochew steamed pomfret is best enjoyed when eaten with plain, cooked rice.
Scoop away a spoonful of the smooth, creamy flesh with some of the delicious broth in your spoon. Then, drizzle over with some light soy sauce, spiced up with sliced bird’s eye chilli. Enjoy!
This dish also goes well with:
- Mapo tofu (Sichuan stir-fried pork and bean curd)
- Stir-fried kailan with garlic and oyster sauce
- Steamed eggs with minced pork in spicy bean paste
Here are more recipes you may enjoy:
- Chinese-Style Superior Sweet and Sour Whole Fish
- Fish Head Curry – Easy, Delicious, Make-from-Scratch Recipe!
- Sweet and Sour Fish + The Best Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe!
- Stir-fried Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
Teochew-Style Steamed Pomfret
- 1 white or silver pomfret (about 750 g)
- 2 salted plums
- 1 leaf salted mustard greens (kiam chye)
- 1 to mato
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 slices young ginger
- ¼ cup silken tofu cubed
- 3 to 4 tbsp water for extra broth, (optional)
- ¼ tsp salt (optional)
- ½ tbsp lard or shallot oil (see Recipe Notes below)
- 1 stalk coriander
- 1 stalk spring onion
- 1 red chilli
- To prepare the fish, remove fish scales and entrails (or have your local fishmonger do it for you). Rinse thoroughly to rid of all visible traces of blood. Slice 2 to 3 slits, diagonally, on each side of the fish. Pat dry and set aside.
- De-seed salted plums, and set the flesh aside. Slice the salted mustard greens. Cut the tomato into 4 or 6 wedges. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water until soft and plump (about 15 minutes), drain, squeeze out the excess water, remove stems, and slice thinly. Cut the ginger, spring onion, and chilli, into shreds. Roughly chop the coriander. Drain the tofu, cut into cubes, and set aside.
- Smear salt onto the body of the fish, inside the slits, and stuff the flesh of one salted plum into the stomach cavity.
- In a heatproof plate, place some ginger shreds and sliced salted mustard greens, spreading them out over the plate. Place the fish on top. Spread the remaining ginger, salted mustard greens, and mushroom slices, on top of the fish. Spread the flesh of the remaining salted plum, tomato wedges, tofu cubes, and water (optional), around the sides of the fish.
- Fill a wok one-quarter full with water. Place a steaming rack over the water, above the water level. Cover with wok lid, bring water to a boil over high heat. Once water is boiling, place the heatproof plate on the rack, cover with wok lid, and steam for 12 to 14 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.
- Remove fish from the wok, drizzle lard or shallot oil on top, and into the broth. Garnish with coriander, chopped spring onion, and red chilli. Serve immediately, with some light soy sauce and sliced bird’s eye chilli, on the side.
- Place salted plums in a small bowl with some water, and set aside for 10 minutes, to rid of excess salt. Then use as described above.
- Fill a saucepan with some water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Put in the salted mustard greens, and let boil gently for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, discard the water, and squeeze the salted mustard greens to remove excess water. Then, prepare and use as described above. Alternatively, simply soak the salted mustard greens in some water, set aside for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
- Peel 8 to 10 shallots (or quantity of your choice), and slice thinly. Using your fingers, rub the slices to separate the rings or layers, into individual slices – this will allow for much more even frying.
- Heat up 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a small saucepan, over medium fire. Once the oil is hot, add the shallot slices (fry in batches, if necessary), and fry till they turn golden brown.
- Remove the fried shallots with a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels. The oil is now flavoured by shallots, hence, shallot oil.
- The fried shallots, once cooled, should be kept in an air-tight container to retain its crispy texture. It can be used as a garnish over fried rice or fried noodles, in soups, or over your favourite vegetable stir-fries. Use the shallot oil as desired.