21 Jan2014


I have ALWAYS liked simple steamed fish dishes at various Chinese restaurants… My dad used to order this type of dish fairly frequently, but for a few years, while on my own, I couldn’t afford to order it because it tended to be quite pricey. When I had landed a well-paying job that had me flying all over Southeast Asia, Mrs. MM and I would head to Singapore (our official home base) at least once a month for a weekend of R&R and eating. Peking duck and a whole steamed fish (along with Hainanese Chicken Rice) were always on our “must eat” list. It turns out that steamed fish is wickedly easy to do at home, and whether you use very fresh lapu-lapu or grouper or the more reasonably priced frozen local farm-raised sea bass (apahap), now available in some groceries, it is a a real treat!


Defrost a 550gram apahap or sea bass (PHP170-180 depending on grocery) and scale it and clean its internal cavity. Cut two slits on each side of the fish, season with salt and pepper, and place on a plate or pan, and distribute some chopped onions, julienned ginger, some green onions, kikkoman soy sauce, a touch of sesame oil over the fish and place this in a steamer for roughly 15 minutes or so until the fish is cooked through.


Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, deep fry some lechon sisig (that’s all we had in the commissary kitchen, but pork bits or even bacon would work nicely) until crispy and chop this up as a final garnish. Do not throw away the oil (I used homemade lard) in the pan, and while it is still hot, add some chopped onions, ginger and green onions to wilt them and take off that raw edge. Remove after a few seconds and set aside. When the fish is cooked, remove the platter and top with some of the briefly fried garnishes, and heat the oil up until smoking, then ladle some of the oil directly on top of the steamed fish. It may sizzle and snap a bit.


Sprinkle with the chopped up fried sisig and bring to the table and serve immediately. Delicous! And so darned easy to make. The tender white flesh, the savory sesame oil and soy “dressing” and that hint of richness from the lard (don’t put too much!) and crunch and saltiness of the lechon sisig was just the perfect mixture of tender, crunchy, salty, spicy and only a hint of sweetness. Some folks would add say a teaspoon or two of sugar, but I didn’t bother.


Two fish were wiped out by the office crew in minutes. And if you are feeling particularly wicked, take any leftover heads, bones with meat, tail, etc. and DEEP FRY that in lard for your “dessert”… hahaha. Seriously.



  1. Khew says:

    You might want to try a lemongrass version some time. Slip in sliced lemongrass in the slits you make as well as cavities. Fry lemongrass in the smoking oil used in the finale. No ginger.

    Jan 21, 2014 | 3:41 pm


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  3. LesterG says:

    For a exquisite option; brush/dab sesame oil on a metal tray. Then put sliced ginger wedges and quartered onion leeks on top. That would give you a clean flavor and finish to any kind of steamed fish

    Jan 21, 2014 | 3:54 pm

  4. Marketman says:

    Khew, thanks for that, I was thinking lemongrass would add a nice perfume and flavor… LesterG, thanks for those comments as well…

    Jan 21, 2014 | 4:29 pm

  5. millet says:

    yummy even without the sisig. i do this (without the lechon sisig!) sometimes by replacing the scallions with lemongrass and kaffir lime, and the soysauce with patis and sugar. instead of sisig, i put a lot of fresh cilantro.

    Jan 21, 2014 | 5:27 pm

  6. natie says:

    Deep frying left overs!!!IN LARD!!!!! Ultimate dessert!!

    Jan 21, 2014 | 11:14 pm

  7. Boopsie says:

    Galing. It seems so easy. Will try it asap when i get some fresh fish.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 12:28 am

  8. marilen says:

    Deep in the maw of a brutally cold winter (Midwest), I am daily cheered by your sunny posts, MM. Thank you. The steamed fish is a favorite!

    Jan 22, 2014 | 8:26 am

  9. Debbie says:

    One tip when steaming fish, throw out the liquid that comes out after the fish is steamed. This liquid gives it the “fishy” (malangsa) smell.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 12:19 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Debbie, thanks for that tip, although I have to say this fish didn’t taste or smell “malangsa” in any way… perhaps the slivered ginger helps as well.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 1:45 pm

  11. Eva Mondragon says:

    MM – I was so surprised upon reading this post on steaming fish. I have been cooking fish this way for many years now. I didn’t come up with this recipe. My chiropractor, whose office is smack in the middle of Chinatown, gave it to me. He must have been ordering this from his favorite restaurant quite frequently. The first time I cooked it, I was hooked. I mix two kinds of light soy sauce with olive oil. Sometimes, I also use sesame oil. I must say, your take on the sisig topping is exquisite! Whenever I can avail myself of lechon, I make crispy sisig out of it. Then, I will cook arroz caldo and serve it with lechon sisig on top. The taste is unexpected, but absolutely delicious!

    Jan 22, 2014 | 4:45 pm

  12. Ken_L says:

    Parrot fish is also delicious cooked like this. I can never understand why it is not more popular here … about one fifth the price of lapu2x at the local fishport.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 5:22 pm

  13. joey @ 80 breakfasts says:

    I’m cooking this tomorrow! But with maliputo…and without lechon sisig, not from lack of wanting! Heehee :)

    Jan 22, 2014 | 10:56 pm

  14. Cucharatenedor says:

    This is a great recipe! I really love your blog. We make a similar dish but we cook it in an oven toaster and smother the fish with chinchalok, lots of garlic and onions as well as sesame oil.

    Jan 23, 2014 | 2:28 pm

  15. Arnold says:

    When in Manila, pay a visit at Emerald in roxas blvd. they serve it great there :)

    Jan 25, 2014 | 7:39 pm

  16. gaye says:

    Sisig on top would really bring this dish up a notch!

    MM, was in Cebu last week for a series of meetings and of course, had to dine at Zubuchon. Love your monggo with lechon and the guava juice. Brought home a jar each of your mango jam and kalamansi marmalade and my 5-year old son loves both.

    Check in line for the flight back to Manila quite long (forgot to do online check in). Was finally able to check in at 1pm and boarding was 1:25. I was waiting for my turn to purchase some Boneless Zubuchon to bring home when I heard my name being paged to proceed to the boarding gate. I thought it had something to do with my pregnancy as I’m almost at my 7th month but I stayed in line and just proceeded to the gate after I bought the lechon. I was not about to go home without any lechon for pasalubong as everyone in the family loves it. Talk about priorities! Turned out that I was being paged because I left my ID at the check in counter. :)

    Jan 27, 2014 | 8:26 am

  17. Marketman says:

    gaye, thank you so much for dropping by Zubuchon, and twice, at that. We had a pretty crazy sinulog week and aftermath, so some stores ran out of lechon quickly, as we can only cook a limited number daily, even with the extra prep for the festival, and some clients who got to restaurants late weren’t able to eat any fresh lechon and got a tad peeved with staff… :( Arnold, thanks for that tip.

    Jan 27, 2014 | 4:20 pm


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