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.