Chinese Steamed Whole Fish Recipe for Lunar New Year

Chef-Instructor Alan Kang welcomes the year of the tiger with family traditions that bring good fortune, longevity and wealth.

Tied to the year's first new moon, Lunar New Year falls on February 1, with the pre-festivities beginning a few days ahead of time. The celebrations include cleansing the home of any bad luck, getting together with loved ones and lots of good food. 

“Lunar New Year is about bringing family together, celebrating life, prosperity, good health and good wealth,” Culinary Arts Chef-Instructor Alan Kang says. “Usually, most of the food has some kind of representation of how your year will start.” 

Like every other year, Chef Alan will celebrate the holiday with a traditional Chinese whole steamed fish recipe. In many Asian cultures, this dish represents abundance and symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Many will find steamed fish paired with other foods that are believed to bring good fortune, like dumplings representing wealth (or a small money bag) and noodles that signify long life and longevity. 

“When we teach the International Cuisine module and talk about Chinese food, I teach my students the significance of these foods and the culture behind it,” he says. 


Chef Alan’s Whole Steamed Fish
Yield: 3-4 servings


For the fish:

  • 1 whole fish (such as dorade, sea bass or striped bass)
  • 2 ounces ginger, cut into ⅛” slices
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ounces rice wine

For the sauce:

  • 3 ounces soy sauce
  • 4 ounces Shaoxing wine
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 4 ounces water
  • Green onion scraps
  • Ginger scraps

For the garnish:

  • 2 ounces ginger, cut into fine julienne
  • 2 ounces green onions, cut into fine julienne
  • 2 ounces cilantro, stripped of its stem and chopped
  • 1 ½ ounces sesame oil


  1. Clean the fish (gutted, scaled, fins removed) and score 3 lines along both sides of the skin. Insert ginger slices into the score marks on both sides and season the fish with salt.  
  2. In a small sauce pot, combine your soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, water and green onion and ginger trimmings. Bring to a boil and set aside to infuse flavors.  
  3. Set up a steamer. Place the fish in a heatproof plate and pour 2 ounces of rice wine in the plate with the fish. Steam over high heat for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. ​Remove from the steaming basket and remove the ginger pieces. 
  4. In a separate pan, heat the sesame oil until just before smoking, around 375˚F, and reserve.
  5. Place the fish in a large, shallow plate and pour your seasoned soy broth over, just up to 1/4 of the way up the fish. (It should not be like a soup.) Place the raw ginger, scallions and cilantro over the fish. Pour the reserved sesame oil over the aromatics. Serve immediately. 

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