Thai Style Steamed Fish

Inspired by a dish I watched chef Norraset Nareedokmai of Silk Elephant and Bangkok Balcony cook (research for an article I wrote for Table Magazine), I decided to try to steam a whole fish in a savory sauce. While I didn’t achieve quite the same quality of results that Nareedokmai achieved with ease, I had fun in my attempt and it came out well, even if I did hit a few bumps along the way. I’ve documented my effort so you can repeat the experiment. Though once you’ve done so, I’d definitely recommend visiting one of Nareedokmai’s restaurant and trying some of his authentic Thai cuisine.

The first thing you should do is to choose a fresh fish. Look for clear eyes and bright red gills. When you buy it specify to the fishmonger that you want the head left on.

You can also keep the fins on for a more lifelike presentation. Be sure to specify that, too—I didn’t, and the man cleaning my fish cut them off, something I’m sure most consumers appreciate, but a gesture contrary to my (admittedly unspoken) intentions. Not the end of the world by any means.

While the fish chilled in the fridge, I assembled assorted whole spices that would go well together: peppercorns, allspice, coriander, crystallized ginger, fenugreek (a key component of many curries);

combined them in my mortar with garlic and salt; and ground everything to a paste.

I then toasted the paste in a cast iron skillet, stirring constantly. Be certain to stir constantly. I took my eyes off the pan briefly and crossed a couple of steps over the border between caramelized and burnt. Should this same fate befall you, you can take an edge off the bitter flavor by adding some sugar to taste.

Once the mixture is toasted, add a couple of cinnamon sticks and deglaze the pan with chicken stock, being certain to scrape the corners. Bring to a simmer and let reduce briefly. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Arrange the fish in the pan and slice diamonds into its flesh on both sides. This will help the savory sauce to flavor the meat.

Pour the simmering sauce over the fish. On the day I made the fish, I had stumbled upon a patch of flourishing chives and clipped some dill from a friend’s backyard herb garden. I arranged some of each over the fish, thinking that the herbs would steam in the sauce and help flavor the fish. I’m not sure I tasted any of either in the finished dish, and think the chives would have been much better added at the end to steam briefly and serve as a colorful and flavorful garnish.

Cover the fish tightly with foil and put into a preheated 400-425 F oven. Let steam until done–probably 30-35 depending on the size fish, but check after 20 just to be sure how things are proceeding (if you have a much smaller fish than the one I was working with, it may already be done by that point).

When the fish is done, its flesh will be soft and flake apart very easily. Present to the table whole, either in the baking dish (if it is clean enough to go to the table) or arranged on a platter. Serve the fish by lifting its flesh from the bones with a serving spoon.

Serve to friends and/or family, perhaps accompanied by a bottle of dry white wine.

9 Responses to “Thai Style Steamed Fish”

  1. Johanna Says:

    Is it just me, or are there some photo credits missing for this lovely post?

  2. Jim Says:

    Jo, if I were the photographer I’d probably wish to remain anonymous. While the fish was most likely delicious, the illustrations are dark and unappetizing.

  3. jwsharrard Says:

    Thanks–I took them with the camera you got me for Christmas. And, Johanna–you weren’t even around for the meal, how would photo credits be going to you?

  4. Johanna Says:

    I wasn’t asking for me. I assume Aurora took them as you cooked & you weren’t giving her any credit.

  5. jwsharrard Says:

    No– I took them as I cooked.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Well, than I apologize.

  7. MIL Says:

    Explains a lot!!

  8. güvenlik kamerası Says:

    Fish most effective food for me , i like from fish very much, and i know many fish foodind and some special Turkish
    fish fooding. i want to know new fish fooding and i can do description fish food also. thanks for owner the Article.

  9. güvenlik kamerası Says:

    thanx to friends and/or family, perhaps accompanied by a bottle of dry white wine.

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