Steamed Sea Bass - A Classic

There are some Chinese dishes that stand the test of time. One of these is Steamed Sea Bass, Cantonese Style. I came across this gem because of a dear, departed friend, Eddie Hor. Eddie was one of those characters who was bigger than life. He was gracious, generous, sophisticated, and a consummate ladies man. I imagine that one of the reasons for his success with women was that, apart from being a great listener and empathetic, he was also a great cook---the best of all combinations. I met Eddie when I was a young man back from Vietnam. At the time all I wanted to do was put the war behind me, mainly by partying and trying to score with the opposite sex. I learned a lot from Eddie, about life, responsibility, and what it means to be a man. I cherished his friendship.
I also learned from Eddie how to prepare the sea bass dish that follows. Steamed sea bass is normally cooked in a wok with a rack for steaming. You can also use a regular metal steamer, Chinese bamboo steamer or even a Western-style clam steamer.

Eddie once told me that cooking is like a seduction: go easy, take your time, just let it happen. The same with this dish. The steaming process will take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. A neat way to ascertain if its done is to check the fish and, if its eyes have popped out during the steaming process, it's done. Another added trick is to put hot olive oil over the steamed fish. This will sear the skin with the flavor of the oil. If you want to impress your friends, do this at the table. And finally, if you can't find sea bass, striped bass will do just as well.

1/4 brandy or bourbon whisky
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons chopped scallions, including greens
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably Tamari)
1 whole sea bass (1 1/2-2 pounds), cleaned, scaled, gutted, but with head and tail intact
1/4 olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine the brandy, garlic, scallions ginger and soy sauce. Set aside.
2. Rinse the fish inside and out under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Slash fish crosswise three time on each side.
3. Place the fish on a platter, and place the platter on top of the steamer. Pour sauce over the fish. Bring water to a boil, cover and steam 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Check fish for doneness. When cooked, the flesh will be white and the eyes will have popped out.
5. Heat the olive oil quickly until its hot in a small saucepan. Then pour the boiling oil over the fish, searing the skin. Serve immediately
Yield: 4 servings

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