the appetizer:

Chinese cooking, like most of Asia, focuses first on a starch like rice or noodles, then adds an accompaniment of meat or seafood, rather than meat first, starch and vegetables second, as found in European-influenced cuisines. Recipes in China are as diverse as the language, with its 80,000 characters, and Chinese immigrants have brought this complex culinary heritage to almost every region of the world.

Global Destinations


Steamed Fish with Sizzling Lemon Grass Oil

by Martin Yan

Makes 4 to 6 servings

I think there's no better way to enjoy fresh fish than this classic Chinese method—steaming it whole with aromatic vegetables and dressing it with hot oil and a simple sauce.

5 dried black mushrooms
2 stalks lemongrass (bottom 6 inches only)
4 green onions

Sizzling Oil
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 stalk lemongrass (bottom 6 inches only), thinly sliced

Fish Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon oyster flavored sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

1 whole fish (1-1/2 to 2 pounds), such as sea bass or red snapper, cleaned and scaled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
10 slices ginger, lightly crushed


1. Soak mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Trim and discard stems. Halve caps. Cut each piece of lemongrass into 5 slanting slices. Julienne 2 green onions and leave remaining 2 green onions whole. Combine sizzling lemongrass oil ingredients in a saucepan; set aside. Combine fish dressing ingredients in another saucepan; set aside.

2. Cut fish 3/4-inch deep along vertebrae on each side of bone. Cut 5 slits lengthwise, 3/4-inch deep, on both sides of fish as illustrated. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Place a piece of mushroom, lemongrass, and ginger in each slit.

3. Place whole green onions in center of a heat-proof glass pie dish; lay fish on top. Prepare a wok for steaming. Cover and steam fish over high heat until fish turns opaque, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle half the julienned green onion over fish. Heat sizzling lemongrass oil over high heat until hot; drizzle over fish. Heat fish dressing over high heat and cook until heated through; pour over fish. Garnish with remaining julienned green onions.

Reprinted by permission from Martin Yan's Culinary Journey Through China by Martin Yan (KQED Books).


Chinese Cuisines and Customs

Chinese and Lunar New Year Handbook

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Chinese Cookbooks

Chinese Recipes


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This page modified January 2007