Before lunch at Ichiddo Ramen last week we popped into Shuang Hur—the large East Asian market a couple of blocks away on University Avenue in St. Paul. We stop in there from time to time, mostly in search of whole fish that aren’t available in mainstream American markets—think anything with heads still attached—and, in particular, mackerel. On this occasion, however, it was some very fresh-looking whole red snappers that caught my eye. I picked the smallest one they had (still pretty large), had them pack it in a bag of ice and headed off to lunch (they also had some Indian mackerel, and I picked up a couple of pounds of those too). Two days later I cooked it for lunch, improvizing my way towards a dish we really enjoy at Grand Szechuan. The result was not identical but it was very good. And it’s very easy too.
I put “steamed” in quotes in the title of this post because it’s not really steamed per se. I don’t own a steamer large enough and I wanted to keep the fish whole. So I put it into a large pyrex baking dish with a pool of soy sauce, black vinegar and chicken stock under it and a lot of slivered ginger, garlic, sliced green chillies and cilantro stuffed into the cavity, into slits I cut into the flesh and all over the top. I then tented some parchment and foil over the baking dish and put it into a 425f oven for about 30 minutes. It was perfectly cooked with moist, aromatic flesh and the sauce was rather good as well.
That’s really your recipe right there. I didn’t track any measurements. Basically, adapt quantities of aromatics and liquids to the size of the fish you have and stick in the oven for 20-30 minutes (unless it’s a small fish). For the liquid bits I mixed about a cup of soy sauce with about a cup of chicken stock and a big glug of black vinegar (but malt or apple cider vinegar will do as well). I like a lot of ginger and cilantro—you may want to use less, and, if you’re one of those strange people who don’t care for cilantro, you may want to use scallions in place of cilantro. You could also use more or less sliced green chillies than I did (I used four)—I kept it low as the boys were going to be eating it as well. We ate it with steamed rice and finished the whole fish at one sitting. The boys have asked that I prepare it often. That’s your endorsement right there.