Happy Lunar New Year!
One of the things this holiday is best known for is the extravagant feast. A dish that you will almost always find on the table is a whole cooked fish — the Chinese word for fish, “yu,” is a homonym for another word that means “prosperity.” Keeping the head and tail intact is key: It ensures a good start and finish to the year.
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 whole fish, such as black sea bass or red snapper, about 1 1/2 pounds, gutted and scaled
A few pinches of both salt and pepper
2 tablespoons peeled ginger, in very fine slivers
1 bunch scallions, cut on the bias in 3-inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 bunch cilantro
Rinse fish with cold water, pat dry, and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place half of the sliced ginger inside and top with the remaining slices.
Place fish on a heatproof platter or shallow baking dish (Dish must be slightly smaller than inside dimensions of steamer).
Whisk together wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Pour over fish.
Set up steamer with 3 inches of water in the bottom, then set rack 1 inch over water. Bring water to a rapid boil. Place fish, still on platter, on rack and cover with lid (If using a bamboo steamer, cover top with a dish towel to retain steam). Steam fish for 10 to 12 minutes, until just done. Flesh should look opaque, and there should be no pink at the bone when probed gently with a paring knife.
Carefully remove platter from steamer. Meanwhile, place a skillet or wok over high heat and add vegetable oil. When oil looks hazy, add garlic and scallions and toss to coat.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and stir-fry until wilted, about a minute. Take off heat.
To serve, scatter scallions and garlic over fish and top liberally with cilantro sprigs. Serve pieces of fish over steamed rice and spoon pan juices over each serving.