‘Steaming’ Into a New Year

I’m not much motivated to make resolutions, but I am a goal driven person – so what may at times seem like a time oriented resolution (ie, New Year’s), may really just be a desire to learn or experience something new.  Currently I have an itch to fill a gap of knowledge regarding ‘steaming’, which I suspect here in the U.S. is a form of cooking that is both un-respected (given its health benefits) and under-utilized.  So, for those of you who insist that everyone should have a new year’s resolution, consider me in – I hereby resolve to learn more about steaming, and to expand my personal repertoire of steaming experiences – and of course, I’ll be posting on those experiences.  If that’s a new year’s resolution, so be it.

I suppose if I were a vegetarian, I’d be more experienced in steaming, for steaming lends itself to vegetables so well – but actually, it’s the non-vegetable steaming that interests me the most.  I’ve had steamed meat and fish that have been such unique taste experiences that they seemed to be completely new foods!  And I’ve had magnificent Japanese seafood custards steamed in small cups that were equally unique.  But I think the most ‘foreign’ of all steamed foods to most Americans are found in the world of steamed breads.

Certainly Mexican tamales are a familiar restaurant item to many Americans, but many eaters would be stopped cold when asked to identify how those tamales are cooked – yet tamales, and their kin, are some of the world’s most famous kinds of steamed breads, as many different cultures have their own versions.  Another similar surprise may arise from the identification of how Asian bao are cooked, for these are even more readily identified as ‘breads’, but most of us have a difficult time in thinking of ‘steamed’ breads.

But all of the above hold a fascination for me, and I shall be spending a good deal of my leisure time, of which I have plenty these days, in discovering all I can about this fascinating segment of the culinary world.  Of course, I have something to share with you today, and I think it’s a good intro item, since it is so damn simple, and even perhaps, one of the world’s most healthy ways to prepare fish for dinner.  This particular way of doing fish is a favorite with my wife, Sandee, because she is trying hard right now to limit her intake of fats, and often I do not help with that effort (my usual ways to cook fish are either by sauteing, or broiling with butter).  But by steaming the fish, the fat intake is reduced to almost nothing, while even increasing the ‘taste’ intake!  And did I mention it’s simple besides?

There is one small catch, but then, all cooking involves some kind of small catches, yes?  And that is equipment.  I have a magnificent 3 tier Thai steamer made from very light aluminum – it is so light and seemingly fragile, that at first glance, it would appear a poor investment – but mine is now more than 12 years old, and none the worse for wear.

Potential buyers needn’t worry.  But if you don’t have one of these dandy steamers, the equally excellent bamboo kinds (they fit nicely inside a wok) will do just as well.  What?  You have neither!  Fret not, for the world of steaming is ever adaptable. and we have some suggestions on how all cooks can create a steamer out of whatever they already have in their kitchen.

For those of you who are already equipped with an adequate steamer, please excuse us while we talk to those who are not – at an absolute minimum, you’ll need a good sized pot with a lid – if you have this, you’re home free.  Do you have something that looks a little like this:

These are amazing things! They expand in and out to fit any size pot, and have little legs on the bottom to keep the food out of the water.  If you don’t have one, get down to your local thrift store – I’ve seen them for a buck or so – they are not hard to find, maybe even at the dollar store – just make sure it’s an expandable type, so it can fit into any size pot.

If you don’t want to get that fancy, all you really need is something you can put into the bottom of your covered pot that won’t be harmed by the boiling water – something like a few pieces of older silverware, or a few wads of aluminum foil – just something that sit above some boiling water, and hold up a dish over the top of the water.  If you have a few canning jar rings around, they’ll work well.  The idea is to keep your food out of the boiling water, but in the steam – and you only need enough water to stay boiling for about 10 minutes for most things.

Veggies can go on the bottom level

And the fish on the top - don't forget the lid.

OK?  We all should be together now.  The really simple dish I’m going to make with you is a steamed white fleshed fish – any white fleshed fish.  Works best with a boned fillet, but no reason why you can’t do a whole small fish, or a chunk with skin on.  And if you’re fortunate enough to have one of these handy multiple tiered kinds like mine, you can also steam some vegetables right along with the fish – just remember that some veggies will steam faster than others.

Steamed Asian Marinated Fish

2-3 nice white fish fillets of your choice  (sole, halibut, sea bass, cod, rock fish, tilapia, catfish, or swai)
1/2 cup fresh coriander
4-5 thick slices of fresh ginger

For marinade/sauce:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander
2 Tbsp light soy sauce (Japanese, like Kikkoman, is a light soy sauce – Chinese soy sauces will most often note if it is light, if it does not, and it has a thick dark look, mix half and half with water)
1 tsp dark toasted sesame oil (the darker, the more flavor it’ll have!)
1 Tbsp sake or white wine

Fresh coriander and/or thinly sliced green onion

Mix sauce ingredients and marinate fish in sauce for about 30 minutes or more.
Heat steamer and place coriander and ginger slices in upper tray of steamer.
Arrange marinated fish over coriander and ginger – once steamer is active, close top and steam for 5-8 minutes.
Plate steamed fish (nice over rice) and garnish with minced/torn coriander and/or green onion – you may drizzle the remaining sauce over all, if desired – it’s also nice with rice or splashed over steamed veggies too.

My Notes: As you see, I also steamed some broccoli with my fish, and I let it go for the full five minutes that the fish was cooking – next time, I’ll pull the broccoli at 3 minutes – I think it was a bit overdone at 5 minutes.  Frankly, even the fish, which was cut thin, could have been pulled at 4 minutes.  Steaming too long will just toughen whatever you’re cooking – I guess this is a matter of experience with the equipment you’re using.

And if you’re paying attention, along with the clutter of garnish on the fish are what looks like tiny french fries, but they’re not – those are an additional garnish of julienned ginger slivers quickly sauteed until only the tips show brown – sounded interesting, but I thought upon tasting that it was not worth the prep – if you like the idea, give it a try.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking for new ways I can use my Thai steamer for some creative and tasty dishes I can blog about.


About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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7 Responses to ‘Steaming’ Into a New Year

  1. Tupper says:

    Alright-No butter shot-but, I liked the piece. We have a 2 piece steamer we use all the time for veggies. No other way to make them.

    Used the pressure cooker tonight to cook a turkey tenderloin- awesome-kind of the same principle, yes?

  2. drfugawe says:

    Hey Tup,
    Ya got me with your question – I’m just now learning about steaming food, and I don’t know a damn thing about pressure cooking – I got my first one at a thrift store about 2 years ago, but I never cooked with it – it kinda scares me!

    Yeah, I ought’a put that one on my list too.

  3. I love steaming and I too want to make bao! So I will wait for your post on the subject Doc!

    Sous vide – that’s what I am going to have a crack at – which seems to translate as poaching meats at very low temperatures for a long time in a zip loc bag. Saw a wonderful video on You Tube yesterday of someone doing this with duck breasts.

    Also watched programme about 10 tips for losing weight, most of it obvious, but one I didn’t know, which was that if you whizz your soup so that the solids are broken up, rather than eat as clear soup with chunks in it, then it takes longer for stomach to process and hunger pangs are reduced. Also fascinating insight into why having a wide choice of foods in front of you incites you to eat more, i.e. a buffet table, rather than a bowl of all the same apples. Even applies with sweets, the multi coloured ones go faster than the same colour ones. Primitive brain, going back to when we were hunter gatherer scavengers, a little bit of everything edible to give you a balance, but not really relevant now and contributing to obesity. Does this little para mean I am going on a diet? No. But awareness of these things is always a good thing 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      Gonna do some shrimp tamales soon – another steamed bread – I’ll be posting on that before bao.

      Interesting comments about how simply slowing our digestive system helps us to lose weight – I take a med named Byetta (diabetes), and one of the things it does is slow the food exiting one’s stomach. That means that each time lunch or dinner rolls around, my stomach is not yet fully empty, and so I’m not really hungry! It’s a nice way to slowly lose weight.

  4. I’m a big fan of steaming, mostly vegetables these days, and the occasional piece of fish. Have you ever steamed a sausage? It sounds unlikely, but if you get a good quality one, brown it a little in dry pan, then pop a little water in the bottom and add a lid. Voila! Cooks really quickly.
    I haven’t steamed bread before though…

    • drfugawe says:

      Please excuse me for not giving you a timely welcome here – I either missed seeing my email notice (likely), or WordPress just failed to notify me – whatever!

      No, never have done a steamed sausage – I think I’d never consider doing one w/o first browning it, but I just may give your method a try, as long as I’m in my ‘discovery’ mode.

  5. Pingback: Steaming Fish | Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas

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