“Good Canto” often meant “Hong Kong Canto” at NYU Stern, where my classes and social circles were dominated by fellow Asians, and I was informed by countless peers that my Cantonese sounded “funny”. Funny as my accent seemed (stemming from the parentals’ Wuzhou heritage), I never let it stop me from ordering dim sum in Chinatown or buying cheap fruits and veggies at the street stands. In fact, I always felt quite at home in Chinatown, where the fake goods hawkers still stand on street corners with their walkie talkies, yelling out brand name labels to entice passerbys to check out their warehouse goodies.
However, there was still one hurdle left to conquer. In all my years living in the city and countless hours in Chinatown, I had never done one thing: bought fish.
Now these are not your usual fish fillets, neatly scaled, deboned, and packaged at your local grocery store. These are freshly caught (or I’d like to think so) whole pieces of fish in all their glory, laying on beds of ice and waiting patiently for the chance to become someone’s next meal. I avoided buying fish in the past due to the dizzying variety and indecipherable Chinese characters, but I absolutely had to get fish for my first homecooked New Years feast.
I bombarded my dad with questions on which fish to buy before making the final decision – Long Lee please! Long Lee, known as Sole in English, was a flat, flaky fish my parents used to steam at home. When buying fish, always have the fishmonger scale and gut the fish. You have enough to worry about with all that bone left intact, and you don’t want the guts muddying up the flavor.
Steamy Kitchen had an excellent suggestion for serving the fish. Instead of traditionally serving the steamed fish with its cooking juices and cooked herbs, create a fresh herb sauce to drizzle on top. The modified recipe below is inspired by Jaden’s recipe.
You will need a dish to hold the fish and a large pot or wok for steaming. I bought one of those metal steamer legs on which to rest the dish, but you can also place an inverted bowl in the pot/wok to hold the plate of fish above the steaming water.