Can any dish be simpler to cook than steamed whole fish? The only real work involved is the preparation. After that, just place the fish in the steamer and leave it to cook for 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the fish. No stirring, no nothing. Very few utensils to wash. And, unlike fried whole fish, no oil splatters to clean up afterwards.
I love steamed whole fish. But not all kinds of fish are good for steaming. My top preferences are tilapia and pompano and both are available all-year round in wet markets. Tilapia can either be saltwater or freshwater; pompano is either dark gray or silver. The dark dray pompano is the common variety. The silver pompano, or mestiza, is something I don’t see too often. In fact, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I became aware that there is pompano other than the dark gray variety.
Why is pompano great for steaming? Because the flesh contains enough oil to make it moist and soft.
Most of my friends who cook think that commercial broth cubes are an essential ingredient of steamed whole fish. I beg to disagree. Using broth cubes takes the control out of the cook because you’re stuck with the flavors in the broth cubes. Worse, the MSG content of broth cubes kill the natural flavors of the fish and who the heck wants that? Might as well eat canned fish.
This is not exactly a new recipe. You can check out my older steamed whole fish recipes for comparison.