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Chinese Ginger Scallion Steamed Tilapia in 20 minutes


The past few weeks, I’ve ended up after a day’s work within walking distance to Chinatown,which is much more often than normal. When I was a kid, ginger scallion with tilapia used to be a staple order when we went out to eat at our go-to place, a restaurant called Chinatown in Morton Grove, Illinois. I used to think we ate there too much and would complain about it and suggest we eat at somewhere with Italian or other non-Asian foods. But, in recent weeks I have been growing to appreciate certain Chinese dishes I used to be able to get with ease.

This past weekend, we went to Chinatown for lunch. Boston’s Chinatown is quite small and very walkable. It is nestled amidst the financial district and Tufts Medical Center.  At Dumpling Cafe (which many hold in esteem, and with good reason) we enjoyed pork and leek dumplings, pork buns (this was hard to get over mentally because I never liked pork other than in american-style breakfast contexts) and beef with scallions and rice. It was the second time recently that I had tried to order ginger scallion with tilapia without success, so I settled on the other choices, but not without a tinge of disappointment. I couldn’t understand why they can make lobster and crab, both seemingly complicated dishes with the same style and not fish.

I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so, although I had little confidence in my ability to cook  in a non-fusion way and to stick to a single cultural cuisine tradition, I nonetheless firmly decided I would give it a try myself if no restaurant would make it for me.

It was quite easy, needed little supervision, hit the spot, and is really healthy.

-what you need-

one tilapia (two filets are fine)

2 tablespoon rice wine ( I didn’t have this, so I just put 1 tablespoon cooking wine and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar)

scallions, a couple of stalks chopped (I had chives, and they worked fine too)

a knob of ginger (cut in about 15 slim disks)

1 tsp sugar

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 tablespoon white pepper

-for steaming-

place tilapia in steamer basket with water below. I used a steamer in a rice cooker, filled the water to just below the steamer basket, and turned it on. You can probably make the rice at the same time in the rice cooker too!

lay about 10 ginger disks on the surface of the fish, and top with most of the scallions.

steam for 15-18 minutes or until fish is opaque white. (could take on the longer side for fish from frozen)

to save time, start the sauce while steaming the fish and making rice as an accompaniment. 

-for sauce-

place remainder of scallions and ginger slices in a bowl.

add rice wine, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce and mix until sugar dissolves.

Heat mixture in a sauce pan on low heat, gradually increasing the temperature to a maximum of medium heat just until the sauce begins to boil.

-finishing touches-

Once the sauce begins to boil, take off heat, place fish on a serving dish and pour the hot sauce over it. Serve warm, over rice, and with veggies.

I made sauteed kale and tomatoes with salt and pepper, and sliced cucumbers for the veggies this time.

It’s nice to learn how to make dishes that are important to you or your family, and to save a little money in the process by making favorites at home. 🙂

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