Thai Steamed Fish Recipe

  • 01 of 05

    Prepare the Fish

    Man pouring sauce over catfish in casserole dish.


    • 2 or more white fish fillets or steaks (halibut, snapper, or cod work well and are readily available)
    • 1/2 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
    • 3 tablespoons white wine (or cooking wine)
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or substitute another type of vinegar)
    • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (available at Asian/Chinese stores)
    • 1 stalk lemongrass, lower stalk sliced finely (with outer leaves and lower bulb removed) or 2 tablespoons frozen, prepared lemongrass
    • 1 red (or substitute green) chili, de-seeded and finely sliced
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water (for thickening)


    • 1 thumb-sized piece galangal (or ginger), sliced into long and thin matchstick-like pieces
    • 3 spring onions, cut long and thin
    • 2 tablespoons coconut or canola oil (you can also use olive, almond, or another healthy oil)
    • A handful of fresh coriander sprigs

    Cooking Equipment Needed

    You will need a steamer or metal colander. Bamboo steamers (like the one used in this recipe) are inexpensive and easily found at Asian grocery stores and markets. A metal or stainless steel colander will work too—as long as you can find a baking-type dish that will fit inside it (to hold the fish).

    Step 1:

    Prepare fish by rinsing it, then patting it dry with a cloth or paper towel. Salt the fish on both sides and then rub with sesame oil. Set in your baking dish while you prepare the sauce and other ingredients.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Make the Sauce

    Wooden spoon in bubbling sauce.

    To make the sauce, pound or process lemongrass slices (a food processor works well). Add this to the broth and wine in a pot over medium-high heat. Allow to come to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, or until lemongrass is soft.

    Now turn down heat to minimum and add vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and chili. Do a taste test for salt—if not salty enough, add more fish sauce. Note: sauce needs to be fairly salty in order for the combined sauce and fish to taste its best. Add the cornstarch or arrowroot powder and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Step 3: Place Fish in Steamer

    Fish in bamboo steamer inside wok.

    Place fish in a shallow casserole or baking dish (see picture) that will fit inside your bamboo steamer or colander.

    The dish should be small or narrow enough to allow some steam to rise from the bottom of the steamer or colander.

    Place the steamer inside your wok or over a large frying pan or pot if you don't have a wok.

    Make sure there are 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the wok, pan, or pot for steaming. You will also need a lid to cover the steamer or colander (a lid that is slightly "bubbled" is good, allowing more steam to circulate inside and around the fish).

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Add Toppings

    Adding toppings to fish

    Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the lemongrass sauce over fish. Set the rest aside, but keep it warm. Now sprinkle the galangal (or ginger) and spring onions over fish. Cover the steamer (or wok/pot) and steam at high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Fish is done when inside is easy to flake and white (no longer transparent). Thicker fillets may take as long as 20 minutes. Be sure to check your wok, pan or pot from time to time and add more water as needed, ensuring it doesn't boil dry.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Serve and Eat!

    Thai Steamed Fish with Lemongrass and Ginger

    Remove the fish from the steamer. Place on a serving platter (or simply keep it in the casserole/baking dish, if desired). Warm the oil very slightly and then pour over the fish. Now surround fish with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with sprigs of fresh coriander and spring onion, and serve with plenty of Thai jasmine rice. For those who like it hot, Thai chili sauce may be served on the side. Enjoy!