Historically, Beijing relied upon the neighbouring provinces of Hebei, Tianjin and Shandong for its seafood and other fresh produce, which because of the transportation involved were preserved using various drying methods. However, today with modern transportation, produce from Shandong can arrive in the markets in Beijing within a day and fresh catches such as sea bass are a prized restaurant dish.
A particularly popular dish is steamed fish served in a soy and spring onion hot oil, which originated from southern China where steaming is a common cooking technique. I have made my version of steamed sea bass cooked with a beer sauce. Try it with rice and my garlic oyster mushrooms.
To make the bass: Either drape some of the ginger and spring onion strips across the fish or tuck them within the scores in the skin. Then, stuff the rest inside the cavity of the fish. Set the bass on a heatproof plate or dish and pour over the rice wine or sherry. Place the plate inside a large bamboo steamer and cover. Then, secure the steamer on top of a pan of boiling water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the steamer. Steam the fish for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the fish, until its flesh flakes when poked with chopsticks. Turn off the heat and leave the fish in the steamer.
To make the sauce: Heat the groundnut oil in a large pan or wok. Add in the ginger, and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the lime zest, followed by the beer, and soy sauce. Stir and, as the liquid comes to the boil, add the spring onions and cilantro. At this point, switch off the heat immediately.
Remove the plate and fish from the bamboo steamer, pour the sauce over the fish, and serve immediately with some steamed rice.
If you don't have a large enough steamer, place the fish on a heatproof plate, and put on a roasting rack in a pan. Put the pan in the oven, and carefully pour boiling water into the pan. Cover with foil, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until the flesh flakes when poked and has turned opaque.
Cooks NoteWhen choosing the dish for steaming the sea bass, choose one that you are happy to use as a serving dish too (this saves having to transfer the fish and means less washing up), but it should be heatproof. Also make sure that the dish is deep enough to hold all the delicious sauce.