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Steamed Sea Bass, Japanese Style

Steamed Sea Bass, Japanese Style

Learn how to steam a whole sea bass the Japanese way with Chef Tadashi Ono's tips. This method involves seasoning the fish with sea salt, sake, and garnishes, then steaming it to perfection. Enhance the flavor with konbu and make a flavorful fish stock from the bones. Try this delicate and delicious dish at home!

Here's a method for steaming fish that Chef Tadashi Ono explained to me the other day at Matsuri. I had brought a beautiful, freshly caught whole sea bass to the restaurant from the Union Square farmers market, and Chef Ono graciously showed me how to clean and portion it the Japanese way. (I'm going to soon post a video on the subject, which is fascinating.)

Okay, steaming a delicate fish like sea bass: First, set up a steamer on a stovetop (I use a simple steamer inside a sauce pot -- you don't need anything fancy). Now, place a filet on a plate that can fit inside the steamer. Sprinkle sea salt on the fish, pour sake over it, and garnish with either a few slices of ginger or thinly sliced scallions. Position the plate inside the steamer, and start steaming. Check the fish after a few minutes - when it looks ready, remove it from the steamer. Discard the sake steaming liquid and serve the fish. It's that simple.

If you'd like to add another layer of flavor, you can place a piece of konbu underneath the filet before you steam. Also, you can make a fish stock from the sea bass bones, thicken it with a little kuzu starch (or kuzukiri, potato starch) and pour it over the fish (after you discard the sake steaming liquid). This kind of thickened stock is called "kuzu an" -- salt flavored kuzu, if I understand correctly.

To prepare the stock: Combine fish bones and head with water and a piece of konbu in a stock pot and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid boils, discard the konbu. Reduce the heat and simmer for thirty minutes, skimming any scum that appears on the surface. Remove from heat and strain the liquid.

The fish I prepared this way was really delicious, delicately flavored and sublime. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

(By the way, I made miso soup the following morning with the fish stock, garnished with chopped mitsuba -- heavenly.)