This is a restaurant-style dish that's so easy to make at home. I make a simple black bean paste by briefly frying preserved black beans with garlic, which adds another dimension to the fish.
- 2½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 50 g garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 100 g Chinese preserved black beans, rinsed and drained (see Note)
- 700 g whole snapper, cleaned and scaled
- 1 lemon, sliced, plus extra lemon to squeeze
- 1 long red chilli, julienned
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 1 small handful coriander leaves
- 1 tbsp mushroom soy sauce (see Note)
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the garlic for 2–3 minute until it just begins to brown. Add the black beans and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Reserve 1 heaped tablespoon of the black bean paste for the fish, and store the rest in a sterilised jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. (You can also use the paste in stir-fries, marinades and braises.)
Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towel. Lay on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to cut slashes in the flesh where it is thickest – cut them about 3 cm apart crossways as well as lengthways. Turn the fish and do the same on the other side. Season inside and out with sea salt.
Place onto a large plate. Spread with the black bean paste and arrange the lemon slices over the top. Place the plate into a large bamboo steamer over a wok of simmering water. Cover with a lid and steam for about 12 minutes.
Remove from the steamer and top with the chilli, spring onion and coriander. Drizzle with the mushroom soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Heat the peanut oil in a small frying pan until smoking and pour over the fish. This will sizzle the herbs, releasing their aroma. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
• Preserved black beans (or black bean paste) can be bought at Asian grocery stores or large supermarkets.
• Mushroom soy sauce is a type of dark soy flavoured with straw mushrooms.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
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