• Whole snapper steamed with black beans, lemon and chilli (Alan Benson)

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.






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (25 votes)


  • 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

Cook's notes

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.


Chef's note

• 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. 


Frank Shek is the head chef at China Doll, featured on The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.