Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Steamed Fluke with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables (天津冬菜蒸比目魚)

Last Saturday, I dropped the eldest off at her Chinese class, and headed into town for my usual trip to the fishmonger. My friend, Regina, realised that this was the last class of term and panic-bought enough fish to last until New Year, it seemed!

It still feels like a bit of a treat going to the fishmonger on a Saturday morning, followed by a trip to the greengrocer. The displays are always full of a decent variety of fresh, plump, glistening fish and shellfish, and the fishmonger is always happy to chat, recomending what is in season and what came in the morning's catch, and asking us how we would cook certain ingredients. By the time we have finished, there's usually a queue behind us, and one of us has probably nicked the last of the prawns/clams/scallops.....

Last week, the fishmonger recommended that I try the fluke, that had been landed that morning. Having never tried it (or even flounder) before, I was intrigued. Normally, I'll buy a dover sole or a lemon sole if I'm after a flat fish. It was an ugly looking thing, but big enough to feed us all, so I picked one up for about £4. On this occasion, I also picked up 4 fat slabs of salmon, which got vac-packed for the freezer, and a couple of herring, which I seasoned, floured and pan-fried. The herring roe was delicious given the same treatment, and dipped in Chinese red vinegar.

I thought about pan-frying the fluke, but it was so fresh, I decided to steam it instead. It was an absolute treat. The flesh was light, delicate, moist and flaky, and the children gobbled it up. One day, I'll make them brainy! I used Tianjin preserved vegetable, which can be bought in Chinese supermarkets. It's a preserved, salted cabbage, which needs to be soaked and rinsed a few times, and is one of my favourite accompaniments for steamed fish.

Tianjin Preserved Vegetable (天津冬菜)



  • 1 fluke or flounder, scaled and gutted
  • 3 tsp Tianjin preserved vegetable, soaked in warm water for 10 mins, then drained and rinsed a few times to remove grit
  • 3 slices of raw ginger, peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks
  • A very small pinch of ground white pepper
  • 3-4 big sploshes of seasoned soy sauce for seafood (or use light soy sauce)
  • A few drops of a flavourless oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower oil
Serves 2-3



  • Rinse the fish inside and out, and pat dry with kitchen towels. Lay dark-side up on a heatproof steaming dish (I use a metal dish, but anything will do, you might just need to steam for a few minutes longer)
  • Scatter the sliced ginger over the top of the fish
  • Squeeze any excess moisture from the Tianjin preserved vegetable, and scatter it over the fish and ginger. Sprinkle a very small pinch of ground white pepper over the top
  • Splosh the seasoned soy sauce for seafood over the fish in abundance - the sauce is great for adding to rice, so I always make sure there's enough to go round
  • Add a couple of drops of sunflower or grapeseed oil
  • Place the dish on a rack over water in a large wok, cover, and steam for 8-10 minutes, until just cooked through
  • Serve with boiled rice
Steamed Fluke with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables (天津冬菜蒸比目魚)

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