Chinese steamed fish (blue eye cod) with shallot, ginger and soy sauce

Steamed blue eye cod, memories of the ‘Yayan Lane’ 雅言里 where we once lived (FODMAP friendly)

How I love steamed fish!

Growing up in Guangzhou in the early 1970s, we lived in a rundown 5-bedroom terrace house on a little laneway called the ‘Yayan Lane’ 雅言里, translated as the ‘elegant words lane’. The house was bought by my grandfather in the early 1950s for $1,200 yuan from a tea merchant. At the time there was a ‘movement’ to crack down on tax evasion. Like some other small businesses, the tea merchant had to sell his house to pay his tax bill.  It was said that many houses were selling cheap over that period.

IMG_5013 #1
My grandfather at the old terrace house, Yayan lane, Guangzhou

There were many family members who lived at the terrace house at various intervals – my great grandmother, my grandparents, my family, 3 uncles & 1 aunt and their families. My grandma cooked dinners for all the families. Food & basic essentials such as rice, oil, meat, fish, coal & fabric were on rations, and we had books of colourful coupons.

There was a state-ran market across the road from our laneway. The market sold all sorts of food – meat & vegetables, seafood, Chinese sausages & BBQ meat, tofu, preserves, oil & soy sauce. When very small fish were caught from large schools, sometimes coupons were not required.  The neighbours always kept a lookout for such rare occasions, and we would hear a shout across the laneway.  Grandmother and I would grab a bamboo basket as fast as we could, rushed over to join the crowd.  There were no such things as lining up – layers of people cramped in front of the concrete table where the fish piled up among large blocks of ice, pushing each other, yelling to attract attention. The fish was always fresh and undeniably small,  not longer than my little hand.  My grandmother steamed the fish with soy sauce for dinner. Our skinny house cats would fight over the bones & left-over sauce mixed with some rice – a rare treat for them.

Riding a bike at Yayan Lane, GuangZhou, China in 1970s
Riding a bike at the Yayan lane in 1970s

Today, we are so very lucky in Australia with all the wonderful seafood, spices & herbs. My favourite method of cooking fish is steaming. From time to time, when I enjoy a good steamed fish, I could still smell the sea at the crowded marketplace across the road from Yayan Lane.

Here is my version of steamed fish – fresh & simple.  I used Blue Eye Cod on this occasion. You can use most sorts of white flesh fish. My favourite fish for steaming is perch.


(Serves 2 as a FODMAP recipe)

  • 1-2 fillet of blue eye cod, approximately 200g  (most white flesh fish are suitable for steaming)
  • a slice of ginger, julienned
  • 1-2 tsp traditional / light soy sauce (or to taste)
  • some green shallot (scallion), use green part only, sliced
  • some coriander, sliced
  • 1 red chili, seeds removed, to garnish (optional)
  • 2 tsp cooking oil  (I use olive oil)


  • Place a few slices of ginger at the bottom of a dish, place the fish on top; place the remaining ginger and half of the green shallot on top of the fish
  • Place the dish in a steamer, steam for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) or until the fish is cooked
  • Remove the fish from heat; transfer the fish to a serving plate; place the remaining green shallot and coriander on top of the fish
  • In a sauce pan, heat up the cooking oil until it is very hot; splash the hot oil on top of the green shallot and coriander; you will  hear the sizzles
  • Drizzle soy sauce to top of the fish; garnish with chili if desired
Chinese steamed fish (blue eye cod) with shallot, ginger and soy sauce
Chinese steamed fish (blue eye cod) with shallot, ginger and soy sauce









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