Steaming is the best way to enjoy this nostalgic Teochew-inspired recipe
Serves 4
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A Teochew-styled pomfret bathing in a deep dish of salted mustard greens, umeboshi, various vegetables and more results in a traditional, simplistic and delicious fish reminiscent of weekend dinners at your favourite zi char establishment.


  • 200 g kiam chye (salted mustard green)
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 whole Chinese silver pomfret (800 g)
  • 1 tbsp white rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 stalks of spring onion (70 g)
  • 2 umeboshi (Japanese preserved plums, 40 g)
  • 15 g ginger, slice half and julienne remainder
  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms (12 g), soaked and sliced
  • 1 tomato (150 g), sectioned into six pieces
  • 1 red finger chilli, de-seeded and slice finely
  • 3 g fresh coriander

Place the kiam chye in a basin. Add a litre of water and ½ tsp of salt. Soak for 1 hr.


Rinse the kiam chye thoroughly. Remove the first three leaves from the outside and set aside. Slice the remaining kiam chye into 2 cm by 4 cm strips. Set aside.


Place the pomfret in a deep dish. Add 1 tsp of salt and the white rice vinegar. Rub the mixture all over the fish, including its cavity. Leave for three minutes and rinse thoroughly.


Place the fish on the cutting board. Score it along its back and make three cuts on its surface. Turn it over and repeat.


Rub the remaining salt and sugar all over the fish, including its cavity. Set aside.


Cut the lower white parts of the spring onion into 5cm lengths. Set aside four.


Cut the remaining spring onions into 5cm lengths and slice thinly. Place them in iced water until they curl. Remove and set aside. Keep them chilled until ready to use.


Remove the seed from one of the plums.


On a round metal plate, place the three kiam chye leaves, three pieces of the lower white parts of the spring onion, flesh from the seedless plum and three ginger slices.


Place the fish on top. Place one piece of the white part of the spring onion, the plum’s seed, two ginger slices and two slices of mushroom in the cavity of the fish.


Stick a small ceramic spoon into the fish cavity.


Arrange the remaining kiam chye, mushrooms and tomatoes around the fish. You can place some on top of the fish too.


Place the remaining plum on top of the fish.


Garnish the plate with the red chilli.


Bring water to a boil in a steamer.


Steam the fish for 10 mins. Keep it covered and let it cook in residual heat for another two minutes.


Remove from the steamer and garnish with remaining spring onion and coriander before serving.

TIP Place the whole leaves of the kiam chye and spring onion under the fish to help circulate the heat during steaming. Another tip is to stick a small ceramic spoon into the fish cavity as it acts as a heat conductor.

Text: Straits Times

Photo: Hedy Khoo

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