Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce

My girlfriend and I cheated on our husbands and dated a crazy Gnome, who hosted our trip.

Wendy, one of my best friends and I were whisked away to NYC for a 4-day vacation to celebrate NYC Restaurant week, featuring over 200 restaurants in NYC with prix fix $24.95 lunch and $35.00 dinners. Fancy restaurants like Nobu, Bar Basque, Adour Alain Ducasse and Aquavit participate! UPDATE: Restaurant Week has been extended until Feb 27, 2010

What we didn’t expect was the crazy cold weather – we’re Florida girls and we’re used to flip flops in January. In fact, this was taken a couple of weeks ago:

And this was NYC when we arrived, in between 2 huge storms.

So we bundled up as warm as we could – I have like 24 layers on – which meant that I couldn’t button up my big coat. Which meant that the 24 layers were useless. That hats? Useless because they didn’t cover our ears.

Found lovely earmuffs that made me look like a Chinese Princess Leia

One word: DORK.

Another made me look like a Smurf, which actually might not have been too bad, since we were going on a date with the tall hat-happy Gnome.

But in the end, we ditched the whole hat idea (vanity trumped warmth) and it was okay.

When our date finally arrived (he was late and I thought he stood us up!) he was so incredibly polite – what a gentleman.

Gnome likes to eat.

Our first of three dates was at the famous Nobu Restaurant.

Perfect way to start the meal – grilled shishito peppers with sweet sesame/miso dressing, eggplant chips and edamame.

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalepeno, one of Nobu’s classics. The sauce is a mix of 2 parts yuzu and 1 part soy sauce.

A decadent treat – Bigeye & Bluefin Toro Tartar with Caviar (I forgot what the little fruit’s name is). Time stood still when I savored this dish.

Squid “pasta” with Japanese Mushrooms, Mini Carrots, Asaparagus – there’s no real pasta in thisย  dish, the squid is cut and sliced so that it curls into a tubular penne shape.

Salmon Skin Sushi – the outside is hand cut daikon skin. There’s also one of my favorite sushi ingredients of all time, pickled gobo (burdock root).

And finally, the best steamed fish I’ve ever had, it was steamed with a Chinese black bean sauce mixed with Japanese sake.

While Nobu restaurant uses Chilean Sea Bass, it’s not recommended. In fact, it wasn’t until I published this post did my friend remind me that Chilean Sea Bass is on the “severely overfished” list. DUH! I knew that.

Which goes to show you that even I get caught up in the excitement of an amazing restaurant menu and have a lapse of judgement. Bad.

Well, the types of fish fillets you can use: Salmon, Black Sea Bass, Rockfish, Grouper, Arctic Char. See full list of sustainable fish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.

Fish talk aside, I love the flavors of this sauce – salty black bean sauce with Japanese sake (use a dry sake, not sweet) and flaky, light steamed fish is a great combo. The sake calms down the sometimes pungent black bean. If you don’t have chives, sub with thinly sliced green onion.


Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce Recipe

Servings: 4 Prep Time: Cook Time:

Adapted from Nobu The Cookbook by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa

For a healthier version - cut down the amount of olive oil/sesame oil by half.

Types of fish fillets you can use: Salmon, Black Sea Bass, Rockfish, Grouper, Arctic Char. See full list of sustainable fish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.


4 thick fish fillets (about 1.25" thick)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Chinese salted black bean paste, mixed with a little sake
8 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice alcohol)
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 bunch fresh chives, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil


1. Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Spread the tops with black bean paste. Place fish into heatproof dish, add sake and steam for 10 minutes over high heat in a steamer.

2. While fish is steaming, use a vegetable peeler to slice the ginger into very thin slices, then use knife to julienne into thin slivers.

3. When fish is finished, remove the dish from the steamer and pour the accumulated cooking liquid onto a large deep plate for serving. Top the ginger slivers and the chives over the fish.

4. In a small frying pan, heat up the olive oil and sesame oil until just before it begins to smoke, then pour it over the fish. The chives and ginger should sizzle.

5. Transfer the fish to the plates containing the reserved steaming liquid and serve.

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Comments 29

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  2. renee

    NYC is worth suffering the cold for. Seeing your picture made me homesick. Earmuffs do the trick. Did you get all that food for $35? Next year I’ll do restaurant week too!

  3. Kitchen Sink Chef

    Ah! Florida,

    In the third photo down, did you pose those people in front of the columns, looks like an infinity picture.


    Thanks for the excellent post Jaden

  4. Barton

    Glad to hear you mentioning Chilean Sea Bass is a fish to avoid, Bluefin and Big eye Tuna too. I know they taste so good it is really there own fault but shouldnt people who care about food as much as food bloggers be campaigning against eating endangered species. The NE chefs did it with Give Swordfish a Break…..

  5. Murasaki Shikibu

    This sounds divine. I have my own thoughts about the whole fish debate but I’m not going to litter your blog which is after all about enjoying food with the kind of words that make food taste bad!

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  7. Chris

    Is it true what they say about the size of a gnome’s pointy hat? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Even if you froze your ears off, it looks like you had a great time.

  8. Nick

    I used to manage at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and we did a very similar dish to this. It’s absolutely amazing. It is very important to spoon over the hot oil, which sounds weird, but it releases so much flavor into the dish.

    FYI the little fruit is called a yamamomo – japanese mountain peach

  9. Danni Eldred

    Is Chinese salted black bean paste what I would find in jars, or is it the salted black beans that I often see in clear plastic bags? Thank you. Love your website.

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  12. Ali

    Hi Jaden!
    Can we substitute rice alcohol with some other non-alcoholic liquid? I am a Muslim and consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Islam. I find a lot of Chinese recipes with shaoxing wine or rice wine ๐Ÿ™ and I really wish I knew a good non -alcoholic substitute for that . Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Pingback: Malaysian Fish in Black Bean Sauce | MoBitesFood

  14. yosh


    FYI alcohol evaporates during the cooking process so there is no need to substitute.

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