Steamed fish has always been a favourite dish on our dining table in my family. So this day Song Fish offered their sea bass one-for-one, it’s too good an offer to miss. So I made Thai styled steamed sea bass, also known as Pla Kapong Neung Manao (ปลากะพงนึ่งมะนาว), a steamed fish dish stuffed with lemongrass and topped with a flavourful broth made with freshly chopped chillies, garlic, cilantro, fresh lime juice, palm sugar and fish sauce. I know, just the description of it set my tastebuds on high alert as you can find all these contrasting flavours — savoury, garlicky, sourish, sweet and spicy — in one steamed sea bass recipe dish. Of course you can use other types of fishes too, such as the snapper, the grouper, cod fish, tilapia, flounder or haddock.
The ingredients are simple and you probably already have all these in your kitchen. Fresh fish is a must but in Singapore, buying fresh live fish is a big challenge. This fish, even thou it’s pre-packed, is nicely cleaned of its internal and descaled and packed. I used freshly cooked chicken stock and seasoned with fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice, freshly chopped garlic, cilantro. For the chilli, I substituted it for the bigger chilli as my weak tummy could not take the extreme spiciness of the Thai red chilli. In this steamed sea bass recipe, I also substituted palm sugar with manuka honey, my favourite sweetener which is also highly nutritious. I really loved the idea of stuffing the fish with lemongrass, the aroma is really irresistible. The garnishing of the steamed fish with fresh cilantro and spring onion really elevates the taste.
Watch My Thai Steamed Fish Recipe on YouTube
How Do You Know The Fish Is Cooked?
In this steamed fish recipe, I used a fish that’s about 500 grams, partly also because the biggest steaming pot I had is this small. So the total time I used to steam my fish was about 13 minutes.
The best way to see if the fish is cooked is by poking it with a chopstick or fork at the thickest part, if you can poke it down easily and, the fish flakes easily and appears opaque, it’s done. Raw fish is difficult to poke through and appears translucent too.
Another way is to use a meat thermometer and see if the internal temperature of the thickest part of the fish reaches 140-145 degree fahrenheit or 60-63 degree celsius.
My mum told me to look at its eyes too, it’s cooked when the eyes popped. It might be gross but so far it worked!
Check out my other Thai recipes:
Thai Steamed Fish (Pla Kapong Neung Manao – ปลากะพงนึ่งมะนาว)
- 500 g sea bass descaled and internals removed
- 1 cup stock fish or chicken
- 30 g cilantro
- 2 sprigs spring onion
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 3-4 lemongrass
- 2-3 Thai red chilli or 1 big red chilli (for reduced spiciness)
- 1 tbsp palm sugar or 1 tbsp manuka honey (my preference)
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice from 1-2 green limes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- Wash and mince chilli. Peel and mince garlic. Set aside.
- Wash and chop off stems of cilantro and spring onion. Slice cilantro and spring onion into smaller pieces. Set aside half of the cut cilantro – half to be used in sauce and half as garnish.
- Chop off top and bottom of lemongrass. Bruise the bottom part of lemongrass by pounding with the back of knife to release its aroma.
- Make 4 diagonal slits on both sides of fish, cut until the knife touches the bone.
- Stuff lemongrass into the cavity of the fish
- Add water to pot and bring to boil over high heat. Once water boils, place fish on a plate into the steamer and cover with lid. (I used a wide pot and a silicon steaming base for this purpose as I do not have a steamer set). Steam for about 12-15 minutes depending on size of fish. I steamed the 500g fish for about 13 minutes.
- Squeeze 3 tbsp of lime juice.
- Prepare the sauce. Boil fish or chicken stock in a saucepan over low simmering heat. Add manuka honey and stir to mix well. Turn heat off.
- Add chilli, garlic, cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice and fish sauce. Mix well and set aside.
- Check that fish is done steaming after about 12-15 minutes. Poke with a fork or chopstick, if it comes out clear and fish flakes easily, it's done. You can also check if the eyes popped out. Remove from steamer.
- Garnish the plate by placing cilantro and spring onion on the base, then place fish on top. Pour sauce over the fish. Garnish with more cilantro.
- Serve hot with white rice.