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Thai Style Steamed Fish w/Lime (Pla Nung Manao)

Tonight I overcame a food fear of mine, I cooked a whole fish. I know it doesn’t seem scary but I seem to possess a little uneasiness about eating, let alone preparing, food that looks like its original state (except for crab, of course).

My fellow foodie friend Mei told me about this market called Tokyo Fish and said their fish is a little pricier than Ranch 99 but the quality is far superior. Tokyo Fish is located in Berkeley, CA and was quite a treat. I don’t understand why I had never heard of it. It was small but had an amazing seafood counter; uni, salmon roe, whole fresh fish, filets, local oysters, and tons more. After talking with the fish monger I decided to get a striped bass. Striped Bass is a gorgeous fish with its horizontal stripes and white flesh. It was a perfect fish for my version of Thai steamed fish with lime and chilies. They scale it and clean it for you at the store and package it up nicely. I ended up with a 3 -3 1/2 lb fish that would feed me, the Husband and my little brother nicely (I invited him over to help us eat my next blog post).

What you will need:

1 whole white fish

3 stalks of lemongrass, bruised

3-4 limes, divided

2 T fish sauce

1 T sugar

5-10 cloves of garlic, minced

3 T seafood soy sauce (or light soy sauce), divided

2-5 Thai chiles, minced fine

2 T coriander root, divided (if you can’t find the root, use the stems)

3 inch knob of ginger, sliced into matchsticks

3 green onions, just the white parts julienned in about 1 1/2 inch in length

1 bunch of coriander (cilantro), divided

1 T shaoxing cooking wine (can be omitted)

A steamer

photo 1

What you will do:

1. Rinse and pat dry your fish. Make 45 degree slits on both sides of the fish being careful not to cut to deep. Add a piece of ginger in each slit and then add the remaining ginger into the cavity. Also to the cavity, add most of the coriander (reserving some for garnish), and lemongrass. Slice one of the limes in thin slices and add to the cavity and a layer on top of the fish. Drizzle the shaoxing cooking wine and 2 T of the seafood soy sauce over the fish and now it is ready to steam.

2. Steam the fish for about 8 minutes/ pound or until opaque and flakey. While the fish is steaming prepare the sauce. In a bowl, add the garlic, the fish sauce, seafood soy sauce, coriander root (half of it), Thai chiles, and the juice of two limes. Taste and adjust seasonings. You are looking for a balanced sauce of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Set aside.

3. When your fish has finished steaming carefully transfer to serving tray. Remove the limes on top of the fish and the goodies from inside the cavity. Drizzle the sauce all over the fish, add new slices of limes, the remaining coriander root and garnish with the green onion and coriander leaves. Serve with steamed brown/white rice and a nice green veggie. It is a healthy and flavorful meal.

photo 2

I realized this fish was bigger than my biggest bamboo steamer so I had to get creative. What I did was get my roasting pan, filled it with about 2 inches of water, used a bread plate turned upside down and then my plate of fish on top. I covered it tightly with foil and turn the cook top on high. It worked like a charm!

photo 3

When I was living in Thailand and you would order a steamed fish it was always served in this metal fish-shaped vessel with flames underneath. I always thought it was a gorgeous presentation and bought one to come home with me. This was the first time I used it and my fish fit perfectly. Look how pretty this looks!

photo 4

Me, my new hairdo (I just cut about 18 inches off and donated), and my gorgeous Thai steamed fish with lime, or Pla Nung Manao (fish steamed lime).

photo 5

The 3 of us did quite well with this. I did send some home with my brother, so next time maybe a slightly smaller fish! This recipe seems like a lot, and it is, but the end result is amazing. It will surely be an impressive dish to serve to your friends and family!

TIP: Be sure to rinse your fish before steaming. There will still be a little blood and you will want to run cold water through the cavity and gills until the water runs clear. Pat dry, but when steaming do not worry too much about getting it really dry.

In Thai, if something is really delicious you say, “aroi maak maak” This fish was aroi maak maak! Cheers and happy eating!

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2 thoughts on “Thai Style Steamed Fish w/Lime (Pla Nung Manao)

  1. Steam whole fish is not easy, if cook it few mins longer, fish meat can get tough easily. Your fish looks so tender, and cooked it perfectly!!! I am impressed! Good job, Fay!

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