Bamboo steamers with baskets that can be stacked on top of each other is the default in Asia. The bamboo allows the steam to evaporate and there is very little condensation that falls back into the food in the baskets.
Metal steamers are more popular outside Asia. If you’re using a metal steamer and the lid isn’t or is only slightly domed, evaporation may fall back in condensed form into the fish and create a small pool of liquid around it. Some people like to spoon that liquid on rice. Others don’t.
To minimize condensation that falls into the bowl with the fish, place the steamer lid on a large piece of cheesecloth, gather the edges of the cloth and tie the corners to cover the lid leaving only the handle visible. The fabric will soak up steam.
In steaming the fish, you’ll need to put it into a heat-proof serving bowl so that the fish can go directly from the steamer to the dining table. It just isn’t a good idea to cook transfer the fish into another bowl. After cooking, the fish flesh will be soft and flaky, and moving it might tear the flesh. You definitely want to serve it while it’s looking its best so use a heat-proof bowl.
Steamed whole tilapia with ginger, chilies and scallions
- 1 tilapia - about 400 grams, gutted and scales removed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 stalks scallions
- 1 two-inch knob ginger - thinly sliced
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
- 2 bird’s eye chilies - thinly sliced
- Fill the steamer pot with enough water to reach a depth of two inches and start heating it.
- Wipe the tilapia with paper towels and score both sides.
- Rub the salt and pepper on the entire fish including the cavity.
- Tie the scallion stalks into a knot.
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with the knotted scallions and half of the ginger.
- Lay the tilapia in shallow heat-proof bowl.
- Scatter the sliced scallions, remaining ginger and chilies over the fish.
- When the water is boiling briskly, lay the bowl in the steamer basket and cover the steamer.
- Turn the heat to medium and steam the tilapia for 20 minutes.
- Carefully lift the bowl from the steamer basket and serve the steamed whole tilapia immediately.