Lucky Steamed Fish and Baby Bok Choy
A whole Steamed Fish is among the most popular of dishes included on the Chinese New Year Table recognized as bringing good luck.
Striped Bass are often the fish served at Asian restaurants fetched fresh out of the establishment’s aquarium holding tank, often times specifically chosen by the paying host of the evening.
The evening pick is immediately prepared and served to the center of the table for the host and dining guests. The whole fish served skin on, head and tail intact symbolizes the assurance of continuity throughout the year, as well as abundance, having more in the year ahead.
Failing to serve a whole fish without skin, head and tail at the Chinese New Year puts at risk the breaking of continuity, perhaps interrupting the good luck flow of progression from beginning to end in the full year ahead.
Many of the Chinese Good Luck Foods also derive from syntax within the Chinese language, matching words that have good luck attributes with foods that sound like these words. For example, the word Fish in Chinese sounds like the Chinese word ‘Wish’, then also combining similarly with the word abundance, something like wishing someone all that they dream for and more.
Another type of whole fish used for steaming is Red Snapper, which is what I used in the Steamed Fish Recipe today. Commonly shared in the communal fashion, one steamed fish to a small group, each guest has one bowl of rice with chopsticks in front of them. Someone at the table may begin serving the Steamed Fish Dish by spooning some of the fish into another guest’s bowl of rice, topping it with some of the sauce, then perhaps serve another or more at the table for the first round while guests then enjoy the fish and sauce mixed from the rice bowl.
Sometimes those at the table, including after the first serving round, will simply dip their chopsticks into the fish pulling off a piece, adding some sauce and continuing to eat until the bowl of rice is finished, or the fish with sauce, whichever comes first.
At my house, we eat the Steamed Fish with Sauce in the traditional way, intact with skin, head, and tail, shared from the center of the table, everyone enjoys the dish from the bowl of rice placed before them, sauce spooned over the fish that then drips down into the bowl greatly flavoring the rice. Outer fish skin pushed aside, and exposed half of the fish eaten, we will then lift the center bone back and proceed eating the other side of the newly exposed fish until it is finished.
Steamed Fish, enjoyed over the Chinese New Year symbolizing good luck and eaten with a certain rhythm of community and ritual is one of the great delights to savor throughout the festival season, and upon any lucky occasion throughout the year.
Served with this dish, you can add some fresh baby bok choy. The hot greens served whole have luck attached too, money, youth, a long life for parents and, served whole, also represent that continuous uninterrupted luck, thus the two recipes provided below seek to extend your continuous, uninterrupted, abundant good luck in the Year of the Snake, from beginning to end. Happy Lunar New Year.
Lucky Steamed Fish and Baby Bok Choy Leaves at the Chinese New Year Celebration Table