Sea bass with crushed soybeans and chilli sauce

Sea bass with crushed soybeans and chilli sauce

Chinese Unchopped
15 mins
Cooking time
20 mins
Martin Poole

Much like a portrait painter, sometimes I am ‘commissioned’ to create a recipe that matches a dish that a student has once eaten. When this happens there is always the challenge of creating something that lives up to expectations – when successful, however, the reward is well worth it. This recipe started out as one of my commissioned pieces. Over the years, I have adapted it slightly, making it more about the fish itself than fulfilling a specific brief. It’s delicious and works perfectly served with simple blanched greens on the side.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon salted soybeans
2 garlic cloves
1 bird’s-eye chilli
a large handful coriander
1 x 350-500g sea bass, scaled, gutted and de-gilled, (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

The sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon chilli bean sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine
100ml chicken or vegetable stock, or hot water
a dash dark soy sauce


  1. Lightly crush the soybeans in a small bowl with the back of a teaspoon. Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Roughly chop the coriander
  2. Wash the fish, pat dry and place on a large plate or platter suitable for steaming.
  3. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
  4. BUILD YOUR WOK CLOCK: place the crushed soybeans at 12 o’clock, then arrange the garlic, chilli, sauce bowl and chopped coriander clockwise around the plate.
  5. Set a large wok or steaming pan up with a steamer stand and fill with boiling water to a third of the way up the sides. Place the fish plate into the wok or pan, cover with a lid and steam for 7–12 minutes, until cooked (see Tip). Remove and set aside, covering the fish with foil so it stays warm and moist.
  6. Drain and dry the wok, add the vegetable oil and heat until smoking. Add the soybeans and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the garlic, chillies and sauce. Bring to a vigorous boil, then add half the coriander and continue to cook for 1 minute until the sauce has thickened and reduced by at least a third.
  7. Pour the sauce over the steamed fish and garnish with the remaining coriander to serve.


  • Salted soybeans are fermented soybeans preserved in brine and can be found in most Chinese supermarkets. They add a nice texture to this sauce, however if you cannot find them, the dish works just as well without.


  • To check whether your fish is fully cooked, pull the dorsal fin (the one on the back) lightly. If it falls off without any force, the fish will be cooked through to the bone. Remove from the pan and set aside.
School of Wok
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