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Steamed Fish with Lime and Chile

This is the definition of minimalist Thai cooking. The steam not only gently cooks the fish until just tender but also creates an instant, complex sauce from a handful of basic ingredients. Scoring the fish's flesh allows more of the flavor to season the fish and facilitates faster steaming. The fish is cooked on a plate that fits inside the steamer, to catch the juices.



4 large garlic cloves, crushed 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems plus cilantro leaves for garnish 1 tablespoon chopped green Thai chiles 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla) 1 tablespoon sugar Pinch of freshly ground white or black pepper

1 whole head-on black bass or rainbow trout (1 1/2–2 pounds), cleaned, scored to the bone on both sides in 1' intervals 2 tablespoons low-salt chicken broth 1 lime, cut into thin rounds Steamed jasmine rice


Step 1 In a clay mortar, lightly pound garlic, cilantro stems, and chiles with a wooden pestle until a coarse paste forms. Add 2 Tbsp. lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper; mix with a spoon to combine. (Alternatively, pulse in a mini-processor until a loose paste forms.) Set sauce aside.

Step 2 Place fish on a plate that will fit inside the steamer with some wiggle room; pour reserved paste over. In a wide pot, add water to a depth of 1". Bring to a boil. Transfer fish on plate to steamer. Set steamer over pot and pour chicken broth over fish. Cover; steam fish until cooked through, 12–15 minutes.

Step 3 Using 2 large spatulas, transfer fish to a serving platter. Spoon juices on plate in steamer over fish. Drizzle with lime juice, if desired. Garnish with lime slices and cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed rice.

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