Whole steamed fish with black bean recipe

Sunshine Coast chef Tom Swapp shares his recipe for whole steamed fish with black bean, chilli and ginger. A winning dish for any occasion. 

Serves: 4 people
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes


Black bean and ginger paste

3 tbs dried, salted black beans
50ml sesame oil 
3 tbs ginger, peeled and grated 
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbs black vinegar
2 tbs palm sugar
1 tbs oyster sauce 
1 tsp ground black pepper

1 medium plate-sized fish, such as snapper (700g to 800g)


1 large red chilli, de-seeded and shredded thinly
1 small knob of ginger, finely sliced
2 green shallots, shredded thinly
Coriander sprigs


  1. To make the black bean and ginger paste, soak the black beans in a cup of warm water for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the water and chop the beans finely. Reserve the soaking water.
  2. Heat the sesame oil and fry the ginger and garlic until soft and fragrant but not brown. Add the black beans, soy sauce, vinegar and palm sugar. 
  3. Season with oyster sauce and pepper, and cook on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Moisten with some of the reserved black bean soaking water. The mixture should be liquid but thick.
  4. Score the fish with a sharp knife down to the bone on either side. Place the fish on a plate that fits into a steamer basket. Cover the fish with the black bean and ginger paste and steam, covered, for 6-7 minutes.
  5. Transfer to serving plates and garnish with the red chilli, ginger, green shallot and coriander sprigs.

Meet the chef – Tom Swapp

On the Sunshine Coast, there’s great volcanic soil, high rainfall and humidity – just like in many Asian countries.

That’s why local chef Tom Swapp draws his inspiration from Thailand for his restaurant the Spirit House.

And it’s not the only way he ties his surroundings in with his cooking. “Ginger is something that thrives here on the Sunshine Coast. It has a lovely natural sweetness, and we’ve used it to create a signature dish of ours.”

Tom’s recipe for whole steamed fish with black bean, chilli and ginger follows his food philosophy – that your food can only be as good as your produce. It uses beautiful warming ingredients that will please your palate, and can be cooked on a gas stovetop.

“Throw the lovely aromatics over the top – the ginger, chilli and some coriander to finish it off,” advises Tom. The scent alone will totally immerse you in the cooking experience.

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