Fish is always served at Chinese New Year because it symbolizes prosperity: The Chinese word for fish (yu) is similar to the word for plenty. It is especially good luck to serve it whole.
This recipe is courtesy of Toy Hai Kwan, who arrived in Toronto in 1962 with her husband, Yin Cheong Kwan, a chef at the city's Golden Dragon Restaurant. A mother of six, she has perfected the art of traditional Chinese cooking.
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1½-pound whole tilapia, sea bass or other whole fish
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or sherry
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 to 4 green onions, slivered
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup light soy sauce
Rinse and clean fish inside and out.
Place fish on a round/oval platter large enough to hold fish but small enough to fit inside a wok (or high-sided skillet). Place platter in wok on a metal riser or empty tuna can. Add water to wok until just under the metal riser, so it doesn't boil over into fish.
Cover and steam fish over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until flesh is white and easily pulls away from the bones. Remove platter from wok and pour off liquid that has accumulated around the fish. Sprinkle with cooking wine, garlic, green onions, ginger, sugar and salt.
Heat oil in a small skillet over high heat. When oil is very hot (smoking), carefully pour over fish to flash-fry garlic, green onions and ginger. Pour soy sauce over fish and serve immediately.