Nian Nian Nyu Wee (Steamed Bass with Garlic Brown Bean Sauce)

  • Serves

    serves 2-4


A drizzle of toasted sesame oil before steaming infuses whole sea bass with a nutty flavor, while a sauce of ginger, chili paste, and salty brown beans adds punch to this Chinese-Malaysian dish. This recipe first appeared in our May 2014 issue with the story Still Cooking.


  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 (1") piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 14 cup peanut oil
  • 5 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. brown bean sauce, such as Koon Chun brand
  • 1 12 tbsp. sambal oelek (red chili paste)
  • 1 12 tbsp. shaoxing jiu (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 (12–14 oz.) whole sea bass, cleaned and dried
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 8 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 scallions, julienned
  • 1 small carrot, julienned


Step 1

Purée garlic, ginger, and onion in a small food processor into a paste. Heat oil in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat. Cook paste until golden and fragrant, 3–4 minutes. Add sugar, bean sauce, chili paste, rice wine, oyster sauce, and 5 tbsp. water; simmer until sugar is dissolved, 2–3 minutes, and set aside.

Step 2

Slice bass on either side of head, just above each fillet. Place bass skin side up on a heatproof platter splayed open so it lies upright; drizzle with sesame oil. Bring 1" water to a boil in a 14" flat-bottom wok fitted with an 11" bamboo steamer. Place platter with bass in steamer base and cover; steam until cooked through, 12–15 minutes. Remove platter. Pour reserved sauce over fish; garnish with cilantro, scallions, and carrot.

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