Chefs' Recipes

Tony Tan's Hunan steamed fish with salted chillies and fermented black beans

A multi-dimensional dish with briny, punchy and spicy flavours.

By Tony Tan
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 35 mins cooking (plus fermenting)
  • Serves 4
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"One of the best known dishes from Hunan province, I love it for its briny and punchy flavours," says chef and cookbook author Tony Tan. "Made with salted or fermented chillies and fermented black soy beans – dou chi – it's really quick and easy to cook." Begin this recipe at least 2 weeks ahead to ferment the chillies.
Tan serves this dish with stir-fried Chinese cabbage, which he fries in vegetable oil with 3 halved dried chillies, 1 tsp each crushed Sichuan peppercorns and chilli oil, 125ml chicken stock, a dash of rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt.


  • 4 snapper or barramundi fillets (200gm each)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 110 gm salted chillies (recipe below)
  • 2 spring onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fermented salted black beans, rinsed and strained
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
Salted chillies
  • 200 gm red cayenne chillies
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar


  • 1
    To make salted chillies, wash and slice chillies. Pound chillies coarsely with salt in a mortar and pestle. Place chillies in a sterilised jar and stir in vinegar. Seal and leave to ferment at room temperature (2-3 weeks).
  • 2
    Combine soy, Shaoxing, ginger, sugar, vinegar and salted chillies in a small bowl. Place fish on a plate that will fit a bamboo steamer basket and spoon over chilli mixture and marinate (10 minutes).
  • 3
    To steam, top fish with black beans and half the spring onions. Place plate in steamer over a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and steam until fish is just cooked through (5-7 minutes).
  • 4
    Just before serving, place fish on a platter and scatter with remaining spring onions. Heat oil in a small saucepan until starting to smoke, taking care, pour over spring onion and serve.