Seafood Recipes

Steamed halibut, roasted porcini mushrooms, pickled sea beans, lemongrass sauce

June 23, 2009

steamed halibut recipe

FIRST OFF!!!! (drum roll)… WRIGHTFOOD is now two years old!!! Bloody hell.

To mark this event I am doing something never before posted on this site… Yes folks, I have gone all healthy, and am doing a steamed halibut recipe. “Steaming fish??? MATT HOW DARE YOU!!”… I can hear it now. Well, it is true folks I am trying to balance my latest pork belly fixation with some lighter fare. To be honest, why not? It has been pretty hot here in Seattle recently and the last thing I want to be doing is braising meat.

OK, that is a lie. It is never too hot to braise meat.

Anyhow, we wanted a lighter meal last week, and this is what was bouncing around in that rather hairy head of mine. I had bought some sea beans at the farmers market that week, and had decided to pickle some. This wasn’t my great idea I should add. The stall sign at the market said “excellent pickled”. To be completely honest I doubt I would have ever thought of pickling them. Heck, the few handfuls I buy most weeks don’t normally last until I even get home.

Sea beans make a great snack.

I ended up pickling a handful of them in rice wine vinegar, sugar, star anise and ginger. Not blowing my own trumpet at all, but bloody hell, these were good. I wish I had made more. Heck, I have made more, a lot more since. What is even better is that they really don’t take long to pickle at all. It seems like some veg you have to leave in the mix for what seems like forever, but these guys even after just a couple of days had developed a really great anise flavor to them. A few more days in the mix, and you start to get the ginger come through too.

steamed halibut recipe - pickled seabeans

They have been a topping to many a sandwich I can tell you.

The porcini’s were an impulse buy. They were just hanging out in a basket at the same stall as the sea beans. Bastards. That just isn’t fair. I think I blew my farmers market budget right then and there. Porcini’s aren’t cheap, but heck are they good. I would easily go as far as to say they are my favorite mushroom, topping even the mightly morel. I always seem to prepare porcini’s the same way – oil and butter in a hot cast iron skillet, get it roaring over a high flame, then pop them into a really hot oven to brown up – almost like a good roast potato.

I don’t often steam fish. In fact, hardly ever. In all honesty, I know it is a very healthy way to cook, but I do like my halibut either seared or grilled. That is just me. The one thing steamed fish is really good for though is pairing with either a super delicate sauce, or a really strong one (no middle of the roaders here folks..). I can tell ya that this sauce is certainly no shy maiden. The original sauce idea came from the wonderful Secrets of the Red Lantern cookbook. I tuned it a little to my taste, but it essentially remains pretty true to the book. Lots of lemongrass, cilantro, lime and soy come through to make a really fantastic and rich sauce – a great play against light steamed fish.

Anyhow, for steaming I always turn to my bamboo steamer. I tried working with one of those collapsing metal ones that fits into a saucepan. No go. Especially for fish that likes to be flat. The bamboo steamers are far cheaper than I originally thought, and this one has been going great for years (and is still going), so a worthy investment I have to say. Anyhow, when using a bamboo steamer it is always best to put something between the food you are steaming, and the bamboo – especially when it is raw fish. Lightly flavored foods can take on a slightly bamboo taste (I think anyhow), and you don’t want too mush fish gunk on your steamer. For this, I like to use a bed of herbs. It gives the fish a great subtle aroma, and helps keeps everything clean to boot.

steamed halibut recipe


3/4 lb halibut fillet, skin off – from a thick cut

cilantro, mint and lime leaves for steaming fish on

2 porcini halves – cleaned and cut into rough pieces

sea salt

butter and grapeseed oil

pickled sea beans:

small handful of sea beans

1 cup of rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 star anise

1inch long piece of garlic, cut into thin slices

lemongrass sauce:

1/6th cup sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon sliced lemongrass (white part only)

1 small handful cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the sea beans: Put the rice wine vinegar into a small saucepan, and bring to the boil. Add the sugar, boil for a minute until sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool. Put the sea beans, ginger and star anise into a small sterile jar, and pour over the cooled pickling liquid. Store in the fridge for a couple of days before using, to let the flavors develop.

To make sauce, put all the sauce ingredients into a food processor, and blend to thoroughly combine.

Preheat oven to 475F. Heat up a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, and a tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet. When the butter is fizzing, toss in porcini pieces. Keep the heat up high, we want to really sear these guys. Turn them over occasionally. Cook on the stove top until the edges start to caramelize, then transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, or until they are nicely browned all over. Toss them once in the middle of the oven cooking process.

To steam the fish: Put an inch of water in the bottom of a wok, and put the bamboo steamer over. Make sure the water level is below that of the steamer tray. Cover the steamer tray in the fresh cilantro, lime leaves and mint. Sprinkle a little salt on the flesh side of the fish, and place flesh side up (flesh side if the skin was still on..) on top of the herbs. Put the lid on the steamer, and get the heat going on high under the wok. Steam for 10 minutes, or until the fish is cook through to your liking.

To plate – spoon a little of the sauce onto a plate, and top with some of the roasted mushrooms. Place the fish gently half on the mushrooms, half in the sauce. Serve with the pickled sea beans.

NEXT POST: Way back I did a rather clunky video of me getting fresh with a chicken (trussing). Yes folks, if all goes to plan, the next post is going to be a video one too. This time pan searing fish, and serving with a mussel sauce. Stay tuned.

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  • RavenousCouple June 23, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Love the idea of lemongrass sauce and Asian notes in the dish. We’ve never tried sea beans before…def. have to look for those…

  • lisaiscooking June 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Well, I’m inspired. First I thought, I have to try pickling sea beans, then the lemongrass sauce sounded like a must-try, and now I want to get a bamboo steamer for the flat bottom of it.

  • Jen June 23, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I admire the flavor combo of your brine. If I can’t track down sea beans, is there another type of bean you recommend?

  • Marta June 23, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    What a great recipe Matt! Great tip on the herby bed for the halibut! I agree withy uo, I tend to like my fish grilled better than steamed, but like you pointed out, this is a more delicate dish, with more subtle taste and the “grilling” flavour would have probably overpowered the balance of the meal.
    Congrats on the 2 year anniversary!!!!

  • redmenace June 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    I made halibut this week too! This is flipping gorgeous! What flavors!

  • Peter G June 24, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Great pairings and flavours here Matt. I love the delicateness of the fish playing against the stronger flavours of the sauce and pickled beans. Porcinis are the best..I agree but well worth it.

  • Jessamyn June 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I never did find sea beans at the market this year, darn it – last year I only saw them once. If any do pop up, though, I have to try this. Love the sound of the star anise in a pickle.

  • Hank June 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    God I miss sea beans — I know them as saltwort, and used to pick them off beaches in New England. Ans yes, they are MADE to be pickled, as they are pre-salted…

    I also rarely steam fish, but I do like steam halibut with homemade piri piri sauce, which is a huge contrast. Good on a summer’s evening.

    Congrats on your 2-year anniversary, Matt!

  • Rhiannon June 25, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Hi Matt, I was hoping to start a website – I was wondering who you went through and if you’re happy with them.


  • Mel @ June 25, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Congrats on reaching the 2 years mark, Matt 🙂

    Halibut season never really excited me because I’m not a fan of dense fish (I prefer oily, flaky). This year, I gave it chance after chance and finally realized that I enjoy halibut most raw or steamed. This is a wonderful preparation. You’ve done it again, love.

  • Lang June 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Good call on the porcini-fish combo, Matt. I’ve got a post in the queue trumpeting cod & porcini with soy sauce. The porcini is so meaty it almost makes the fish seem like a secondary ingredient. Will try your pickled sea bean recipe–we can get some when I take you on that long-heralded clamming trip…

  • Lang June 25, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Oh, and congrats on the blog b-day! You’ve got a keeper.

  • Wind Attack June 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Porcini mushrooms and halibut are two of my favorite ingredients. If I saw this on a menu at a restaurant, I’d no doubt be ordering it!

  • rachel June 27, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I the contrasting flavours going on here and it all looks exquisite as usual.
    I just watched your chicken video, you can ramble all you like it’s all quite charming and
    will be trussing asap.
    happy birthday to you and here’s to the terrible two’s

  • FoodWoolf June 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Matt, another delicious recipe and gorgeous photos that rock my world. I really think steaming is an incredible idea, especially with fish. It really gives the fish such an incredible flavor and keeps things oh, so healthy without losing the delicate essences. Lovely, lovely!

  • Juliana June 29, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Wow, this dish sounds and looks delicious, love the combination of the ingredients that you have in it…porcini mushrooms, halibut and lemongrass? Yummie.

  • mallory elise June 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

    happy birthday! im one week older than you–you little tyke 😛

    sea beans…i want a sea bean.

  • codfish July 1, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Happy Blogbirthday!

    We’ve been balancing our pork belly habit with steamed fish too–usually a whole black bass stuffed with slivered ginger and scallions, but this seems much funner. If I could only find sea beans… I’ve called everywhere near me, explaining that sea beans and like green beans that drift around in the ocean to everyone who has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. Must get my ass to the Asian market one of these days…

  • nadia October 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    i have spent a half hour here and i do not think i will ever leave! beautiful food, beautiful blog!