Monday, February 23, 2009

Hawaiian Style Steamed Fish

This recipe elicited wolf-like howls of pleasure even before we started eating it, while our first bite witnessed our entire apartment shake with the giddiness that shot in waves from the hot, happy centers of our stomachs. Not only did this dish take a mere 15 minutes to prepare, but the flavors were intensely light yet screamingly delicious. Imagine a combination of ginger, cilantro, green onions, steamed yellowtail, and a citrusy yuzu ponzu sauce exploding all over your taste buds. Then imagine yourself not even wanting to chew your food, but to let it sit in your mouth as you savor its flavors. And then, finally, imagine looking dolefully down at your plate, mourning the fact that there’s only so much left to eat and nothing more.

It’s that good. We weren’t prepared for it to be that good.

The following recipe -- Hawaiian Style Steamed Kona Kampachi® (with my substitutions) -- was created by a private chef on Oahu named Stephen Butler and posted online here:

You can also check out this useful video of Chef Butler preparing the dish on YouTube.

Chef Butler apparently made this dish for the Obama family when they were vacationing in Hawaii.

What follows is my own adaptation of the ingredients list as well as the cooking directions. I made the changes because neither Kona Kampachi® nor macadamia nut oil were available at any of the six stores I visited near my home. Instead of using kampachi, which is expensive even when one can find it, I used a combination of hamachi (relatively expensive, too) and mongchong (about half the price of hamachi). And I halved the portions since he was cooking for four and I was cooking for two.


3/4 lbs hamachi (yellowtail) combined with 3/4 lbs mongchong (yellow snapper)
3 Tbsp (I like lots of ginger) fresh ginger, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp chile oil
6 Tbsp ponzu sauce (try yuzu ponzu, if you can find it)


1) If using a whole fish, filet it, remove its skin, and de-bone it lengthwise. If using filets, slice each in half lengthwise. Each filet should be sliced in two. Slice into thin sashimi-like pieces and arrange on plates for steaming.

2) Drizzle raw fish pieces with chile oil (or sesame oil, if you must).

3) Cover each plate with plastic wrap and steam for up to five minutes (until the pink flesh of the fish has turned white). Remove plastic wrap when fish is cooked.

4) Sprinkle green onions, cilantro and ginger over fish.

5) In a pan, heat the peanut oil until just before it begins to smoke. Pour an equal amount of hot oil over each plate. I used 4 plates, which meant pouring 1.5 Tbsp of hot peanut oil on each. (Listen to the fish crackle beneath the heat of the oil!)

6) Drizzle ponzu sauce around perimeter of the plates. Serve immediately.

7) Rejoice.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. Judging by your reaction, this dish ROCKS!! I will have to make further adjustments to this recipe re: fish (MN has lots of lake fish like walleye - will it work?) and oil (can't do peanut) but I hope I can experience even a fraction of what you've described. Not looking forward to the downer when it's all gone, though. The video will be a great help!

  2. This steamed fish looks wonderful!

  3. Tangled Noodle: Yup. This dish definitely rocks. It looks too simple to be so good, but the flavor and overall lightness really surprised me. And yes, I guess that in MN you’ll be forced to make adjustments. I’m not sure if walleye would work. Kampachi, hamachi, and mongchong fish are all slightly oily (the last is the least oily of the three), so you may want to look for a fish like that. If you can’t find yellowtail, I might try trout. But I’m not confident about that, and I’d HATE to ruin your meal with a bad recommendation! Maybe the best thing is to ask your local fishmonger. Oh, I did find macadamia nut oil at Whole Foods today; I’m not sure if you can find that in MN, though. Maybe sesame oil would work? If you try it, let me know how it goes!

    Selba: It’s pretty great, yes. I’m pretty sure you can get all the ingredients for this dish in Indonesia! Not to pressure you into making it, but…Thanks for the comment!

  4. This certainly looks great. I don't know if I have ever tasted hamachi or mongchong. Although, Kona Kampachi is one of the tastiest fish I have ever eaten. I guess if you were able to find Kampachi fish for this recipe, I can't imagine how delicious it would be. It sounds like it was wonderful with the fish you used.

  5. MTC: I've never had Kona Kampachi, though I'm intrigued by it and hope to give it a taste soon. Did you try it in Hawaii? And yes, the dish was still wonderful with the hamachi and mongchong in its place. Thanks for the comment!

  6. This dish look clean and healthy I agree which was the chef's saying. You place a great video and helpful. Have wonderful weekend.;)

  7. Hi Tan: Yes, this dish definitely has a clean, healthy aspect to it. The taste was extraordinarily light. I hope the video is helpful to you if you decide to make this dish. Have a wonderful weekend, too!

  8. I usually stick with something less exotic like salmon when it comes to fish (and I cook it the same old way every time), but you've inspired me to venture out more!

    By the way, I read your posts on Taiwan. Wow, I love your pictures of all that food. I was born in Taiwan and last went back in 2005. We ate so much, but I wasn't into taking pictures of my food back then. If only I can find time to go back again...

    Great blog, I will definitely be back.

  9. Sugarlens: I love salmon, too, but since I'm in Hawaii I have more choices than ever before, which my stomach is grateful for. Thanks for taking the time to look at my Taipei posts. I hope you can get back there soon! It's definitely an eater's paradise. And don't forget your camera!

  10. This dish is something for me!! I love the flavors!!!! MMMMM.... Thanks!!

  11. Ladies and gents, this chef stephen butler. try using moi if it is available too, it works really well!!!

  12. Sophie: I hope you give the recipe a try, though I'm not sure what sorts of fish you have available in Belgium. Thanks for the comment!

    Chef Butler: Thanks for stopping by and suggesting using moi! Your delicious recipe is on my shopping list again and I think I'll go to Tamashiro's and see what moi they have on hand. By the way, a late congrats on cooking for the President and his family. That must have been an honor, and a lot of fun as well. I look forward to cooking more of your dishes one day soon!

  13. Chef Butler: In case you come by again, I wanted to let you know that I tried using moi (with monchong) tonight in your recipe. We enjoyed the moi's flavor even more than that of the monchong, though it was a little bonier than expected. The price per pound was almost identical to the monchong, too. Thanks for the suggestion!