Something steamed may be just the break you need during the holiday overeating season. Steaming is a traditional Chinese cooking technique that uses gentle heat and no oil to cook foods. It is, therefore, a simple, convenient way to prepare low-fat, low-calorie entrees. As an added benefit during this busy season, it is a much cleaner process than stir-frying.

This cooking method also has health benefits. The Chinese diet, abundant in vegetables and just a little animal protein, mirrors the mostly plant-based diet the AICR recommends to protect against cancer and other diseases.

Steaming helps avoid overcooking and keeps vegetables crunchy and bright. And, in contrast to cooking directly in water, steaming protects water-soluble nutrients that would otherwise be leached during cooking. Steaming, therefore results in more nutrient-rich food.

A deep saucepan, Dutch oven, pressure cooker, roasting pan, or wok all can be used for steaming food. The pot should be wide enough to hold a heat-proof plate that comfortably contains the ingredients in one layer, and elevated with a space of at least one inch between the plate and the water, which allows steam to circulate evenly around the food.

The plate of food can be set on any kind of heat-proof stand or rack that will keep it stable and high enough to prevent the water from splashing onto the food. The earthy, smoky flavor of Chinese dried mushrooms and black beans provides a full-bodied complement to the delicate taste of seafood in the following steamed dish.

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Steamed Fish and Vegetables

Makes 4 servings.


  • 2 tsp. fermented black beans*
  • 1/2 tsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. grated garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seed oil, divided
  • 12 oz. (3/4 lb.) fillet of white fish, scallops, or shelled and de-veined shrimp
  • 24 small dried Oriental mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 large scallions, including green tops
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice


  1. In a small cup, mash beans with ginger, garlic and half the oil. Rub into surface of fish and set aside 10 to 20 minutes to marinate.
  2. Soak mushrooms in warm water until softened. Drain and gently squeeze out excess water. (Soaking juice can be saved for later use in sauces or soups.) Cut away stems and discard. Cut large mushrooms so all are about the same size. Diagonally cut white part of scallions into 2-inch lengths. Finely chop green tops to make 1/2 cup.
  3. Place mushrooms and white scallions on plate used for steaming. Sprinkle with remaining half-tablespoon of oil. Steam until mushrooms are tender.
  4. Add fish to plate. Sprinkle chopped scallion over all. Steam until fish is tender.
  5. Remove from heat and serve, pouring any excess liquid over food. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked rice.

    *Fermented black beans are usually sold in small glass bottles and found in the Chinese food section of markets or in specialty stores. As an alternative, 1 teaspoon grated, fresh peeled ginger can be used.

Per Serving:
292 calories
5 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat)
37 g. carbohydrate
22 g. protein
4 g. dietary fiber
68 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 2-1/2 Bread/Starch, 3 Lean Meat, 1 Vegetable