- One 2-pound whole sea bass, flounder or carp, cleaned and scales removed
- Salt (preferably sea salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 fresh cardamom leaves
- ½ cup chopped lemongrass
- 3 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces (white and green parts included)
- 1/3 cup water
- Shredded zest of half a lime
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (preferably raw sesame oil)
Fill bottom third of work or vegetable steamer with water. Set steaming rack in the center; cover. Place over high heat.
While steamer is heating, season fish with salt and pepper on both sides.
Spread half the cardamom leaves on an oval plate, large enough to hold fish. Lay fish on top. Score fish with a sharp knife at ¾-inch intervals.
Combine lemongrass, scallions and lime zest; scatter mixture evenly over fish. Cover with remaining cardamom leaves.
When steamer has filled with steam, set plate with fish inside. Cover tightly. Steam at least 15 to 20 minutes (cooking time depends on the type of fish), then check for doneness. The fish is done if a skewer goes through the thickest part of the flesh easily.
Remove fish and set the plate on a heat-proof serving platter. Peel away top cardamom leaves. Baste with fish sauce (optional). Heat oil until crackling hot. Drizzle oil over fish (it should sizzle). Serve immediately with rice and stir-fried vegetables.