Steamed Chicken with Salt Fish Recipe

Stuck in a rut, and looking for something new and tasty to do with chicken?

steamed chicken with salted fish

It was Sunday, and I was tossing ideas in my head of what I should cook. I had taken out some chicken drumettes from the freezer the night before with some idea that I would cook it tonight for dinner. The whole morning, I tossed some ideas around in my head. What could I do with those drumettes?

Stuck in a Rut

I considered making Pim’s fried chicken but Nate was a little sick and it wouldn’t be a good idea to do anything fried. Then I thought of making my simple go-to dishes—oyster chicken, soy sauce chicken, or even curry chicken. But none of these choices really appealed to me.

I felt like I was really stuck in a rut. I needed to do something different. After all, it was Sunday, I wasn’t rushing too much and I had not taken any work home. So, I was really free to explore new dishes.

Right around late morning, I thought, “I’ll do something steamed”. And suddenly I recalled a recipe I had bookmarked a long time ago in one of Amy Beh’s books. It was for steamed chicken with salted fish. Hmm…I have salted fish. So, I looked for the book and there it was, this very recipe.

Amy Beh had written a little footnote on the bottom of the page saying “This is a simple yet tasty dish to cook. When you find that you have run short of ideas as to what is good to serve your family, you can try this recipe.”

It was like she KNEW what was on my mind—I had run short of ideas. I was looking for something good to serve my family (Nate had just come home after a week away in KL), and I wanted something easy but tasty. BINGO! That settled it.

Chicken with an Accent

And really, she was right. It was so easy to do and sooo delicious. Don’t be put off by the idea of using salted fish—it was the accent to an otherwise normal chicken dish.

The little flecks of salted fish gave this dish so much yumminess that it was very hard to stop eating. When you go looking for salted fish, try to find the ones that are a bit more meaty (most Asian grocery stores should carry some salted fish). Of course, over here in Kuching, the choices for salted fish are amazing and the one I got was a freshly salted fish—it wasn’t dried out, it was still somewhat soft.

You do have to marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours before cooking so I do recommend you plan ahead. Other than that, the rest of the ingredients are really simple—some young ginger, and some salt fish and you’re good to go. The only change I made was to fry the salt fish first before cooking the ginger and chicken. I thought that would allow the chicken to pick up even more salted fish flavors.

Steamed Chicken with Salt Fish Recipe

adapted from “At Home with Amy Beh 2” by Amy Beh

500g chicken (I used 10 chicken drummets)
scant 1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp Shao Hsing wine
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large thumb young ginger, peeled and finely julienned
50g meaty type salt fish, sliced (actually, I just eyeballed it—I used about a 2”x1/2” piece of fish)

Sliced Salted Fish and Julienned Ginger

salted fish and sliced ginger

Garnish (optional): sliced red chillies and diced green onions (I didn’t use this)


1. Season chicken with salt, sugar, Shao Hsing wine and sesame oil. Mix and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.

marinating chicken drumettes

2. Heat oil in a wok, and fry the salt fish slices till they are golden and slightly crispy. Take out of the oil.

fried salted fish

3. In the same oil, fry the ginger slices till fragrant (about a minute) but make sure they don’t get crispy or too brown. Adjust your heat accordingly.
4. Add chicken pieces (along with any marinate) and toss around till they have lost their raw look, about 3 minutes.

frying chicken drumettes

5. Dish out the chicken (and all the sauces) and place on a steaming bowl (I used a small oval pyrex dish). Sprinkle the fried salted fish on top of the chicken pieces.

adding salted fish to chicken before steaming

6. Steam over rapidly boiling water for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Make sure your steamer has a lot of water to begin with so it doesn’t dry out in the middle of steaming.

steamed chicken with salted fish

Make sure you have plenty of white rice to eat this dish with. It is PERFECT with the rice. Only setback? It’ll lead to overeating! Try it and let me know what you think.


Cheers, Annie

13 thoughts on “Steamed Chicken with Salt Fish Recipe”

  1. Now I have to go to Chinatown and buy some salted fish. I used to love eating salted fish steamed on its own with white rice when I was growing up. So this sounds like a nice adult version of eating salted fish. Thanks for the reminder! (And Nate sounds like he's traveling a lot for work?)

  2. HA! Nobody can say this "tastes like chicken" anymore! Love the use of salted fish here!

  3. Ooh, that looks like one mighty tasty dish! I love the salted fish and chicken combination.

  4. @all–thanks for the comments–yes it is a really amazing combination and so worth trying. Really really!

    @momgateway–I do like a lot of her recipes. I have not tried her satay recipe because I have one that I really like already. The only problem is that it's super complicated so I only save it for special occasions.

    @single guy ben–you have to try it–it is really amazing. I can't believe how something as simple as a steamed chicken dish can be transformed to this amazingly flavorful dish with just a little salted fish.

    @wei choo–I know, it's so addictive isn't it? Glad you liked it enough to make it twice. I'll have to try to get you more recipes you'll make twice.

  5. I cooked this dish for dinner tonight…and it was Ohhhh so tasty!! It’s as easy as ABC. I marinated the chicken this afternoon before I head off to the market, came home 5 hours later…had a cup of tea… and started preparing for dinner. In no time dinner was ready…and there was no mess in the kitchen at all. Thank Heaven! Highly recommended for a busy day.

    Thanks for sharing Annie.

  6. Omg Annie ..just stumble on ur blog while looking for a salmon recipe..”small web”.. C ya around..muax!

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