Tilapia is a fish that is light with a mild flavor. You can prepare it a number of ways, and steaming is an excellent way to cut the fat down while ensuring full moisture and tenderness in the fish. Adding aromatics such as ginger root and green onions lends some good flavor without overpowering your protein.
Call it one of my quirks, but I have a pocket-sized Seafood Selector Guide that I once picked up in a San Francisco Airport restaurant. It’s produced by the Environmental Defense Fund, and stays in my wallet. Whenever I’m out grocery shopping and want to know if a type of fish is on their eco-best/eco-ok/eco-worst list, I pull out my little guide to help me make my decision. Kind of time-consuming, yes. But well worth it. The EDF classifies fish by considering things like its current population, life expectancy (fish with longer life spans, like Chilean sea bass, are more prone to being overfished and populations may easily be depleted), water pollution, bycatch, and fishery management methods. Some of the fish on the eco-worst list included orange roughy (due to long life span, decreased population, high mercury levels) and red snapper (due to overfishing, mercury levels, and large bycatch).
Fortunately, tilapia farmed in the U.S. is on the eco-best list, and has low levels of contaminants. But pay attention to where it comes from – tilapia from Latin America is on the eco-ok list, and from Asia it’s on the eco-worst list. If you’re a pregnant woman or thinking about having kids in the future, you might want to look at these lists next time you go shopping to be sure your intake of contaminants from fish is limited. And for you sushi-goers out there, the EDF also has a Sushi Selector Guide too!
Steamed Tilapia with Ginger and Green Onion
12 oz tilapia filets
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger root
2 stalks green onion, cut into 4-inch pieces
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp water
Freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of salt (optional)
Fried shallots (optional)
1. Place a piece of foil in a steamer basket, leaving room near the edges for steam to escape. Place the steamer basket in a pot over boiling water, and lay the filets of tilapia in a single layer. Sprinkle the ginger and green onion over the fish. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil, and water. Drizzle the mixture over the fish. Add black pepper to the fish, pinch of salt optional. Cover the steamer basket and steam the fish, about 6-7 minutes until fish easily flakes with a fork. Before serving, add a pinch of salt (as desired, to taste) and top with fried shallots.
Nutrition facts (per serving): 187 calories, 4 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 35 grams protein