Tea-Smoked Sea Bass



Everyday Chinese Cooking

Published by Clarkson Potter

This image courtesy of Bruce Nimmer

Editor's Note: If you are looking for a terrific and flavorful fish recipe this may be the one for you. Tea-Smoked Sea Bass is a wonderful dish to build a meal around. This white fish cooks up light and delicious and would be suited for a family gathering or casual dinner party at your house. You need to be careful to not overcook the fish and drain it of its valuable juices. Using a heavy pan to cook the fish in is also discouraged, as the fish will not get enough heat to brown the sugar and give the fish that smoky flavor. 

This is a wonderful recipe that shows you how to create an authentic smoky Asian flavor in your conventional oven. You may also use red snapper.


Cooking MethodSmoking


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Halal, Kosher, Low Calorie, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free


Taste and TextureNutty, Savory, Smoky, Spiced


  • 1½ pounds skinless sea bass fillets
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 English cucumber (seedless)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons tea leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • ¼ cup uncooked rice


  1. Cut the sea bass into 4 to 5 pieces and wipe dry with paper towels.

  2. To prepare the marinade, in a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, the ginger, vegetable oil, pepper, and soy sauce. Rub the marinade on all sides of the fish and marinate for 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator.

  3. Preheat the oven to 500 F.

  4. Slice the cucumber very thinly. In a medium bowl, blend the vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Add the cucumber and toss. Let soak for 10 minutes. Discard the excess dressing and place the cucumber slices in an overlapping pattern around the edge of a serving platter.

  5. Line the inside surface of a large covered Dutch oven or wok completely with heavy foil. In the foil-lined pan (see Notes), mix together the tea leaves, brown sugar, and rice. Spread out evenly. Place a metal steam rack on the tea leaves, which stands at least 1 inch above. Place the marinated fish on the rack. Cover the pan tightly. (The tea leaves and brown sugar will smoke the fish, so be sure the pan is tightly covered. If the cover doesn’t fit tight enough, place foil around the outside of the cover and pan.) Place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Carefully open the lid. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the fish to the platter.


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My wife says she's never tasted a dish quite like this; she gives it a 'rave'.

This was delicious! However, it did not evoke a very smoky taste; my dutch oven is a very heavy Le Creuset. Can you please recommend a modification in line with your note about the heavy pan (I dont know a dutch oven that isn't!). Perhaps melting the brown sugar on the stovetop before assembling the dish?


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