Simple Steamed Samaral Fish

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Dear sweet parents and caregivers! April here helping you relax into motherhood from my tropical island home.

Today I bring some island ease and lightness of spirit to steamed Samaral fish – a simple yet deeply nourishing dish perfect for weekend lunches with family. 

This fish is a family favorite, its deep white flesh perfect for fried fish, Pinangat, or Pesa. I decided to steam it for a change as it’s been so long since I got a really fresh fish. These ones came as a gift from a nearby coastal Barangay. This fish known in English as spinefoot (scientific name: Signanus puellus), is the older version of Danggit, the fried fish delicacy from Cebu.

Cleaning the Samaral Fish

Cleaning the Samaral fish is a bit challenging and I always have it cleaned by the fishmonger when I buy them. I have had some instances when I got poked by the fins and my hands hurt for days. But with a few simple precautions, you can ensure your Samaral fish dish turns out tasting as fresh and delicious as the island waters it came from. Here are a few tips for cleaning and preparing this fish:

  • Use a knife to trim away any fins and gills. Be careful of the spines – they can be quite sharp! 
  • According to my father, the organs of the Samaral fish are generally safe to eat as long as the fish itself is very fresh. However, I remove the gills before cooking and the dark lines running through the flesh. 🤣🤷🏽‍♀️
  • Make a few slits across the top of the fish to allow the seasoning to penetrate the flesh.
  • Wash the whole fish under running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Rub sea salt both inside the cavity and all over the outside of the fish to draw out any trace minerals that could cause an unpleasant flavor.
  • Rinse the fish again after salting.
  • Wash the knife and cutting board thoroughly after preparing the fish to avoid any cross-contamination. Hot, soapy water is best.
  • While steaming, make sure the water does not touch the fish itself. The high heat can help kill any bacteria on the exterior but the interior of the cooked fish must reach an internal temperature above 165°F for safety.

Steaming The Fish 

While fried fish recipes can feel heavy, this steaming method starts simply by seasoning the whole cleaned Samaral fish with salt, pepper and calamansi lime juice inside and out.

Line a bamboo steamer or metal colander, or your electric steamer with banana leaves or wax paper. Place the seasoned fish on top along with sliced ginger, onion, and lemongrass for aromatics.

Bring an inch of water to a boil in a pot, then lower the steamer into the boiling water. Steam the fish, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily.

The flavors of the aromatic lemongrass, ginger, and calamansi juice gently infuse the delicate Samaral flesh and create a light sauce without added oil or fat.

Serve the fish with steamed vegetables like bok choy and string beans cooked alongside in the steamer tray. Their essence mingles with the subtle juices of the fish, heightening the simple yet profoundly satisfying symphony of flavors.

Like a cleansing shower after a busy day, this simply steamed Samaral fish reminds us that nourishment arises from fresh, everyday ingredients around us. While using simple means, this humble dish reconnects body and spirit through simple ingredients channeled with care – restoring peace and harmony to weary souls.

Having said that, if you’d like an accompanying light sauce for your steamed Samaral fish, you may check my other steamed fish recipe here. It’s a Chinese-style steamed fish similar to those yummy-looking fish dish in Chinese movies, 

Relish the simple,

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