2 tablespoons Chinese fermented black beans, rinsed and patted dry
1 head garlic, peeled
1 (1 to 1 ½ pound) whole branzino , scaled and gutted
salt and ground white pepper
13 slices of fresh peeled ginger, 3 left whole and 10 julienned, divided
4 scallions, 2 halved and 2 cut into julienne, divided
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola (you may also use canola or vegetable oil)
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (leaves and tender stems only)
Mix black beans and garlic cloves on a cutting board and roughly chop them together.
Rinse fish with cold running water and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and white pepper all over fish, including inside.
Place 3 whole slices of ginger inside cavity.
Set halved scallions on a heatproof plate large enough to hold the fish while small enough to fit inside steamer. Set fish directly on top of scallions so that the scallions keep fish from making contact with the plate.
Set up a steamer and when it is ready, steam fish until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove fish and plate from the steamer and pour off any accumulated juices into a bowl, then mix in soy sauce.
Take out the ginger slices from cavity of fish scallions from underneath and transfer fish to a serving platter.
In a wok or small saucepan, add chopped garlic and fermented black bean mixture, and cook over medium-high heat until garlic is soft (2 minutes.)
Add chili flakes, remaining scallions and ginger, cilantro, and the reserved fish-cooking liquid.
Mix quickly and spoon everything on top of the fish. Serve immediately.
Recipe inspired by Shao Z