Soy sauce poached fish

This recipe delivers so much for so little work – fish fillets cooked for a few minutes in a skillet with soy sauce, wine (or water) and a bit of sugar. The fish cooks up tender and succulent, with plenty of sauce to spoon over rice. Adapted from Mark Bittman.


  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup sake (or white wine, or water)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths (or 1 onion, peeled and sliced)
  • 1 dried or fresh chili, optional
  • About 1 1/2 pounds mild white fish fillets (eg striped bass, grouper, halibut, cod; skin-on or not)


  1. Combine the soy sauce, sake (or water), sugar, scallions and chili in a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Turn the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the fish, and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles but not furiously. Cook a few minutes per side, turning once or twice, until the fish is coated with a brown glaze and cooked through (the flesh gives in when you poke it instead of resisting). Serve with white rice, spooning the sauce over and garnishing with the scallions.

Serves 4.


  • Bittman recommends striped bass, but I’ve used this recipe for all kinds of fish. Poaching leaves everything tender and delicious, but I like this best with flaky, mild white fish. Stronger-flavored fish, like salmon, can take a more intensely-flavored sauce, like teriyaki.
  • It’s best to store fish sandwiched in ice or freezer packs in your refrigerator (fish is best kept between 32 and 34 degrees F, and your fridge is likely 36-40 degrees F).
  • Frozen fish defrosts quickly when submerged in cold water (you can leave it in plastic if it’s shrink-wrapped), and then it’s ready for cooking.
  • Because there are so few ingredients, this recipe relies on quality soy sauce. I always use Kikkoman, which is widely available.
  • Feel free to play with this adaptable recipe: add fresh ginger or garlic; adjust the sweetness or the heat.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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