What Chinese Foods to Cook in a Steamer Basket

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Chinese cooks steam fish, chicken, dumplings and, on occasion, even cake. Steaming is simple, and requires only a large pot or wok and a stacked bamboo steamer basket. The steamer sits atop the water and the steam from the boiling water rises up and cooks the food. Steaming is a simple and healthy way to cook, because nutrients are not drained out from boiling and no oils are required.


Toss your favorite vegetables in Chinese seasonings and place them in a thin layer in one steamer basket. Avoid packing the basket with vegetables, as this increases the cooking time and prevents even, consistent cooking. Many vegetables cook quickly, so place them on the top levels of the steamer. Hard or dense vegetables, like radishes, require a longer cooking time. Place those below delicate fish, seafood and bread products.

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood dishes typically release small amounts of water in the cooking process. To avoid losing these juices and their flavor, cook the fish or seafood atop a layer of leaves or in a dish. The type of leaves used depends on the flavor desired. Unlike boiled, baked or grilled fish, steamed fish and seafood retains its natural shape and delicacy. For delicate fish and seafood items, place them on a level higher than vegetables. Place more dense fish, such as trigger fish, below the vegetables.

Meat and Poultry

Place dense poultry, beef and pork in a shallow, rimmed dish. Add seasonings and set the dish on the lowest level of the steamer. Dense meats let out a lot of juice while cooking; the dish prevents the juices and flavors from seeping into the water. The juice also marinates the meat as it steams for a more intense and moist flavor.

Dumplings and Bread

Dumplings and other bread products can stick to the bamboo steamer as they cook. Avoid this by spreading a layer of cabbage leaves along the bottom of the steamer before setting them inside. Steam dumplings stuffed with meat, poultry, fish, seafood or veggies for delightful appetizers. Stuffed dumplings require a longer cooking time than many vegetables, so place them on a lower level of the steamer.