LuNaR nEw YeAr wHoLe FiSh

LuNaR nEw YeAr wHoLe FiSh

The Lunar New Year is more special to me than the traditional Gregorian calendar New Year. I especially love some of the Chinese traditions observed during this time, particularly, the tradition of cleaning your house and paying your bills. Out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new! Such a responsible habit to get into and a nice way to start off the New Year. It’s sooo nice to begin with a clean slate in your life on multiple levels. Another tradition I adore, is the cooking of certain foods for good luck. We can all use a little bit of extra luck, and I’m happy to oblige since one of those ‘lucky’ foods involves preparing a whole fish. I typically serve this with a hearty noodle such as udon, ramen or soba. This year I bought some organic green tea noodles to go with our celebratory dinner, and I will serve them along side steamed dumplings (cha siu bao), or manapua, as we like to call them in Hawaii.

I have chosen a popular Mediterranean method of preparing the fish since this is hands-down the moistest whole fish I’ve ever had. It also makes an impressive presentation when you crack the salt crust to get to the flesh of the fish. My fish of choice for this recipe is tilapia because it is mild and can be purchased almost anywhere. If you are unable to get tilapia, you can substitute a firm fish, such as red snapper, sea bass, or even salmon in it’s place. This recipe is easy to do and oh-so tasty. Enjoy!

Lunar New Year Whole Fish

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A whole talapia shown with Calamansi limes.


  • 1 whole 2 pound fish, gutted and descaled
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 green onion
  • 5 calamansi limes cut in half, or one large lemon cut into four wedges


  1. Prepare fish by rinsing it thoroughly with cold water and patting it dry. Take two halves of calamansi limes (or one wedge of lemon) and squeeze all over fish and inside belly cavity. Stuff the empty belly of the fish with remaining lime/lemon wedges and herbs and set aside. Try to keep the cut side up so that all of the contents do not fall out.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk or beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add salt 1/2 cup at a time until incorporated and beat again. It should look and feel like meringue.
  3. Using a spatula, spread a small “bed” of salt mixture in the middle of a foil covered baking sheet, about 1/4 cup. Place fish on bed of salt mixture. Spread the remaining salt mixture over fish, applying an even coat of about 1/2 to 1 inch thick all over. It’s okay if you don’t cover the tip of the nose and tail.
  4. Bake uncovered at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Crack crust and peel back skin to reveal moist meat underneath. The spine of the fish should remove very easily. Flake off chunks of fish and serve with noodles or rice. Sprinkle with more chopped green onion and fresh lime if desired.


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