When you don’t have a traditional Chinese steamer for steaming fish, take a cue from the French and bake it in parchment paper. The en papillote method keeps fish moist, the way steaming does, making it great for seafood-shy cooks! Plus, it’s incredibly easy and fun. Each person gets their own packet to open up and release the fragrant vapors. I like to put my rice into the packet to let it soak up all the sauce.
A one-inch-thick salmon or halibut fillet works splendidly here. When baby bok choy (the Shanghai variety is popular at stores) is unavailable, use napa cabbage or a similar moisture-rich leafy green vegetable. Of the many ways to cut the paper, heart shapes fold up neatly for the parcels. Plus, they’re romantic.
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ cup thin, matchstick-cut ginger
1¼ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon recently ground black pepper
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil, plus more for brushing
8 ounces baby bok choy, quartered and cut on a sharp diagonal into pieces about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long
1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
One 1⅓-pound salmon or halibut fillet, about 1 inch thick at the center
2 medium green onions, green and white parts, cut on a sharp diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°F, not more. Cut four pieces of parchment paper, each about 15 by 24 inches or less. Fold each one over to form a 15 by 12-inch rectangle. Draw a large half of a heart on each one, so its straight edge is on the fold. Use scissors to cut them out. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, pepper, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and canola oil. In a larger bowl, toss the bok choy with the sesame oil. Set the seasonings and bok choy aside. Cut the salmon crosswise into four equal pieces.
Unfold each parchment-paper heart and brush the insides with canola oil, leaving a dry 3-inch border. Divide the bok choy among the hearts, putting it on one side, then top with some white parts of green onion. Place a piece of salmon on top. Top each piece of fish with one-fourth of the seasonings. Scatter on the remaining green onion. Bring the empty side of each parchment heart over the fish and line up the edges. Starting from the top of the heart, fold the edges over about ½ inch, working with roughly 1½ inches at a time. Press the creases down so they hold. When done, twist the pointy bottom of each heart to finish. Transfer the parcels to two large rimmed baking sheets. (At this point, the parcels may be refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Return them to room temperature before baking.)
Bake the fish for 8 minutes, then rotate and swap the baking sheets and bake for another 6 to 7 minutes, until the parcels have puffed perfectly.