Recipes Seafood

Semilabeo Notabilis Fish Steamed with Wild Pepper

The ancient Vietnamese myth is handed down that semilabeo notabilis was a fish that had existed in Vietnam since the year 2,000 BC. It was offered to King Hung. The King named this fish “Anh Vu”, and entitled it “the top fish of Van Lang nation”. What makes this type of fish which lives at rocky bottom in deep flowing waters so valuable? The Chef of the restaurant Ngoc Linh Gia Lai, Mr. Le van Boi, shared, “This fish lives in very fierce water bodies; it swims against the waves, over waterfalls; therefore, its flesh is very solid, chewy, with a texture of round bulges. Additionally, the lips of the fish are very thick and flavorful due to its having to cling tightly onto the rock when it stops swimming to avoid strong waves. Thus, the fish is steamed to retain all the sweetness of its flesh, together with a bit acridity particular of wild peppers for Yin Yang balance, which makes it marvelous!”


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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:


  • 400g filet of semilabeo notabilis
  • 200g fresh bamboo sprouts
  • 100g green onion
  • 10g wild pepper (amot)
  • 20ml soy sauce
  • 1g tapioca flour
  • 1g seasoning powder
  • 10ml water
  • 15ml rice wine
  • 10g smashed ginger



Preparation: Cleanse the fish with wine and pounded ginger, then set dry. Cut off the aged root and young buds of the fresh bamboo sprouts, keep the trunks. Smash the wild peppers. Discard the root of the green onions, rinse well, put aside the white stems, and boil quickly the green portions. Mince half of the onion stems, slice thinly the other half lengthwise.

Marinate the fish: Dice the fish into 5cm cubes, marinate all in 20ml soy sauce with the minced green onion stems and 5g ground pepper. Leave in 15 minutes for full absorption of spices.

Process the fish: Boil the bamboo sprouts till cooked, cut into pieces of 5mm thick and equaling the length of the fish cubes. Place one bamboo sprout on each cube of fish, tie both up with the green onion string. Do the same with all the remaining fish. Arrange the fish on a plate.

Steam the fish: Place a steamer on oven top, wait till the water inside boils up, put the plate of fish in, and steam it at high heat in 10 minutes; then reduce the heat, prick the flesh with a toothpick; when the flesh of the fish is opaque throughout, it’s done. Turn off the oven.

Make the sauce: Drain all fish liquid having been just steamed into a pot placed on an oven; season with 5g ground pepper, 1g seasoning powder; blend 1g tapioca flour with 10ml water. Gradually pour the floury fluid into the sauce till it is a bit condensed.


Arrange the fish on a serving plate, garnish with the thinly sliced green onion stems, drizzle the hot sauce on top. Serve with white cooked rice, soya sauce with chili chiffonades; or just enjoy the fish by itself.


The steamed fish is cooked with the aromatic chewy flesh; the bamboo sprouts are crunchy, flavorful and sweet with no bitter taste.


Choose live fish so that the flesh is more fragrant and chewy.

Boil and rinse the bamboo sprouts many times to get rid of the bitterness.

Choose Manh Tong type of bamboo sprout for its crunchy, sweet, less bitter taste than other types. Manh Tong bamboo has large rhizomes and the pulpy sheath is purple, bearing plenty of young fur.

Use green peppercorns as an alternative for wild pepper.


It can nourish Qi and blood, facilitate digestion, dispel heat, strengthen the body resistance, boost vitality, reduce fat in the blood, be useful for persons with weakened body strength, loss of appetite, persons with hypertension, diabetes, high fat content in the blood, obesity, and impotency.




LE VAN BOI Ngoc Linh Restaurant (Gia Lai Province) Runner-up in the Southern regional semifinal round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013

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