Have your fishmonger cut the bass into nice, thick squares. With a sharp French knife or boning knife, score the skin side of the fish in a oneinch diagonal pattern. The best equipment for steaming this fish is a wok and a large bamboo steamer. Shallow, heat resilient ceramic bowls that fit inside the steamer are perfect. You may have to steam the fish in waves, or you can stack an additional steamer onto the original to create a layered steamer tower. If you do not have heat resistant bowls to serve the fish in, any shallow stainless pan will work and then you just will have to transfer the fish into serving bowls.
Peel the shrimp, leaving heads intact. Slice shrimp down the middle, beginning at the base of the head and continuing to the beginning of the tail. Remove the vein. Hold the shrimp by the tail and then pull the tail through the slit, going under so the tail stands upright.
For steaming in individual bowls:
Place one piece of lightly salted fish in the center of the bowl. Combine in a stainless steel bowl, 3 to 4 cups of water, julienned ginger, tomato sections, cup of cilantro sprigs, and 4 to 5 umeboshi plums, seeds removed and lightly mashed between your fingers. In each bowl, place two shrimp and ladle two pieces of tomato and about 6 to 8 cups of the liquid around the fish, making sure to get equal amounts of ginger and plum in the bowl. Sprinkle cracked white pepper on top of the fish. While you are preparing the bowls, set up wok with water and steamer(s). Turn on heat, bringing it up to full steam. Carefully place bowl(s) in steamer, then cover and cook till fish is done. The cooking time will vary according to the thickness of the fish and the intensity of the steam. An average piece of bass, approximately one inch thick, will cook in approximately six to seven minutes. Cautiously remove bowl(s) and garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs. Serve with ample steamed rice.
If you have a rice steamer, proceed as you would to steam any rice. A banana leaf placed in the steamer will impart a wonderfully fragrant perfume.
To cook jasmine rice: Bring four cups water to a boil. Add rice, salt and oil and boil hard until you see big rounds of boiling rice, approximately three to four minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and cook for 15 minutes. Check rice with a fork, taste. If it is a little al dente, leave covered on stove with the heat off for three to four more minutes. Serve in individual bowls.
Recipe Courtesy of Susan Regis