Tea Smoked Fish Recipe

Here's how to infuse fish or meat with the delicate fragrance of tea, indoors.

Close up view of a piece of tea smoked fish.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Using a wok (and preferably a hooded stovetop) allows you to smoke indoors with minimal smoke.
  • With indoor smoking, more delicate smoking agents may be used, like tea or toasted rice.
  • You can smoke on a smaller scale and control heat and monitor progress more easily.

Though I never went through a rebellious stage, where I took up vices like drinking and drugs, I have gotten in trouble in the past for smoking. Smoking fish and meat, that is.

The first time I tried smoking a fish in a wok, the fumes from the kitchen crept underneath my front door and attracted the ire of my passing landlord, who wasn't even the least bit assuaged by offerings of smoked cod perfumed with the scent of charred jasmine tea and jasmine rice. Despite my assurances that smoking in a wok is safe, easy, and effective, he forbade me from doing it again in his building.

So the next time I tried, I made sure to stuff rags underneath my door and open every window in the apartment. With minimal smoke wafting from the lidded wok, I sustained the sweet perfume of tea and rice toasting over a flame for 40 minutes or so, during which time the wine-marinated fish took on the heady scents inside. That, combined with the spoonful of sugar I'd added to the wok, produced a deeply burnished piece of smoked fish: flavorful, tender, and smoky with a touch of caramel.

A close up of the smoking ingredients: jasmine tea and toasted rice.

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

If you've only smoked food outside with wood chips, you'll be pleased with the efficacy of smoking indoors. The principle of smoldering something fragrant over very low heat is the same; indoors, it's easier to monitor and adjust the heat. While you can certainly smoke indoors with a handful of woodchips, you can also add more delicate items to use as your smoking agent, such as tea, rice, sugar, and even peppercorns. (And, if you have an exhaust fan over your stove, the smell of the smoke will be minimal.)

A bamboo lid over a wok.

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

The initial first few minutes of smoking in a wok are heavenly, perhaps 30 percent of the reason why I smoke in the first place. The smell of tea leaves toasting over fire is hauntingly memorable; my choice of tea is usually jasmine for its floral perfume, though a stronger black tea will impart an even smokier flavor into the meat or fish.

How to Smoke Meat Indoors Using a Wok

To smoke, simply toast the tea leaves and rice over medium to high heat in a sealed wok and wait for a few wisps of smoke to escape from the lid. After that, wait a few minutes for the smoke in the wok to build; then turn off the heat and allow the items inside to absorb the smoke. Waiting too long risks imparting a tinge of bitterness to the food, but you have a forgivable window of time during the last stage of this process.

A slab of smoked pork belly.

Serious Eats / Chichi Wang

Once you've gotten the hang of moderating heat and time, you can play with different kinds of meat and fish. Naturally tender meats, such as chicken thighs, pork belly, and a range of fatty and non-fatty fish (salmon, cod, striped bass, and so forth) work well. Depending on what you're smoking, you may need to precook your protein (fish and most meats will require a short steaming time, whereas pork belly cured for bacon can go directly in the wok).

November 2010

Recipe Details

Tea Smoked Fish Recipe

Prep 5 mins
Cook 30 mins
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Total 8 hrs 35 mins
Serves 2 servings

Here's how to infuse fish or meat with the delicate fragrance of tea, indoors.


  • One 8-ounce fish fillet

  • 1/4 cup vermouth or rice wine, such as sake or Shaoxing rice wine

  • 1 teaspoon each of salt and crushed peppercorns (black, Sichuan, mixed, etc.)

  • 1/3 cup rice, preferably jasmine or long-grain

  • 1/4 cup tea, such as jasmine or black

  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  1. Steep fish in wine and sprinkle salt on top. Let soak in marinade for 8 hours to 1 day, turning fish over once or twice.

  2. Set up pot with steamer insert. Steam fish for 5 to 8 minutes until fish begins to flake. Remove fish from heat and allow to cool, 10 to 20 minutes.

  3. Cover wok with foil on the bottom, taking care that foil snugly fits in the wok. Mix leaves, rice, and sugar at the bottom of the wok. Place steaming rack in the middle of the wok, or use chopsticks to make a grid over tea leaves.

  4. Carefully blot any residual moisture from fish. Place fish directly on rack or chopsticks. Place lid on wok and use overlap of foil to seal shut.

  5. Turn on exhaust fan and open all windows in the house. Over high heat, toast tea and rice until smoky wisps begin to emerge from wok, 3 to 6 minutes. Toast for 5-7 minutes longer, then shut off heat and let fish sit in wok for 5 to 7 minutes longer. The smells will begin to turn smoky - turn off heat before you smell burning. Fish will be golden to dark brown, depending on time and type of tea. Serve room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold. Fish may be kept in refrigerator for about a week.

Special Equipment

Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
160 Calories
5g Fat
2g Carbs
21g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 160
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 1335mg 58%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 2mg 11%
Calcium 32mg 2%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 382mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)