Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fish soup

Batang (a kind of mackerel) slices in a bowl of flavorful clear soup with vegetables, tomato wedges, topped with fried garlic bits.

Toman (snakehead) slices in a light milky soup, done typical Cantonese style - a bowl of fish soup goodness.

Fish soups(picture, left)-Cantonese-style, Teochew-style, etc. are Asian comfort food that I missed in the US. Well, maybe I could jolly well replicate them in this hemisphere but it's not as straight-forward as spicy mixed rice dish, or Lontong.

First, I do not know where to buy Batang and Toman, fresh. Second, even if I do, they must have masked themselves in different identities and names that I may have missed them out many times without realizing they are actually right in front of me. Well, when it comes to fish, I'm not that adventurous (since I'm a fish myself- tigerfish). In the US, I only know these few fishes - halibut, cod, salmon, sole, and tilapia. Know, as in, know how to cook them well.

You do not need another warming meal this summer? But a warming healthy meal will warm your heart

I like cod fish for its subtle-sweet flavor, its "fragile" less dense texture, and would usually steam them to taste their natural flavors (of course, the fish must be fresh in order to "deploy" the steaming method). I decided to use cod fish slices to cook my own fish soup. Time for this fish to show its fish flair again.

Fish soup (serves 2)
- 2-3 Alaskan cod fish fillets (I like to stick to wild-caught, non-farm-raised fishes, where ever possible). Buy fresh or flash-frozen. Cut fish fillets into slices of about 0.7-0.8cm thickness, marinade("pat") lightly with salt and pepper
- Seafood stock* (Note: I will talk about making the stock at the bottom of the post)
- Canned straw mushrooms (option)

- any green leafy vegetables (lettuce, bok choy, bok choy sum) of your choice, blanched
- 2 stalks spring onions, julienned into thin strips at the bias
- fried shallots and red chili, garnish
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a soup pot, boil the seafood stock* with mushrooms. When boiling, turn to low heat, simmer
2. While simmering, add in the fish slices, in small batches; once cooked(turns opaque), remove from simmering soup and set aside (Note: Do not overcook the fish)
3. Add in spring onions, salt and pepper to taste (Note: By this time, the soup is already robustly flavored in seafood-, and fish- flavor)
4. Lay the blanched vegetables in a bowl, top with cooked fish slices, then spoon the hot soup into the bowl over the vegetables and fish slices
5. Garnished with more spring onions, fried shallots and sliced red chilli
6. Serve warm with rice

How nutritious is this...

*Making the stock for fish soup:
1. Teochew-style - boil a pot of water with pork bones, soybeans and peppercorns for about 20mins or longer. Salt to taste. Best if additionally garnished with pre-fried dried shrimp, pre-fried pork belly slices and pre-fried dried Chinese mushrooms.
2. Cantonese-style - If available, get some fish bones and marinate with a little salt. Then fry the fish bones in oil till they are fragrant, add a dash of chinese cooking wine. Pour in water (soup will turn whitish), then add ginger and simmer for 30mins. Remove the bones.
3. Short-cut/cheat-sheet style - This is more of a tip. When stir-frying seafood - shrimps, bay scallops, calamari, clam etc., you will usually get instant "seafood broth" due to the moisture content of the seafood. Most of the times, you may not need all the seafood "essence" at once(unless you are making seafood soup in which you do not want "dilution" of flavors). Keep some aside - store in air-tight container and freeze for future use.

This fish soup turned out unexpectedly good. Another "almost naked" way of tasting fresh seafood. NOOooooo, you don't eat this when you are naked. "Naked" in this meaning - minimal cooking of the fish ;p

Quite common to dip the fish slices in a condiment of dark soy sauce with some sliced red chilli in it, or maybe some Thai chili condiment, for a change.


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