Quick Boiled Fish Soup

FishSoup1©BondingTool

Most Chinese soups take hours to simmer (2-4 hours).
This is a quick boiled version when you do not have the time nor patience for a nutritious and tasty soup.
Any soup mise en place and take less than half an hour to cook is considered quick boiling.
I used to charcoal boil my soup in claypot for 6-8 hours.

Fish soup is considered a healthier choice compared to meat broth. Is that true? I don’t know. I eat almost anything that is delicious. I tend to be picky about my food. In fact, when it comes to food, I can be a “snob”. My philosophy is if I do not eat good food, then I cannot serve good food to my family and friends. That does not mean I do not eat junk food every now and then. I have my weaknesses, too. But if I am to pile on calories for junk, they’d better be worth it (taste wise at least)!

Fresh fish from NTUC supermarket at Marine Parade, Singapore.

Fresh fish from NTUC supermarket at Marine Parade, Singapore.

I usually buy live toman a.k.a. snakehead fish from the wet market in Ghim Moh, a residential town area in Singapore. An old couple would always slaughter the fish at paced intervals to ensure the freshest possible fish their customers get. The old man died years ago and the lady told me that her children were not interested in taking over the business. I have not been there for a decade and I wonder if she is still operating…

Anyhow, I got my fish head parts from our local national supermarket chain, NTUC. As I stepped into the supermarket, I am amazed how Singapore’s food and food related industry have grown over the years. You can find almost any ingredient and cuisine readily. Ah, yes… Eating and shopping are Singaporeans’ national past time. The scene must be up to date!

The fish I eventually bought was from the chiller section. The label on the package said fish head parts. I know them to be “Yu Gai Yu Lam” from the look. Yu Gai Yu Lam means chunky meat near the fish head and gill/stomach area and they promised to deliver meaty chunks of tasty fish broth. You may opt for boneless fish fillet instead.

I needed ripe but firm local tomato not pomodoro and some ginger slices.

I needed ripe but firm local tomato not pomodoro and some ginger slices to go into this soup.

Walking around, I thought I might throw in some Hong Kong mustard greens but in the end, I decided on bittergourd as I have not eaten this vegetable for a year. My children do not like it but I am not dining with them tonight so I shall indulge in this piece of apple-green warty melon.

Bitter gourd, bitter melon, bitter squash - This Chinese variety can grow to about 20–30 cm long, is oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color with a gently undulating, warty surface.

Bitter gourd, bitter melon, bitter squash – This Chinese variety can grow to about 20–30 cm long, is oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color with a gently undulating, warty surface.

Cut the gourd in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and white pith. The whitish parts are bitter and so clean them well if you do not like them bitter. Cut them into big chunks for stewing and thin slices as shown below for this quick boil cooking method.

Chinese Bittergourd variety has a light green warty skin compared to the more jagged warty darker green of the Indian variety.

Chinese Bittergourd variety has a lighter green warty skin compared to the more jagged, triangular “teeth” ridges and darker green of the sub-continent Indian variety.

Cutting the bitter melon into thin slices is also the preferred choice for stir-frying.

Slice or bash the old ginger - amount up to you. Cut tomato into wedges as shown. Slice the bitter gourd thinly. Clean the fish thoroughly.

Slice or bash the old ginger – amount up to you. Cut tomato into wedges as shown. Slice the bitter gourd thinly. Clean the fish thoroughly.

The secret in getting tasty non-fishy fish soup is to fish them yourself, of course! Just kidding and testing if you are awake 😀 The secret is getting the freshest fish if live fish is not available. The next trick is cleaning all traces of blood found on the fish as this bloody clot or traces of it can cause fish soup or gravy (in fish curry) to be bitter.

No traces of blood on fish. No white pith on bittergourd.

No traces of blood on fish. No white pith on bittergourd.

Rub coarse salt onto the fish during washing to rid slime and blood.

Fry some of the fish if you desire.

Fry some of the fish in a couple tablespoons of oil, if you desire.

Hmmm… the sides of this pot got blackened when I turned up the heat with some oil in it. I wonder if it will revert back to “normal” after washing. Haiz…

Season the fish parts and fry them in oil till they turn brown with a crispy coat.

Season the fish parts and fry them in oil till they turn brown with a crispy coat. Drain on oil absorbent paper.

Pat dry the fish. Separate some for deep-frying (optional) and keep some as is. In a bowl, marinate those meant for deep-frying with some Hua Tiao Chiew (Chinese rice wine), oyster sauce, sugar, white pepper powder, cornflour and sesame oil. Sprinkle some salt and white pepper powder on those not for deep-frying.

Yu can choose to stir-fry the ginger slices with a bit of oil first or boil them in water.

You can choose to stir-fry the ginger slices with a bit of oil first or just boil them in water. I did the latter so the soup was not oily at all.

Put one litre of water in a stockpot and add the ginger slices. Bring to the boil and let simmer till the ginger aroma permeates. Keef got some chicken stock which he just bought and wanted to try so I put in one tablespoon of that to the broth. Normally, I would use fresh ikan bilis stock or stock cube (500g dried anchovies washed clean, put in muslin bag, add 1 litre water and simmer for an hour or more, until very rich concentrated stock is achieved. Strain and pour into ice cube trays. Keep in freezer as “concentrated anchovy stock cubes” for future use. Use 1 cube for stir-frying vegetables, more for soup stock, etc…).

Time to cook.

Let’s get cooking!

ClearFishSoup1214©BondingTool

Put garlic, ginger and water in a small pot. Bring to the boil and simmer till ginger fragrance fills the kitchen.

ClearFishSoup1216©BondingTool

When the ginger aroma permeates and the water is boiling hard, add in the fresh fish parts or boneless fillet.

ClearFishSoup1217©BondingTool

Add chicken or fish stock to the soup. Add fresh milk and evaporated milk, if using, at this stage. Amount is up to your desire and tolerance for milk. Some people are not lactose intolerance but they just don’t like milk, so omit if that’s the case.

ClearFishSoup1226©BondingTool

Add bittergourd (substitute bittergourd with salted vegetables and sour plum, the type for steaming fish. Slightly squeeze the sour plum between fingers to break it), tofu to the soup and simmer over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.

ClearFishSoup1225©BondingTool

Add the fried fish and tomato wedges and boil for 3 minutes over high heat. If you like to eat this with noodles (lai fun or laksa noodles), this is the time to add in.

Add one tablespoon XO brandy or Hua Tiao Chiew to the soup. More if you like. Adjust final seasonings like salt, sugar (optional) and white pepper powder.

Add one tablespoon XO brandy or Hua Tiao Chiew to the soup. More if you like. Adjust final seasonings like salt, sugar (optional) and white pepper powder.

ClearFishSoup1235©BondingTool

Turn off heat and add a dash of sesame oil to perfume the soup. Garnish with chopped cilantro, sectioned scallions and fried shallots.

IMG_1245©BondingTool

Serve hot with rice.

Recipe (serves 4 – as soup with other foods)
Ingredients:

300g-500g Fish Head Parts or thick boneless Fish Fillet (any firm white flesh fish).
1-1.5 litre Water (anchovy stock or chicken stock).
A bunch of vegetables (Mustard Greens, Bok Choy, Nappa Cabbage, Bittergourd, Salted Vegetables).
1 piece Sour Plum (those used for steaming fish).
1 small box Soft or firm Tofu (your desired texture).
1 Tomato, cut into wedges.
1 Garlic, bashed lightly.
A few slices of Old Ginger.
A few tablespoons of Fresh Milk, optional.
A few tablespoons of Evaporated Milk, optional.

Some Laksa Noodles or Vermicelli, if preferred over rice (fresh or reconstituted dried ones).
If you are eating this with noodles, try adding fish balls. See Fried Fish Noodle Soup 🙂

Garnishing:
Cilantro, chopped.
Scallions, sectioned.
Fried Shallots.

Dipping Sauce:
Red Chillies, sliced (deseeded if don’t like too spicy).
Light Soy Sauce.

Marinate for Fish:
A pinch of Salt and Pepper, each.

Marinate for Fried Fish:
1 teaspoon Oyster Sauce.
1 teaspoon Sugar.
1 teaspoon Hua Tiao Chiew.
1 tablespoon Cornflour.
A pinch of Salt and Pepper, each.
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil.

The fish do not have to be marinated “full bodied” as we will adjust the final seasonings in the soup itself.

Shallow or deep-fry the fish till golden and crispy on all sides. Drain on paper. Can do this way ahead of meal time.

Method:
1. Wash and clean all the ingredients needed. Drain well. Slice, cut and chop accordingly to the pictures seen above.

2. Put garlic, ginger and water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add concentrated stock (can use commercial cubes/granules).

3. Put in the raw fish and let it cook till half done.

4. Add milk to taste, creamier or less creamy (I used both types of milk but you can use whatever is available or omit this completely).

5. Put in the rest of the ingredients in order of most raw or longer time to cook.

6. Blanch noodles in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes till al dente or your desired texture. Drain and keep aside till needed. Put in the noodles when ingredients are cooked. Adjust seasoning. Serve. (Skip this step if not using noodles.)

7. Once ingredients are cooked, add more brandy or rice wine, adjust seasonings and turn off the heat.

8. Add a dash of pepper and sesame oil.

9. Garnish and serve with steamed Jasmine rice or eat it carbo-free.

Variation:
Using the same stock and cook seafood soup.
Clams, Squid, Fish, Prawns, Scallops, Abalone, etc…
Use Dried Seaweed instead of fresh vegetables.
Do a Minced Meat and deep-fried Anchovy version.

Happy dining 🙂

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Comments
6 Responses to “Quick Boiled Fish Soup”
  1. omg, that looks absolutely delicious Sam. (as always !) And really good clear instructions and cooking tips too, clear enough even for a very limited chef like myself! Thank you very much, I plan to make that soon now. Yummy. Arran. x

    • Sam Han says:

      Hope the soup turns out well. Bon appétit!
      Thanks for visiting, Arran.
      Btw, I am confused about the Irish Brigade after reading and checking on Wiki too. Was too embarrassed to ask in your comment box on your post, haha… Were the Irish Brigade a present to France? I thought they were “planted” there as secret soldiers to fight for UK, no? (when you said they became “toast of France” – sounded like a nail polish colour from OPI) 😀

      • hi Sam, no the Irish Brigade did not fight for the British against France, although I totally agree its confsuing, in fact its sort of the opposite, they actually fought for France, as part of the French army in fact, and very often they even fought against Britain. I totally accept that its all very confusing, because of course, at this point, Ireland was still part of the UK (britain) . But remember, that most Irish were catholic and so they were discriminated against by England, so they were very unhappy. Also they had had a lot of land confiscated by the english too, so they were even more unhappy about that too. The politics of the time is super-complicated, and to be honest even a lot of Irish & english people don’t understand it much! Thats why i wrote the post, my sincere apologies if it didn’t come across clearly, but please don’t give up and please do come again, i always appreciate your visits, and please don’t be embarrassed to ever ask questions, I’ll always be delighted to answer try & them. (believe me: you are not the only one who finds this confusing. I had to read about 6-7 books to get a clear, balanced picture! Trying to synthesize all that down now for my loyal readers) My very warmest regards- Arran.

      • Sam Han says:

        It was my bad English that I did not comprehend. Now with your explanation, everything is clear 🙂 It is always a sad thing to be discriminated/persecuted for one’s faith and to be in exile from one’s own land (and ethnic cleansing is a crime!). The resentment can go on for decades and centuries with surviving relatives trying very hard to reconcile and move forward. Thanks for highlighting this piece of history. I will visit again for sure 😀

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