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Lao Style Fragrant Fish Soup

It’s getting a bit cold now of an evening for barbeques, but my partner still loves fishing. Fish soup is a great way to make a dinner party of the catch, and using the whole fish –  head, bones and all – I feel like an ethical predator.

This recipe works really well with bony fish like luderick (black fish) that have a bit of depth of flavour but are laborious to fillet.  It also works well with flathead or winter whiting (all of which are sustainable catches).

The recipe looks more complicated than it is – lots of ingredients can be substituted or left out – and although you need a few hours simmering time, there is very little actual work in it.

The Recipe

Clean and scale the fish and cut a few fillets off and put them aside.  You don’t need to worry about getting all the meat – the frame will be going into stock – but you do need to be sure to get no bones.  Bones in fish soup are not good!

Put the rest of the fish – head, bones and all – into a pot with a tight fitting lid, and cover with water.  This recipe uses 10 cups of water to cover the fish, and serves four generously for dinner, or more as an entree, so adjust your quantities to suit.

The rest of the stock ingredients just need to be roughly chopped, as you are going to strain them anyway.  To the pot, add:

  • 4 chillis, halved and seeds removed (or less, depending on how hot your chillis are)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 thumbs ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 thumb turmeric peeled and roughly chopped (or a teaspoon of  powder)
  • 4 stalks lemon grass, just the white part at the bottom
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (or leave them out and add more lime juice at the end)
  • a swig of olive oil (to catch the oil soluble aromatics)

Put the lid on and simmer gently for several hours, then strain, pressing down to squeeze out all the juice.

Bring the stock back up to simmer, and add:

  • the reserved fish fillets, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • rice noodles, more for a dinner, less for an entree
  • 4 desertspoons of fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped fresh dill (or a teaspoon of dried dill)
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped fresh coriander
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped spring onions
  • 1 shredded bok choy and/or 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 8 or so mushrooms, chopped

Simmer gently for just a few minutes until the fish and noodles are cooked.  Taste and add lemon or lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve with a sprinkle of coriander on top.  I added a bit of amaranth as well, just for the colour.


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