The taste of home comes in a comforting, brothy warm bowl of fish soup with plenty of ingredients. A recipe selected from Wet Market to Table: A Modern Approach to Fruit and Vegetables by chef and author Pamelia Chia, this aromatic fish soup is savoury to taste and comes with the fragrance and sourness of plums and tomatoes. Have it in a bountiful Chinese New Year feast, or just with rice, and it will still taste amazing.
The author shares, “The secret ingredient in this [fish] soup is dried sole fish bones, also known as ti poh. When deep-fried and infused into broths, the crispy fish bones impart a deep umami flavour that is truly transformative. The fish bones can be found at dried provision stalls in the wet market.”
(The stock needs to cook for 3 hours, so do plan ahead.)
- 2 L oil for deep-frying
- 70 g dried sole fish bones (ti poh)
- 1 taro, topped and tailed, brown skin removed, cut into bite-size wedges
- 1 head from a large fish such as red grouper or Song fish, chopped into pieces
- 3 chicken carcasses, chopped into pieces
- 150 g ginger, sliced 2cm thick
- 3½ L water
- 15 Chinese salted plums
- 60 g Solomon’s seal (yu zhu)
- ¼ Chinese cabbage, tough base removed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 4 tomatoes, each sliced into
- 8 wedges, core removed
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, pour the oil into a wok and set over high heat.
Test the oil’s temperature by dipping a wooden chopstick into the oil. Bubbles should immediately stream from the chopstick. Add the dried sole fish pieces and deep-fry until toasted and fragrant, about a minute. Remove the sole fish from the oil and set aside.
Add the taro pieces to the oil and deep-fry until slightly golden brown, about 3 mins. Remove and set aside.
Finally, add the fish head, removing the pieces when they turn a lovely golden brown.
Once the water in the stockpot comes to a boil, add the chopped chicken carcasses and blanch for 1 min. Pour the contents of the pot through a colander set in a sink and scrub the pot clean.
Rinse the chicken pieces thoroughly to remove all traces of scum and return them to the pot, along with the deep-fried sole fish and fish head. Add the ginger and water, and bring the contents of the pot to a rolling boil over high heat.
Cover the pot with a lid and lower the heat to medium; you want the stock to be boiling quite vigorously to encourage the emulsification of fat and the stock. This will result in a milky, creamy stock.
Allow the stock to cook for 3 hours before straining it into a clean pot. By this time, the chicken carcasses and fish head should be tender to the point of disintegration. It is important to use a fine sieve for this to catch all the fine bones from the fish. Press against the solids caught in the strainer with a ladle to extract all the liquid before discarding.
To the stock, add the deep-fried taro, plums, Solomon’s seal, cabbage and tomatoes. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the stock to simmer for another hour on low heat until the taro fully softens. Ladle into bowls and serve with rice vermicelli or rice.
Wet Market To Table (published by Epigram), $44.90, is available at leading bookstores and shop.epigrambooks.sg.