I love soups. I particularly do love sour soups as an appetizer because they really bring out my appetite! I know sour soups aren’t for all taste buds, but here’s a simple one you can make at home with fresh ingredients. You can always adjust the sourness (and even the spiciness) as desired. I came across this type of soup one day at a Vietnamese restaurant and loved it! So I googled it and then kind of tweaked it to my own tastes. To be honest, I don’t always follow soup recipes that I find. I love the fact that I can create, twist, tweak, add, remove, and flavour it with my personality – so this is my interpretation of it!
Soup Name: Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup (Canh Chua Ca)
For the whole recipe and to skip my commentary, scroll down.
To start, you’ll need fresh fish heads. To be honest, you can use any type of bigger fish, such as salmon, tuna, big head fish, or bass. I just go to my local wet mart and pick up some “big head” fish, which is at like $15 HKD a head, which is cheap! If you’d like more protein, you can buy the fish tail as well. Don’t forget to use a fish bag in the soup. This will help keep the fish bones together as it disintegrates in the soup.
To start, you’ll need some fresh ingredients such as fresh parsley, okra, bean sprouts, garlic, ginger, shallots, green onions, lemongrass, tomatoes, celery, and fish sauce. In some recipes you’ll also find Vietnamese taro stems (which aren’t easy to find, so you can replace this with celery).
To make your fish heads super fragrant for the soup, use your soup pot (empty) and add in a dollop of oil (any type) and pan fry on medium head the diced garlic, ginger slices, sliced green onions, tamarind, sliced lemongrass, and diced shallots and fry until fragrant. Add in your clean fish parts and fry until the skin is a golden brown. When sufficiently yummy, you can throw everything into a thin mesh soup bag and set aside (optional).
Fry garlic, ginger, lemongrass, green onions, tamarind, and shallots to set your base.
Pan fry fish parts until fragrant
Because I do sometimes get lazy and know that the kids aren’t likely going to fight me to drink this soup, I didn’t use a fish bag and just added water at this time until the pot is 3/4 full.
Add water to the fried fish head
After you bring the soup to a boil, turn to medium heat and add in the tomatoes, celery (or taro stems), okra, and pineapples and continue to boil. Boil on medium for another 15 minutes or until the fish is completely cooked and the vegetables have softened. You can almost consider this a quick boil soup.
Adding in vegetables to the soup
Taste the soup and add fish sauce as desired to increase the saltiness. This is when you can add the bean sprouts because they pretty much flash cook. Then serve immediately with parsley (and little spicy peppers, too) and enjoy! Be sure to scoop out all the goodies inside. Serve with rice or noodles! I love the colours of this soup – but more importantly, the flavours!! I do add more tamarind because I love sour stuff! Did I say that already? Haha… the best, are Costco giant sour keys….
Vietnamese Sour Fish Head Soup
Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Serves: 8 bowls
2 large fish heads, halved (or use fish tails)
2-3 stalks of celery (or Vietnamese taro stem), chopped
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 cup of pineapple chunks (canned is OK)
1 cup of bean sprouts
1 cup of okra, chopped
1 shallot, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 slices of fresh ginger
2-3 stalks of fresh green onions, diced
2-3 stalks of fresh lemon grass, chopped
2 tbsp of tamarind
fish sauce, to taste
In your soup pot, add a tablespoon of oil and fry the shallots, garlic, ginger, fresh green onions, and fresh lemon grass.
When fragrant, throw in clean fish parts and pan fry until the skin is golden and crispy.
Fill the pot to 3/4 full.
Bring to a boil and turn to medium head, scooping out any oil or foam on top.
Throw in tomatoes, pineapples, celery (or taro stems), and okra and let simmer for 15 minutes until the fish is completely cooked or the vegetables are soft.
Taste soup and add fish sauce as needed.
Add bean sprouts to boil for 1-2 minutes and serve. Garnish with fresh parsley.
The crab is a crustacean with a short tail and typically two large claws and multiple legs
Crabs often have hard shells, but there are species of soft-shelled crabs
The most edible types of crabs include: flower crabs, snow crabs , blue crabs, edible or brown crabs , Dungeness crab, and mud crabs
Crabs primarily come from the ocean, but there are crabs that are extracted from fresh water (most popular in Asia is the Shanghainese Hairy Crabs available around Oct – Nov of every year)
Crabs are used in various dishes across Chinese dishes such as stir-fried, with noodles, steamed, in congee, or in soup.
How do I prepare it?
The Chinese way is to peel off the shell (as quickly as possible) and then chop the crab down the middle in half ensuring it’s completely dead
Also remove the gills and brain (would recommend you google where these parts are) and then quarter them for congee. Don’t throw anything else – especially the jiggly, yellow, green, or orange “cream” – this is the best part and comes out into whatever dish you are making
You can rinse in warm running water if you’d like
Another way to prepare crab is to simply steam them in boiling water – or drop them in a pot of boiling water. This is if you want to eat the crabs as is.
Where can I buy this?
In Asia, especially in Hong Kong, the best and freshest crabs come from the wet marts (or supermarkets)
Be sure to buy the crabs that are moving and whole
If they are tied up, press right between their eyes and there should be movement, indicating they are still alive
You can keep them alive in water at home until you’re ready to cook them (or in the fridge)
What is the cost?
This really depends on the breed, size, location, and season
When I bought mine around Autumn, with a nice fresh water crab, they cost $100 HKD each (and not very large)
Crab meat is extremely low in fat and high in protein
Crabs are rich in chromium, which helps insulin to metabolize sugar, and thereby lowers the blood glucose levels in the body
Crabs have a healthy dose of antioxidants, which help help kill free radicals in the body (free radicals are what make you age)
Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids
The cream of the crab is extremely high in cholesterol and should be avoided by those who need to watch their intake
Don’t overcook the crab meat, this will destroy a lot of the vitamins and minerals contained within the meat
Be careful of the claws and potentially sharp points in the legs and head
When serving children, be sure to fully check for any sharp parts of the crab, especially if you’re making soup or congee, the parts of the crab will dissintegrate
Lobster is a popular seafood in Chinese cuisine. Traditionally, it can be fried with ginger and scallions, or for a modern take, Chinese restaurants are increasingly offering lobster cooked in a creamy cheese sauce atop a bed of tender egg noodles. As with most proteins, when you’re finished eating the actual dish, don’t toss the left-over bones or shells! Save them because they can be used to create a delicious soup instead. Lobster shells are the perfect base for a seafood broth, particularly the head which contains a lot of the rich creamy roe and flavours.
Soup Name: Lobster Broth
Traditional Chinese Name: 龍蝦湯 (lóngxiā tāng)
For this particular soup, we quickly devoured the meat of three small, boiled lobsters (we dipped the meat in salted butter of course) and carefully saved the shells, including the back, legs, claws and especially the whole heads. When making lobster broth, leaving the meat in the shells seems wasteful as I don’t feel the meat contributes that much flavour to the richness of the broth, so feel free to enjoy the meat separately first.
In the below recipe, stir-frying the ingredients first is optional — however I find it does help to bring out the flavours, particularly if the shells are slightly caramelized around the outside. Also, feel free to add carrots and other root vegetables to create a hearty, healthy meal.
As a tip, when making any seafood soup (or seafood dish), one of the key ingredients when cooking in a Chinese-style is to use fresh ginger. Not only does ginger add to the complex flavours of the seafood, it is also key because it cuts through any potential fishy tastes and smells.
The below recipe can be used stand-alone (as a soup), as the soup base for noodles, or it can also be poured on top of cooked rice to make a sort of lazy Chiu Chow-style congee. Enjoy!
Recipe Type: Soup
Serves: 6 bowls
2 L water
3 lobster shells (with head)
5 slices of ginger
1 garlic clove
1 small onion
1 stalk, spring onion
Salt to taste
Start boiling the water in a large soup pot
Stir-fry the onion, garlic and ginger in 1 tbsp of cooking oil for 3 minutes until onions are soft (stir-frying is optional, but will help to enhance the flavours)
Add the lobster shells and spring onion and stir-fry for another 5 minutes (optional)
Put everything into the soup water (on high heat)
When the water is boiling, turn down the heat to medium and continue to boil for 1 hour.
Once in a while, use the [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/oil-scooper/”]oil scooper[/url] to scoop out extra oil and foam that may rise to the surface
In soups, beef bones are primarily used to make beef stock
Not a common ingredient used in Chinese soups at all – in fact, beef is not a common ingredient for “old fire” soups traditionally compared to pork – if you consider it from a historical perspective, having a cow back in those days meant you were wealthy
Bones are rich in nutrients (calcium & magnesium), collagen, easy to digest and rich in flavour
Shown in the picture are the ribs of the cow – I used this for my pho base because it’s relatively low in fat, but you can consider using cow knuckle and leg bones as well
The amount of fat on the bones will vary depending on which part. The ox-tail (of beef tail) is often a fatty part of the cow, but the most commonly purchased bone part from the vendor! He usually has the tail on reserve already for clients.
How do I prepare it?
Make sure the pieces you buy can fit into your pot (that’s probably the first most important thing!)
Blanch the bones in boiling water for at least 5 minutes to boil out the impurities and fat – this will produce a brown film of “gunk” which you should just throw out
Where can I buy this?
Most Asian wet marts will carry beef bones at the beef vendor
Supermarkets may also carry beef bones, which are already cut up into manageable pieces for you to take home
What is the cost?
The cost will vary depending on supply, but in Hong Kong, 3 bones (as pictured above) cost me $30 HKD
Bones (any animal) are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and silicon
The broth created from bones are easy to digest, are high in amino acids, collagen and gelatin
Bones broth is actually known to help fight colds and viruses because of these amino acids that help boost immune system and heal disorders like allergies, asthma and arthritis
Nothing beats real stock with real bones – store bought stock (which are primarily enhanced with flavour enhancers) has nothing over real stock
Be careful of an over fatty cut of the bone – knuckles, ox-tail, or any other cuts that come with fat should be either cut off or boiled off and then removed from the soup
Consider purchasing animal products that you know are pasture-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones
Be sure to remove any scum that boils from the soup or blanching process