Bartail Flathead Fish


Ingredient Name: Bartail Flathead Fish

Traditional Chinese Name: 牛鰍 (niú qiū)

What is this?
  • This flat headed fish and flat bodied fish is found within the Asian/Indian regions (and South East Asia)
  • The fish is brownish and gray in color and is heavily spotted and can grow up to 80 cm for a male
  • They tend to live in the sand and muddy areas of the ocean
  • This is a common “household” fish used in the Chinese cuisine (and can also be found in Chinese medicine)

How do I prepare it?

  • Have the vendor descale and clean the fish for you and cut in half
  • At home, you can rinse the inside and the outside of the fish in cool running water
  • If you are not cooking the fish immediately, you can slice some pieces of ginger and insert it into the stomach and put in the fridge

Where can I buy this?

  • Commonly found in wet marts across Asia and local supermarkets
  • The wet mart vendor or seller should descale and remove the insides of the fish for you
  • You can have them cut the fish into 2 pieces

What is the cost?

  • The price varies, but averages $40 HKD per catty (or per 500 grams)
  • An average fish (pictured above) cost around $25 HKD

Any benefits?

  • The meat is extremely sweet and one of the ideal fish used in soups
  • It’s doesn’t disintegrate easily and a fish bag isn’t necessary if you have the fish in 2 pieces
  • Since the shape of the body is unique, the fish is easy to filet and often used in that way when cooked

Any precautions?

  • Frying with ginger before soup usage will help the fishiness taste

Additional Information

  • For soups, any of the fish posted on this site will suffice as they are generally used for soups and share one thing in common (they are boiled!)

Snakehead Fish

Ingredient Name: Snakehead fish, “raw” fish

Chinese Name: 生魚 (shēng yú)

The word sounds like “raw” fish in Cantonese and that’s the idea I had while getting this recipe from my veggie vendor.  This readily available fish at most wet marts in Hong Kong comes LIVE – flipping and flopping for your viewing pleasure and is not expensive.  I have never eaten this fish before and glad that someone introduced it to me – definitely another breed to my limited repertoire of the huge fish variety in Hong Kong.

What is this?
  • A type of predatory fish with a head that resembles that of a snake
  • They have become an unwanted fish in natural environments as they eat other fish and have no known enemies in the natural environment – which is why it is a very common and readily available fish in Asia
  • Adult snakeheads can grow up to 1m in length, but in general, the wet marts carry ones that are about 30 cm in length
  • Commonly eaten in most Asian dishes (soups, fried, stews)

How do I prepare it?

  • When purchased, have your fish vendor de-scale, gut and chop your fish into a manageable size
  • Rinse with warm water prior to frying
  • With a few slices of ginger and a tsp of oil, pan fry your fish before using in soups
  • Use a soup bag when boiling in soups

Where can I buy this?

  • Available fresh in most wet marts in Hong Kong
  • Unsure of availability in North America

What is the cost?

  • A 30cm length snakehead fish cost around $13 HKD
  • It is considered a very common and accessible fish and therefore very affordable

Any benefits?

  • Excellent source of protein
  • Low in fat

Any precautions?

  • Be sure to thoroughly clean and cook your fish prior to eating
  • Buy your fish from a reputable source

Any substitutes?

  • Any other fish is a great substitute for fish soup

Corn, Pumpkin and Carrots in Fish Broth

Soup Name: Corn, Pumpkin and Carrots in Fish Broth

Traditional Chinese Name: 玉米南瓜蘿蔔湯 (yù mǐ nán guā hóng luóbo tāng)

A natural soup with no Chinese additives or herbs, it is sweet, packed with beta-carotene and eats like a meal.  I tend to add more corn and pumpkin because the children eat these vegetables and the fish base soup is low in fat and extremely healthy.  You can use a variety of fish (whatever is seasonally fresh is best) and it takes about an hour to make.  A neutral soup ideal for the whole family!

What Ingredients are required?

1 large big fish tail
15 fresh chestnuts, boiled and peeled
3 large carrots
2 fresh corn
1/2 fresh Japanese pumpkin, cubed

1 teaspoon of salt (for marinating fish)
1 tablespoon of oil
2 slices of ginger, peeled

2-3 L of water

How do I prepare it?

  1. Add chestnuts to cold water (complete submerged) and boil on high heat for 10 minutes
  2. Once cooked, set aside to cool
  3. Start boiling your soup water
  4. Clean fish and wipe the fish with paper towels or a cloth to remove excess water
  5. Cover the fish with a small amount of salt (inside and out)
  6. Let it sit for an hour and then drain any water
  7. In a pan, add oil and fry the ginger with the fish on low-medium heat (until the fish is completely cooked and the skin is a slightly browned)
  8. Put the fish into a soup bag
  9. Add fish bag to boiling soup
  10. Peel the chestnuts while still warm, removing both the outer and inner skins
  11. Wash and chop all ingredients (pumpkin is both OK with or without skin)
  12. Add carrots, pumpkin, corn and chestnuts to soup
  13. Boil on high heat for 30 minutes, reduce to a medium boil for another 30 minutes
  14. Serve and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • Soup extremely high in Vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene
  • 100% natural ingredients ideal for children and pregnancies
  • Low in fat

Any precautions?

  • Be sure to use a soup bag to contain all the disintegrated fish parts (especially the bones)

Fish Paste

Ingredient Name: Fish paste

Traditional Chinese Name: 魚片 (yú piàn)

What is this?
  • A common Chinese ingredient composed of ground fish (usually 鯉魚 (wan yú) in breed), green onions and salt
  • Often used in dim sum, fried dishes, hot pot, soups and stews

How do I prepare it?

  • Often usable as purchased

Where can I buy this?

  • Available in Hong Kong wet marts (at fish, tofu or seafood vendors) – customized amount
  • Can be purchased in supermarkets as prepackaged amounts

What is the cost?

  • Amount pictured above cost $20 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Excellent source of non-fat protein
  • Extremely flavorful when added to soups of stews

Any precautions?

  • Ensure it is thoroughly cooked before consumption (ie: in boiling soup or high heat)

Any additional information?

  • Store in  refrigerated environment for up to 3 months

Tomato Fish Soup with Tofu

Soup Name: Tomato Fish Soup with Tofu
Traditional Chinese Name: 番茄魚湯 (fān qié yú tāng)


Tomatoes are the ideal partner in fish soups.  It helps alleviatesome of the fishy scent as well as bring a sweet and slightly sour taste to the soup.  This soup is ideal for confinements and children (at least one year in age as tomatos are an ingredient that is on the acidic side) and is very neutral and healthy.  There is virtually no fat in the soup and the broth is rich in flavour and nutrients. 

What Ingredients are required?

4 medium-sized golden threadfin bream (or any other appropriate substitute)
3 tomatoes
2 large white onions
4 large cubes of soup tofu
2 L of water

1 teaspoon of salt (to marinate the fish)
3-4 thin slices of ginger
1 teaspoon of oil (to fry the fish)

How do I prepare it?

  1. After the fish is cleaned, wipe the fish with paper towels or a cloth to remove excess water
  2. Cover the fish with a small amount of salt (inside and out)
  3. Let it sit for an hour and then drain any water
  4. Peel and cut the tomatoes and onions
  5. Start boiling your soup water
  6. In a pan, add oil and fry the ginger with the fish on low-medium heat (until the fish is completely cooked and the skin is a slightly browned)
  7. Put the fish into a soup bag and add to water
  8. Add tomatoes and onions
  9. Boil on high for at least thirty minutes
  10. Add tofu cubes into soup ten minutes before consumption
  11. Serve and enjoy!

 Any benefits?

  • This neutral soup is ideal for confinements
  • It is also ideal for children (who are able to eat tomatoes)
  • It is highly nutritious, contains no fats and can be used as a soup base for noodles, macaroni and other dishes

Any precautions?

  • Be careful of disintegrated fish bones in the soup – although a filter or fish bag will help