Chinese Sliced Fish Soup is a staple dish found in every hawker centre in Singapore. It is believed to have originated from the Teochews. Today’s Chinese Fried Fish Soup is another version where chunk of fish head bones and sliced fish are battered lightly with corn flour and flash fried into golden crispy chunks.
While it is important to use fresh fish when making fish soup, the soul of this dish I believe, is in its luscious and rich broth. To achieve that signature ‘milky’ soup base, the trick is to keep boiling the broth over high heat for 10 to 15 mins to release the collagen and essence from the fish bones. It is not necessary to add any milk or cream. However, I know there are a healthy amount of people who like evaporated milk in their fish soup. If you are one of them, you could add some before serving.
If you are worried about overly-fishy soup, fret not. Wash your fish bones thoroughly to get rid of any blood – fish blood is the main culprit contributing to the fishiness, as long as you wash/scrub them well, your soup will not be fishy.
Making Chinese fish soup at home is not daunting, all you need is a little patience and you’ll be rewarded with bowls of comforting, sweet and flavorful soup.
Soup base –
600g fish bones – cut into large pieces (I’m using garoupa bones)
Salt and pepper
5 cloves garlic – peeled and lightly smashed
3 slices ginger
4 stalks spring onions – white part
4 to 5 cabbage leaves – use only white parts, reserve leaves
30g tung choy (Tianjin preserved vegetables)
1 tbsp shaoxing wine
10g rock sugar / 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 cubes of fish or chicken bouillon / stock
5 litres boiling water
Fried fish –
600g fresh white fish – sliced ½ inch thickness (I’m using garoupa)
400g fish head – cut into bite size (optional)
½ cup corn flour
Salt and white pepper
To serve –
Thick rice noodles for 4 to 5 pax
2 large tomatoes – cut into quarters
Reserve cabbage leaves
Few dashes of fish sauce
Spring onions to garnish
serve 4 to 5
Fish soup base:
Wash the fish bones thoroughly to remove any blood in the bones. Dry them with paper towel.
Season with some salt and white pepper.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot and add in ginger, spring onion and garlic. Cook over high heat until fragrant and add in fish bones. Turn down heat to medium and brown the bones on both sides.
Add in the rest of the soup base ingredients and toss until fragrant, about 1 min.
Carefully pour in boiling water and bring to boil, while maintain the heat at high at all times. This will produce a milky broth.
Boil soup, uncovered for 10 to 15 mins until the soup turns milky.
Turn down heat to low and continue to simmer for another 10 mins.
Strain and remove all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the soup with more seasoning if needed.
Season the sliced fish / head (if using) with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat each piece with corn flour. This will prevent the oil from splattering during frying.
In a deep pot, heat enough oil, about 2/3 from the base of the pot over medium high heat.
Carefully place the fish pieces into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pot. If necessary, cook them in a few batches.
Remove and drain on paper towel. Set aside until ready to use.
Boil rice noodles according to package instruction.
Separate into individual bowls.
Bring the soup to boil and add in tomatoes, cabbage leaves and a few dashes of fish sauce.
Cook for about 5mins until vegetables are softened. Taste and adjust with more seasoning if needed.
Pour hot soup into each bowl of rice noodles and top with desired amount of fried fish, spring onions and fried shallot.