A piping hot bowl of “fish soup” is a common meal in Singapore. It features a clean, light broth that is made from fish bones, other types of seafood, and vegetables. When served, it include slices of fish (grouper and batang are the most common), cabbage or other green vegetables, ginger, tofu, fried scallions, and sometimes if you fancy, the head or tail of the featured fish. It is usually enjoyed with a bowl of rice or rice-based noodles such as vermicelli.
Despite the hot and humid weather, Singaporeans would still develop cravings for fish soup at any time of the day. Typically found in hawker centres (large, open-air food complexes that feature from 20 to 200 small stalls), you may be surprised to see long queues for stalls selling fish soup.
In this recipe, I’m showing you how to make a simple and delicious fish soup using the head of a ling cod. It weighs about 2-3kg so it feeds at least two. You can easily obtain ling cod in various parts of British Columbia through direct wholesalers, or in markets that sell fish. Ask the sellers nicely to throw in some ling cod heads when you purchase the body (for extra meat). Sometimes they’ll do it for free. 😉
P.S. Ling cod is flavorful and fatty, but can taste a little fishy, so you might want to use more ginger if you’re not used to the taste at first.
- One whole Ling cod head about 2-3kg, cleaned and prepped
- Some salt
- About 6 tablespoons sliced ginger
- One whole head Napa cabbage peeled (keep the tough core of the cabbage, it will be added into the soup)
- About 14 cups of water
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sherry or Shaoxing wine
- 1 packet firm tofu sliced into small cubes
Preheat oven to “Broil” setting on high, for 25 minutes. Wait for oven to preheat.
Place cod head on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Rub salt all over. Take half of the ginger slices and rub them onto the cod head as well, then slot the ginger slices in between the fish cheeks, and onto the fish head. Put the baking tray in the oven and let the grill for about 20-25 minutes.
When the fish is about to be ready, prepare a large pot of boiling water (about 14 cups of water). Bring the water to a high boil.
Take the fish head out of the oven when it is done, then using a pair of tongs, place the fish head into the large pot of boiling water. Pour remaining juices from the baking tray into the pot.
Add cabbage core (the tough part without the leaves) into the pot. Add 3/4 cabbage leaves and stems into the pot. Set aside the 1/4 cabbage leaves for later, just before drink the soup, so the cabbage won’t be too soggy). It’s up to you if you want to add all the cabbage in or not.
Then, add remaining ginger slices into the water.
Now, flavour the soup with 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons sherry or Shaoxing wine. Continue to let the soup boil for about 10 minutes.
Now, bring the soup down to a simmer. Cover the soup pot with a lid and allow the soup to simmer on low heat for another 4 hours before serving.
Just before serving, bring the soup to a boil and add in the tofu pieces and remaining cabbage (if you still have them set aside). Boil for about 2 minutes, before turning the heat down/off.
10. Feel free to taste the soup before serving and add some salt and pepper if you like. Additionally, you may add chopped spring onions or fried shallots.