Saturday, April 12, 2008

Vicky's fish soup

Around eight years ago I shared a house in Dili, East Timor (Timor Leste) with three amazing women - Sara, Tegan and Vicky. It was a shell of a house really, significant parts of it were burnt during the conflict but we worked on getting it patched up and it was home for us. We were all pretty poor - all of us living on a volunteer allowance, but I have so many happy memories from that time.

I'm going to Timor next week for a couple of weeks work and as luck would have it, Sara will be there at the same time. I won't get to see Tegan as she is in the Solomon Islands these days but I hope that I'll get to see Vicky. Vicky is Timorese/Australian and these days works for the Timor Leste government. She is an absolutely amazing and inspiring woman and happens to be a fantastic cook. Last night I made a fish soup, which was inspired by a fish head soup she used to make for us. I don't think my version is quite as good as hers, but it's close. It's light but tangy and so good for the soul. We eat it with steamed rice on the side.

For the fish soup you will need:

(serves 4-6)
  • A medium sized whole fish, I used snapper (cleaned and scaled)
  • 3 liters water
  • 2 onions
  • Small bunch parsley
  • A small strip of kombu (Japanese seaweed - optional)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger chopped
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 hot chili
  • 1/2 cup tamarind water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Soy sauce, 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 tomato
  • Small bunch coriander
  • 3/4 cup chopped spring onions
  • Freshly ground pepper, 1 teaspoon
  • Salt to season
  1. Put the fish, one onion, parsley, one chopped carrot, bay leaf, and kombu into a pot and cover with the water.
  2. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. At this point the fish should be cooked. Take out the fish and remove the meat. Place the fish meat aside. Return the head and fish bones to the pot.
  4. Continue to simmer the fish stock for another 20 minutes.
  5. In a frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Fry a finely chopped carrot and chopped onion until it almost starts to take on color. Add garlic, ginger and chili and cook for around 1 minute.
  6. Drain stock and return clear stock to pan. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, ginger and chili to the stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the tamarind water (tamarind water is the water in which you soak tamarind in), lime juice, soy sauce and pepper.
  8. Add the chopped tomato and fish meat.
  9. Bring to boil. Adjust seasoning (you may need salt, extra soy sauce, extra lime - it really depends on your taste, I like things quite tangy).
  10. Add chopped spring onion and coriander.
  11. Serve on its own or with steamed rice on the side.

No comments: