Friday, 6 April 2012

XO Fish Head Noodle Soup


This is one very special bowl of fish soup for a fishy Good Friday!

First of all, the fish head. So many people seem to be scared of heads, but really, it's delicious, and actually rich in collagen and iodine. If you're still squeamish about eating it, well, at least save it for making stock! This didn't even cost me a thing. I was working at the farmer's market, where we have a fish stall selling the freshest catch off the shores, looking at all the customers buying their fish fillets and the leftover fish carcasses tossed in a bucket. If you've been following my blog, you know how much I hate waste, and how much I love homemade stock, so of course the fish bones went into a bag and later, into my pot.

Secondly, if you've never been to Singapore, you'll probably go pooh over how 'cloudy' the stock is, and indeed the usual fish stock will call for a short, bare simmering of the bones for to get a clear broth. That's one way to have it and I do like it But another way we have it back home is as a milky white broth, not by adding milk (although some hawkers do cheat), but by the furious boiling of fish bones which are first fried, to create an emulsification of fat, collagen and stock.

Lastly, you've got the option of adding XO brandy to it, true Singapore-style. It's of course not Good Friday-friendly. It's also not cheap, and for someone who is not the best of drinkers, and who looks immature enough to have to pull out her identity card just to buy a screwdriver at the supermarket, I would probably have just used rice wine had I not been gifted a very cute mini bottle from a friend.

XO Fish Head Noodle Soup
(adapted from watching Yummy King videos, and experimenting with a traditional fish stock)
Ingredients
For stock
500g chopped fish trimmings, bones and head (Not oily fish like salmon, it'll be 'smelly'. I think mine was a mix of cod and sea bream.)
2" slice of ginger
4 stalks spring onion
1 litre of water
Oil for deep frying (Saturated fats like coconut oil/unrefined palm oil/ghee/lard from happy animals are good options because they don't go rancid at high temperatures.)
unrefined sea salt, white pepper
(opt) tiny dash of XO brandy (or sub with rice wine)

To serve
1 cup of stock
1 serving of rice noodles i.e. beehoon (you want those which are round and spaghetti-thick)
fish slices (if you've not got a meaty fish head/tail)
small handful of greens (traditionally chye sim. I used some tender sprout tops.)

Method
1. Wash the fish bones and head well and pat dry. Rub all over generously with salt. Heat oil in a wok, and add the carcass to fry till golden brown, a couple of min, more or less depending on size of carcass pieces.
2. Add the water and bring to a furious boil for less than a minute, then immediately remove from the heat and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes with the ginger and spring onions. Add the brandy right at the end, if using. Adjust seasoning, adding white pepper and sea salt to taste.
3. To serve, cook the rice noodles and blanch the greens separately in boiling water, drain, and place in a bowl. If you are using the fish slices, marinate them in a little salt and white pepper, and blanch for a couple of seconds; I had a meaty fried fish head and tail to keep me happy. Ladle a cup of hot stock over, and scatter fried shredded ginger over.


The fish soup is a delicious milky white broth, not 'fishy-smelling' at all because of way it's been fried first, and then simmered with ginger and spring onions, and if you used the brandy, it's also got that extra heavenly whiff of booze and a rich depth of flavour. Although it's not a clear light soup, it's actually not heavy at all, and a scoop of that with slippery rice noodles was simply comforting, even without the fish itself. All that from something which might have very well gone into the bin ;)

If you're looking for pretty (and tasty) egg ideas, I've blogged about Tea-Leaf Marbled Eggs 茶叶蛋 before. It used to be one of my popular posts so you could see it on the right, but it's dropped off the list, so I'm giving it a little shout-out for Easter!

22 comments:

  1. yes... I am squeamish about fish heads, u got me there. But maybe I should rethink the possibility of using them in a broth. learned some few things about your traditional foods, thanks for sharing!

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  2. It sounds like an extremely delicious and cheap soup (unless one buys a bottle of brandy especially to make it of course). I'm not scared of any part of animal or fish as long as it's good. I go crazy for chicken cartilage, crunchy fish fins and wings and I adore fish cheeks (monkfish cheeks taste heavenly! unfortunately they are very expensive here). In short, I would probably love your soup.

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  3. I see that you are using fish heads on this one...good one! I was just talking to some of the guys about how ridiculous that so many people these days are squeamish and can't eat anything with a face /head on. They are missing out on all the real flavours. If you have any fish heads left, you need to make the fish head curry :)

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  4. Shu Han, this looks so yummy! I am totally squeamish - but my husband isn't, so that works out well :) I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend xo

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  5. Oh how I would love a bowl of that fish head soup. How fortunate that you are able to get excellent quality fresh fish head.

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  6. Omgosh fish head noodles! D: this is fantastic.

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  7. helene: need to get over your squeamishness, because heads are excellent flavour and nutrition-wise (:

    sissi: hurray for a fellow cartilage, fin, wings and cheeks lover!

    j: I do in fact. guess what I'm making this week ;)

    emily: you can just have the nourishing soup and your husband the head haha(:

    norma: I feel lucky too (: funny how not many people would not think the same..

    yuhan: YAY

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  8. Wow...your fish head beehoon must be so tasty with the XO! I have almost forgotten about this dish but looking at that milky white fish broth makes me drool. Happy Easter!

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  9. Haha, I once bet my ex-girlfriend that she wouldn't eat a fish eye-ball... needless to say that was a bet lost... ick :D I don't mind fish-heads in themselves... I like to make stock from them. I don't think I could eat the head itself, but I agree it makes an excellent tasting soup or stock - this soup looks really good :)

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  10. Outside is raining, if i can have this bowl of XO fish head noodles right now, just perfect !

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  11. I truly appreciate all your hard work and effort in sharing such a delicious recipes.

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  12. holy cow! while i pride myself on being an adventurous eater, I have to admit to being a little afeared of fish head soup. That being said, your photographs do make a compelling argument as to why i SHOULD be eating it ;) Actually, I had a roommate who was from China and she used to cook and eat the entire fish. I used to get freaked out by it but then the one time she tried to make ground beef for her Canadian boyfriend she thought the smell meant it was going bad. It was just beef. haha.... yes. I will try fish head soup.

    ...and how lucky are you to have such fresh fish available at your farmer's market??! i live on the west coast and we can get really fresh stuff here but it'd be more convenient if i could get my meat, veggies and fish all in one place.

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  13. XO! That's really cool and interesting! The soup from fish head must be so good.... I just had ramen but I'm ready for something light like this noodle soup!

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  14. biren: I wouldn't know what else to do with that, and it was the tiniest little souvenir bottle ever anyway!

    charles: I just pick around it, heh I wish you had that bet with me, would have eaten it just to see your face ;)

    sonia: it's rainign here too ):

    love for food: thanks

    nami: wahhh, I would kill for some ramen now!

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  15. i have yet to play with fish head and making stock out of it scares me. but yes to homemade noodle bowls!

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  16. mm..it sounded good with that dash of brandy added to it. Here, quite a number of people also like adding some evaporated milk to the soup.

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  17. ohmyyyyyy can cook this for me pleaseeee...? hahaha

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    Replies
    1. Get me the fish head (: And the XO.

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  18. Nice one... i follow your guide and got a good result

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad it turned out well for you! I'm always happy to hear from people who've tried out my recipes!

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  19. Big thanks to you for sharing such great information. best fishing line

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  20. Thanks for sharing! Looks yummy :) I've just tried cooking that for lunch for me and my girl :)

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