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
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)
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.)
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!