Fish has numerous benefits to our health-generous amount of high quality protein, heart healthy omega-3 fatty acid, bone healthy vitamin D, and also calcium, phosphorus and a wide range of minerals. Other than being discarded, fish head is a tradition gourmet in Chinese diet. Here is the process of making a heart warming, absolutely delicious and highly nutritious traditional homemade soup with fish head and tofu.
I went to a local Chinese supermarket expected to find some fresh fish head, surprisingly they don’t sell fish head separately except for salmon head. There are several reasons for salmon head’s very affordable price ($1.99/lbs)–it has a strong fish odor, and it is very hard to break into pieces. After a little bargain, the seller agreed to break down the fish head into 6 pieces for me for free. To deal with the fish odor I bought the several other ingredients: rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, fresh scallion, fresh cilantro, and of course a box of soft tofu. With my cumin and black pepper stock at home, I am officially ready to make my fish head and tofu soup in my kitchen!
First of all, get all ingredients prepared:
- Fish head–one, cut and washed.
- Tofu–3.5-4oz, cut into cubes
- Ginger–1 oz, sliced
- Garlic–5 cloves, minced
- Fresh scallion–one bunch, cut into 1 inch segment
- Fresh cilantro–one bunch, use only the leaves (stems are stringy, but good fiber source if you dice them and use in another dish)
- Olive oil-2 tbsp
- Salt, rice vinegar, black pepper, cumin-handful for flavor
- (optional: 20 particles of peppercorns and 2 star anise)
Step 1: Heat olive oil in a non-sticky pan, put the ginger and garlic in and stir. When ginger and garlic start to sizzle, put in the fish head pieces. No more olive oil is needed since the fish head will release it’s own oil during pan searing. Heat until the salmon meat turns light pink.
Step 2: Add in half litter water with the rice vinegar, salt, cumin, (peppercorns, star anise), and black pepper. Simmer for 40 minutes. Don’t cover the pan for the first 20 minutes but let the water and vinegar evaporate freely-they carry the fish odor away.
Step 3: Add in the tofu cubes and scallion segments into the soup, cover the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Step 4: serve the soup and enjoy with cilantro-if the cilantro is well washed, it can go on the soup without cooking. Otherwise cook the cilantro leaves for one minute with the soup in the pan.
Looks delicious isn’t it! And it taste yummy too! The vinegar and all the seasonings hides the fish odor and scallion and cilantro add on a taste of freshness. Tofu is definitely the essence of this soup since it absorb all the flavors and become silky during simmering. If the look of fish head turns down your appetite, you can serve the soup without it but still gets all the collagen that is dissolved in the soup. I absolutely love fish head itself and eat almost all parts beside the bones haha.
I leave peppercorns and star anise optional just in case you don’t know what they are or hesitate to try them. Well if you want the soup taste even more authentic Chinese, a trip to local Chinese store to get these 2 seasonings is highly recommended. They are traditionally and widely used in Chinese soup dishes to hide the odor of meat or fish and adds on more layers of flavor. Just remember don’t chew or eat them, the strong flavor will hurt your tongue. They usually stay in the bottom of the soup and if you see them just pick them out.