Red Grouper Fish Soup
Fish soup (鱼汤) is one of the few Singapore hawker dishes which is easy and worthy to recreate at home. If you are willing to take a few short-cut here and there, you can whip up a delicious fish soup even on weekdays after work. My favourite fish for fish soup is red grouper (红斑鱼) as it is not fishy and the fish remains tender as long as it’s not overcooked.
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I love the home-cooked version as my bowl of red grouper fish soup (红斑鱼汤) is filled with generous servings of fish with assorted vegetables (bittergourd, napa cabbage and tang-oh).
I used knorr fish soup stock cube and dried fish sole as the base for my fish stock. If you are busy, omit the dried fish sole, and just use fish soup cube + water. Other ways fish soup stock can be made from: water + salt or seasonings or any home-made/instant soup stock (ikan bilis (anchovy), chicken or vegetable).
I used dried fish sole as it gives the fish soup a richer depth, similar to the fish head steamboat type of umami. Roasting the fish sole in the oven before simmering will give a better depth of flavour, but I’m lazy :P Since I don’t fillet my own fish, buying fresh fish bones at the supermarkets is very expensive (almost the same price as sliced fish). So this recipe for the soup base here is simplified yet practical for everyday cooking.
Break the rinsed fish sole to smaller chunks…
… then place them in disposable soup pouches which can be purchased from Daiso. This is to contain any tiny bones that may loosen from the fish sole after simmering. If not using soup pouch, filter the stock through a fine sieve before cooking the fish soup.
To make the soup stock, add pouch of dried fish sole, ginger slices and water. Simmer for 15 minutes. After that, season to taste with fish stock cube (I used one whole cube) and discard the soup pouch. You can add more water and seasonings accordingly if you need more soup.
While simmering the soup, prepare the vegetables (napa cabbage, tomato, tofu and bittergourd). I try to slice the bittergourd as thinly as possible (preferably so thin they are see-through).
Next, check and remove any bones or fish scales on the fish. Then slice the fish diagonally.
This is my plate of roughly sliced red grouper. You can also use other fish such as: black grouper (it tastes similar to red grouper but with black skin), batang, threadfin & toman.
Cooking the fish soup:
Discard the soup pouch. Add napa cabbage and boil for 3 minutes or until softened to liking.
Then add sliced fish, tomato, bittergourd and tofu. Bring to a boil until the fish is cooked, about 1 minute. Over-cooking will result in the fish disintegrating to small bits and the flesh hardening.
This is the cooked fish soup with the fish slices still tender and intact.
As a luxury touch (isn’t home-cooked food the best?), I add some tang-oh (garland chrysanthemum) leaves to the serving bowl …
… then ladle the hot fish soup over. The hot soup will cook the tang-oh just like that. Top the fish soup with dried seaweed, white pepper powder and coriander/spring onion.
You can also convert this to a one-dish meal with tang hoon (shown above), thick/thin bee hoon, ee-fu noodles, or rice. For a low-carb meal on its own, I’ll use a lot more fish and tofu for extra protein. Enjoy!~