Simple Fish Soup

Simple Fish Soup Recipe
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Sara Slavin
When Charles was growing up in Vietnam's Central Highlands, every meal included a light, brothy soup like this one. Its purpose, he says, "is to stimulate the appetite, much the way...a crystal-clear consommé begins a classic French dinner." Even on a hot summer day, it's a great way to start a meal.


Makes about 4 qts.

Recipe from


Recipe Time

Total: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes

Nutritional Information

Calories 105
Caloriesfromfat 51 %
Protein 5.1 g
Fat 6.3 g
Satfat 0.8 g
Carbohydrate 7.2 g
Fiber 0.4 g
Sodium 261 mg
Cholesterol 14 mg


1 whole branzino or black bass (1 lb.), filleted, skeleton and head saved in one piece*
About 1 tbsp. Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots (from about 3 large)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups diced fresh or canned tomatoes, with juice
1 piece fresh ginger (1 in. by 2 in.), cut into 1/4-in.-thick coins
1 Thai or serrano chile, stemmed and sliced on the diagonal
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons Toasted Garlic


1. Slice fish fillets into 1-in.-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add 1 tbsp. fish sauce and the cornstarch and toss to coat evenly.

2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, ginger, chile, fish skeleton and head, and 2 qts. water; increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, 1 hour. Remove fish skeleton and head and discard.

3. Add fish strips and lime juice just before serving, then simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until fish is opaque throughout. Taste broth and add more fish sauce if you like.

4. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and top with cilantro and toasted garlic. Serve immediately.

*A fishmonger can fillet the fish for you, but be sure to ask for the bones and head--they give rich flavor to the soup.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per cup.


Charles Phan,

Adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking, copyright 2012 by Charles Phan.

August 2012
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