Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Sara Slavin
Total Time
1 Hour 45 Mins
Makes about 4 qts.

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.

How to Make It

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 4

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

Step 5

*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.

Step 6

Note: Nutritional analysis is per cup.

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

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