Teochew Fish Soup, The Dish I Only Found Out About In My 20s

I was introduced to Teochew fish steamboat only in my early twenties – I met up with a friend at Whampoa Keng and was immediately smitten with the rich fish broth which was appetizingly tart with preserved plums. Since then, I’ve been going to Whampoa Keng to get my fix at least once a year. But to be honest, it is not complicated to make at home – it just takes a little elbow grease to deep-fry taro and teepoh and make a homemade stock. Traditionally, the stock is made from a mix of fish bones and chicken feet, but I make mine with chicken stock for ease of preparation. When the weather’s chilly, I add a bowl of rice to the soup to make it a Teochew fish porridge. Whether you’re eating this dish as a porridge or having rice on the side, always make sure that the fish you are using is fresh tasting and that the oil you use to fry the taro and fish is fresh – in such a ‘clean’-tasting dish, any unpleasant odours from the fish or oil could ruin the eating experience.

Teochew Fish Soup

Serves 4

3L fish stock, chicken stock or a combination of both (I make my own with 3 chicken carcasses until the chicken disintegrates – 2 to 3 hours)

30g haebee

20g ginger, cut into coins

300g skinless taro and cut into bite-sized chunks

30g dried flat fish, cut into small pieces with a pair of scissors

200g wombok, sliced

3-4 tablespoons fish sauce (adjust to taste)

400g cooked rice (optional, leftover rice is great for this)

400g fish fillet, thickly sliced

1 tomato, cut into wedges

50g tang oh (chrysanthemum leaves)

7g dried seaweed

4 preserved plums

Coriander leaves, to garnish

Bring the stock, haebee and ginger to the boil in a large pot, and simmer for 1 hour. Deep fry the yam until golden on the edges and drain on paper towels. Deep fry the tee poh briefly until intensely fragrant, golden and crisp – this will only take seconds. Add the fried yam and tee poh and wombok to the stock and bring to a boil. Season to taste with fish sauce. Add the cooked rice (if using), fish, tomatoes, tang oh and dried seaweed. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for a few minutes or until the fish is completely cooked. Divide into bowls and place a preserved plum in each bowl and top with coriander leaves. Mash the plum into the soup before eating. (You can also add the preserved plums to the stock at the first step, if you’d like them completely disintegrated.)

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Author:

Pamelia Chia is a Singaporean chef and the author of the bestselling cookbook ‘Wet Market to Table’. After graduating with an Honor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the National University of Singapore in 2014, she decided to trade a food scientist’s lab coat in for chef whites. She has since been working in restaurants in Singapore and Melbourne, including Candlenut and Carlton Wine Room. Her deepest interest being the preservation and celebration of Singaporean food heritage and culture, she started Singapore Noodles in 2020 as a platform to share about Singaporean food to a global audience. Find her on Instagram @pameliachia.

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