Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Asian-Style Salmon Head Soup

It's not what you think.
Salmon Head Soup? you: "It sure seems like what it sounds like."
Well, not exactly. At least it's not at all what I expected when I found this recipe. Remember when Mark went on that fishing trip and all he came back with were sardines? Well, he also came back with some fish heads and tails. Gross right? Quite the opposite actually.

So I am a huge fan of Langdon Cook, a forager, blogger and author of Fat of the Land. When I saw that he had a recipe for salmon head soup, I was certain that it was his recipe that I was going to use for the presents that Mark brought home. Plus, it included udon noodles and other Asian ingredients that I'm obsessed with.

I only made slight changes to the recipe because I didn't have Chinese wine, (by the way, if any of you know what this is, I was looking all over for it) and I also used a dark Asian green instead of cabbage and lastly, I doubled the fish sauce.

What's so funny about me making this dish is that in culinary school they explicitly tell you not to make stock out of salmon because salmon is too oily and rich and the strong flavor of salmon will completely overwhelm any soup made with it. I think this dish works because the Asian-style flavors added to this dish are stronger or just as strong as the stock itself. I've been avoiding salmon stock for years. Sometimes it feels so good to break the classic culinary rules. The results can be delicious.

Salmon Head Soup- By Langdon Cook
2-3 salmon heads, cut in half
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 3-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, tops discarded, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Thai red peppers, thinly sliced
Chinese cooking wine- I used white wine
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)- I doubled it
rice vinegar (optional)
aji-mirin (optional)
1 can Szechuan prepared vegetable (optional)- I didn’t have this, so I used fresh Thai chilies
1 can bamboo shoots- did not use
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded- I used Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
1 handful cilantro for garnish, stemmed, with stems reserved
1 package Asian noodles (e.g., udon, soba, ramen)- I used Udon

1. Over medium-high heat, brown fish heads and ginger in oil for a few minutes, turning at least once. De-glaze pot with a splash of wine and add chopped leeks, garlic, and half the green onions and red peppers. Saute together for several minutes.

2. De-glaze pot again with another splash of wine, then add 8 cups of water and optional fish sauce. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Strain contents, picking and reserving as much salmon meat as possible. Return soup to simmer. Adjust for salt. Add half the remaining green onion and the cilantro stems. (Optional seasoning: Add a tablespoon of each: Chinese wine, rice vinegar, aji-mirin; add a few heaping tablespoons of Szechuan prepared vegetables.) Simmer another 15-30 minutes.

4. Strain soup a second time and return to low heat to keep warm. Dole out reserved salmon meat into bowls, along with noodles, a handful of shredded cabbage, and spoonfuls of both Szechuan prepared vegetables (optional) and bamboo shoots. Ladle soup. Garnish with green onion, cilantro, and Thai red pepper. Serves 4.


Emily said...

Melissa, this looks delicious! I'll have to try this recipie using some of the salmon heads we caught recently. Let me know if you want more as we always have a couple in the freezer for crab bait.

Melissa said...

Hey Emily,

Yes, I am up for more fish heads any day! Maybe I can make this soup and then we can take it crabbing together!


Langdon Cook said...

Glad you liked it! I can see why the powers-that-be would advise against a salmon stock, but when you live in the PNW, whatchagonna do? The soup would be great with a more traditional white-fleshed fish like rockfish or lingcod, but as you mention, the ingredients make it possible to use the strong-flavored salmon. Look for Chinese cooking wine (aka Shaoxing) at Uwajimaya; I use the stuff all the time. Salmon season right around the corner...