It’s fast and it’s easy, and you can even serve it as a main course. It’s chunky enough, really, and with those generous portions of fish and vegetables, all you need is rice and you have a complete meal.
No, salmon belly should be good too. Or tuna belly. Or the belly of just about any fish, to be honest. You throw away fish belly in your country? You may substitute fatless fillet, but… well, I wouldn’t but, if you must, then go ahead. Whatever your choice of fish, prep the fillets properly.
Press paper towels on the surface of the fish to remove excess moisture. Lay them flat on a cutting board and, to avoid tearing the flesh, use kitchen shears to cut the fillets into serving size pieces.
But fillets don’t make good broth, do they? No, they don’t. So you had better have fish stock or broth, homemade or store bought, because plain water won’t give you the rish and deep flavor that makes this soup so good.
Now, I understand that in some countries, fish is sold as fillets and the customer never gets to see fish head and bones. How do you make fish stock then?
This is the only brand of ready-to-use broth that we use at home. This is NOT a sponsored post, we just love the product, and I’m more than happy to share my discovery. If you find Con Mimo in your area, know that the chicken broth is even better than the fish broth.
Green papaya is traditional for cooking tinola. But this is not a traditional dish anyway so two medium-sized chayotes were substituted for a whole green papaya.
Just peel the chayote (use a knife because the skin is too tough to be removed with a vegetable peeler), cut off and discard the centers, then cut into chunks about the same size as the fish.
As rich as your fish broth or stock may be, you still need to make a spice base to give the soup its distinctive tinola flavor. Saute sliced shallot, whole garlic cloves and a hefty amount of sliced ginger until softened and aromatic before pouring in your fish broth / stock.
When you’ve poured all the broth you need into the pot, drop in your peeled and cut chayote. Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for about ten minutes. The cooking time for the chayote depends on how young or mature the vegetable is. So, make adjustments.
When the chayote is almost done, taste the broth. The vegetable would have soaked up the saltiness so you will likely need to adjust the seasoning. Add fish sauce. A generous amount. Don’t worry if you feel that the soup is saltier than you normally prefer because two more ingredients will go into the pot and both will absorb the excess saltiness.
Fish doesn’t take long to cook especially when cut into small pieces and there are no bones. Drop in the fish belly fillets and stir gently.
Add spinach and press down into the liquid. Cover the pot, simmer the fish with the vegetables for about five minutes, then turn off the heat. Leave to allow the fish and spinach to continue cooking in the residual heat for another five minutes before serving your soup.
Gingered fish belly and vegetable soup
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 shallot peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 two-inch knob ginger sliced
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
- 4 to 6 cups fish broth / stock
- 2 chayote peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- fish sauce
- 2 milkfish (bangus) belly fillets (about 500 grams), cut into two-to-three-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 cups spinach
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot.
- Saute the shallot, ginger and garlic until softened and aromatic.
- Pour in the fish broth / stock.
- Add the chayote and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about ten minutes.
- Taste the broth and add as fish fish sauce as needed to give it good flavor.
- Stir in the fish belly fillets.
- Drop in the spinach and press down gently into the broth.
- Cover the pot and simmer for five minutes.
- Turn off the heat and leave the soup to cook in the residual heat for another five minutes.
- Taste the broth, add more fish sauce, if needed, and serve immediately.