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Fish 4 Friday: Thai Monkfish Soup

This entry is part of a series, F4F 2011»


Ugly. That’s all you can call it. Ugly, UGly, UGLY! (And no, I never dated somebody who looked like that; it’s a rude and vicious slander. She could take her dentures out to soak.)

It’s also called a monkfish. Or an angler fish. If you look closely at the picture above, and you can peel your eyes away from those impressive teeth, you’ll see the “angler rod” that the fish used to tease victims small fishies to swim close enough to be eaten.

Why the big mouth? Their prey are sucked into the mouth by the simple expedient of opening. Under water, moving something that big quickly will create an inrush of water. And sand. And vittles. Once the duped dinner is pulled past those teeth, it ain’t never getting back out. And the back of the mouth is the stomache…

Fortunately, we’re placed above the monkfish on the food chain. We eat them, see, not the other way ’round. As long as you have a fishmonger to deal with the details, such as skinning that scary critter out and cutting away the edible flesh. Which is predominantly in the small tail. Way less than half the volume. (I suppose you could use the rest for fish stock or something.)

Monkfish MeatMonkfish tail is as pretty a cut of fish as you’ll ever see. A complete surprise given the inherent beauty of its source. And it’s a firm, mild white flesh too, so it can be used for many, many recipes. Including this spicy Thai soup:

The name pays homáge to the great stir-fried noodle dishes that are the foundation for this quick and easy soup. Indeed, leave out the broth and some of the coconut cream and you’d have a nice Pad Thai red curry. But I digress.

What to watch for when making this soup? There are a couple of ingredients to focus in on. Nam Pla is Thai fish sauce. (Fish sauce is to Thai cuisine as soy sauce is to Chinese food.) If you can’t find the specific Thai version, then Vietnamese or ethnic Chinese fish sauce will do. Heck, if you don’t have fish sauce (or don’t like it), then leave it out; the soup will still be quite good, though not completely authentic.

Another ingredient that boosts the authenticity is the flat rice noodles. That’s an easy one, and if you’ve done any Asian noodles before you know how to handle them.

Finally, there are the chiles. Depending on how hot you want your soup, you have two ways to go: The amount of chiles used, and the type. For mild to moderate, use red Fresno or Mirasol chiles. For zesty to scorching, use Cayenne or Thai Bird’s-Eye. If you can’t find red chiles, then green will do, although I’d avoid jalapeños as they often have a grassy undertaste. Good eats, but not a nice note to add to the symphony of flavors in this soup.

What about if you can’t find monkfish? Lots of options: Blackfish, lobster, mahi-mahi or snapper can be used. Halibut or scallops can also be used, if they’re more available (or cheaper) for you. Whatever you decide, don’t let the monkfish face scare you off, simply smile and…

Enjoy the (Ugly Fish, Pretty Soup) Heat!


2 comments to Fish 4 Friday: Thai Monkfish Soup

  • I am ready to go to Hong Kong in the summer, I really enjoy reading about it, People and Places in Hong Kong are truly fascinating

  • Vaughn, Thanks for stopping by! I put Hong Kong in my top 5 cities worldwide to visit. It’s a bit expensive, but these days, what big city isn’t? If you’re on a budget, look around, there are plenty of websites to help you manage travel costs.

    Shopping at Stanley is still one of my favorite excursions! And it’s only a short train ride to the border and Shenzhen, another interesting (and growing) city that I like to visit.

    Enjoy your trip!