Riley's Salmon Head Soup

Foodista Cookbook Winner

Category: Soups & Salads | Blog URL:

This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.


2 salmon heads, cut in half
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
3 inches thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, tops discarded, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Thai red peppers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (optional)
1 tablespoon aji-mirin (optional)
1 can Szechuan prepared vegetable (optional)
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
1 handful cilantro for garnish, stemmed, with stems reserved
1 package Asian noodles (e.g., udon, soba, ramen)


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.
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.
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 or two of each: Chinese wine, rice vinegar, aji-mirin; add a few heaping tablespoons of Szechuan prepared vegetables.) Simmer another 15-30 minutes.
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 straw mushrooms. Ladle soup. Garnish with green onion, cilantro, and Thai red pepper.




Barnaby Dorfman's picture

I love the quote! Thanks for submitting.


"When the buffalo are gone, we will eat mice, for we are hunters and must have our freedom." - Chief Sitting Bull

Riley let out a whoop when the fish hit his lure, and I'm sure I probably thought it was a false alarm, some weeds or a bottom snag. But then I saw the kid's Snoopy rod doubled over and vibrating like a tuning fork. Next came the yelling and screaming and carrying on. Other anglers on the beach interrupted their casts to take notice of the commotion. I ran over and set up a station behind the boy, making sure the fish didn't rip the rod right out of his grip. He reeled and kept the tip up like a pro. Pretty soon the fish was in the surf and I figured for sure it would break the line. But Riley held on and pulled that salmon right up onto the beach by himself. The kid knows what to do.

In our family we use the whole animal. We ate grilled fillets in two sittings. The head I saved for something special.

My kids are big soup eaters. Because we live near Seattle's International District, at a tender age they discovered noodle houses and the "subtle yet profound" pleasures of an Asian noodle soup, as one blogger has jokingly put it, parroting cooking shows like "Iron Chef." These soups are so tasty and cheap that I never really considered trying to make my own before, but salmon are an ever-dwindling resource in the Pacific Northwest. When the salmon are gone I suppose we'll fish sculpin; in the meantime we can do honor to our catch by eating every last morsel.

Those of little faith might get spooked during the proceedings, especially when the salmon heads are rolling around in there with the leeks and ginger, going to pieces as they sizzle in the pot. But that's what the strainer is for. Ever glanced into the kitchen of a back-alley noodle house? Not a good idea. Just remember: all the crazy stuff going into that bubbling cauldron will eventually get strained out, leaving—yes—a subtle yet profound broth in its place.


4.0 to 6


Saturday, February 13, 2010 - 6:06pm


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