Saturday, 9 November 2013

Spicy Kingfish Soup

Back in the 80s, whenever I got a very bad cold, I’d order in the white pepper fish soup from the old Shang Tung restaurant in Kensington.  

Far superior to chicken soup, it cleared my airways, heated me to the point of sweating, and blasted out the germs, I swear.  That restaurant is long gone, so now I have to concoct my own remedy.  

This gingery and peppery soup, with touches of lemon, cilantro and kale will have you feeling better in no time, even if you aren’t suffering from a cold to begin with.

A certain nameless big Canadian grocery chain sells packages of kingfish steaks in the frozen section.  

Goans tell me that the fish is named appropriately, as it really is the best on the planet.  In Goa, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t so sure.  Always cut into too thin of a steak, it arrived sadly overcooked and leathery, so I’d just smile blandly and help myself to more delicious items on the table.  Even though this fish is only available here in frozen form, I’ve come to discover the Goans are right.  

When it comes to fish, I don’t care for a soft texture that dissolves in my mouth. These fish pieces are thick, and they cook up beautifully.  Kingfish is  dense and addictively delicious.  It stands up beautifully in a soup, and has a meaty texture. 

This recipe involves about thirty minutes in preparation, but it takes at least two hours to cook.  It makes a big pot of soup, so you can live on it for several days if you’re as sick as I’ve been since Tuesday!  Not to worry, I’m almost cured, thanks to this spicy concoction.  The pre-prepared masalas help too.  (My foggy brain couldn't have managed anything else...)

1 cup masoor dal
If only masoor dal could stay bright orange...
pot of water

2 tablespoons mustard oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 inches fresh ginger, matchsticked
4 Thai chilies (or as much as you can bare), sliced lengthwise
1 red onion diced
6 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pre-prepared masala, boxed is fine if you don’t have your own
3 cups water
3 leaves kale, washed, ribbed and torn into small pieces
1 tomato, chopped
extra water
2 kingfish steaks
salt to taste

handful of fresh chopped cilantro, per seving
squeeze of fresh lemon juice, per serving

Extra ginger and big pieces of chili ensure powerful taste!
First, wash the masoor dal till the water runs clear.  Fill the pot about two thirds full with clean water.  Put it on the stove at medium high to boil, but watch carefully, as it will foam up, regardless of how much you washed it earlier.  Turn the heat down to medium low to keep it from overflowing the pot, but also keep a large spoon on hand to skim off the foam.  Cook about fifteen minutes, till it’s tender.

In the large pot you’ll be using for the soup, pour in the mustard oil and set heat on medium high.  As soon as the oil is hot, add the mustard seed and cumin, and let sizzle till the mustard seeds shift colour to a grayish white.  

Add the ginger, chilies and onions turn the heat to medium.  Cook till the onions are translucent and golden at some of the edges.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.  Garlic should never brown, as it becomes bitter, so watch carefully.  

Add in the masala, and let cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Then pour in the dal and the liquid it’s cooked in.  Add more water at this point. 

Add the kale and tomatoes, and let cook for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half.  When the soup tastes pungent, as opposed to watery, add the kingfish steaks and let cook about fifteen minutes.  Pull out the kingfish to debone it, and chop it up a bit, then return to the soup. 

As you’re ladelling this healing elixir out, add a handful of fresh cilantro and a good squeeze of lemon juice to each serving.  
Kingfish holds its own in this powerful soup.

How can this not cure what ails thee?  What with the mustard oil and seeds, the garlic, ginger, chilies, kale, dal and kingfish, not to mention the vitamin C in the lemon, oh glory days this is a  deliciously powerful soup.  

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