We had the coldest winter spell this week so this Pesang Salmon with Sotanghon was perfect. The chilly weather was caused by the ‘polar vortex’ the news media explained. In my whole life, I have never experienced this. We felt a minus 31 F degrees wind chill temperature here in the east. I can now say I have felt all the extremes in weather temperature – from this blistering cold in the States to the exceedingly hot weather in the Philippines, which can go to above 100 F. All of these situations are a sure sign that we are not in control of nature’s volatility.
It also meant it was still soup season. So I made my usual go-to soup Pesang Isda (say “peh-sangh ees-dah”). The word ‘isda’ translates to ‘fish’. This is a classic Filipino seafood soup which has a base of clear broth flavored with fresh ginger and ‘patis’ (fish sauce). I cook this soup from memory all the time. It’s one of those recipes where you don’t have to open a cookbook or search for online. I like to do this because it’s one of the fastest and easiest to put together on a busy weeknight or a long, lazy weekend. I can toss in leftover vegetables, noodles in the pantry and any fish or seafood in season.
Once the clear broth was simmering, a soft, gentle aroma of ginger and garlic filled the air. The savory, salty scent of the fish sauce permeated through it all. I added a hearty fillet of salmon, fresh tomatoes and vegetables. The clear transparent ‘sotanghon’ noodles soft as silk, were perfect and completed the soup meal. As I ladled the soup and fish chunks into bowls for the family, I couldn’t help but think of how food and memories have always kept us warm and reassured through the years – through the cold and hot, through the sad and happy, the simple days and complex times. Have a seat and come sip some soup.
Pesang Salmon- Fish Stew in Ginger Broth with Sotanghon Noodles
- 1 pound salmon fillet
- 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 16 ounces sotanghon (cellophane) noodles about 2 cups after soaking
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 whole onion chopped
- 1- piece fresh ginger peeled, sliced thin in slivers
- 2 whole tomatoes sliced
- 8 to 10 cups rice wash or water
- 2 cups bok choy or Chinese cabbage washed, trimmed, shredded coarsely
- 1 teaspoon salt for broth
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper for broth
- 1/4 cup patis (fish sauce) divided, use 2 Tablespoons
- 1/2 piece lemon about 1 Tablespoon, for dipping sauce
- for serving boiled jasmine white rice
- Prepare the salmon fillet (thawed) by marinating with lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 (do not marinate fish longer than this).
- Pre-soak the sotanghon (transparent noodles) in a medium sized bowl filled with water for 15 to 20. Do not soak the noodles longer or they get too mushy. When noodles are soft, drain the water and set aside to add to broth later.
- In a large stock pot, over medium heat, add the cooking oil. When oil heats up in 2 to 3 minutes, saute the garlic, onions, fresh ginger and tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes till onions and tomatoes soften. Add the patis (fish sauce).
- Pour in the rice wash or water. Cover and turn heat to high so the broth boils. When the broth is boiling, add the salmon fillet and turn heat to a medium. Cover again and continue cooking till salmon is thoroughly done. This should take about 12 minutes.
- While the broth is simmering, add the pre-soaked sotanghon noodles. If desired, cut up the salmon fillet in large chunks, about 2-inch squares.
- Add the shredded bok choy and cook for 3 minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve the soup with a dipping sauce of patis (fish sauce) sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, and boiled jasmine white rice.
- Cook’s comments: if salmon is not available, use tilapia, cat fish, shrimps or other fish fillets preferred. Feel free to add other vegetables like potatoes, sayote (chayote), fresh spinach, cabbage or whatever is in season.
- Ingredient for soup broth: to make rice wash, see my previous blog posts on how to make ‘hugas bigas’. In the Philippines, we call rice wash 'hugas-bigas'. I have shown how to obtain rice wash and keep the broth in a previous blog post – this is an age old cooking tip from Filipino mothers and generations before them.