Ask-a-Fishmonger: What's the Secret to Great Fish Soup?

  • Wulf's Fish
  • 3 min read

Now that there’s frost on the ground when you wake up in the morning, it’s time to start thinking about soup. With fish soup, stew, and chowder especially, there are a lot of opinions out there about the best way to make soup, the best type of fish to use, to make stock from scratch or not, and so on — so we thought we’d start by asking our staff of fish mongers what THEY think.

So we present to you, our feelings on fish soup from Wulf’s.

Start with broth:

Richie Taylor, head buyer, is in favor of making quick stock from fish frames.

“Salmon collars make a great soup — like chicken, you boil the collars or the head and frame if you have it,” he says. “Add carrots, onion celery, and the secret ingredient? Parsnips! Simmer it all together for a rich flavorful soup,” says Taylor.

Corey Howard, in sales, like his as more of a Ramen-style broth.

“Use dry seaweed (nori sheets) to create the broth,” he says. “Let them steep for 30-60 minutes and this is the stock base. You can keep in the freezer if you make extra!” Chopped green onions and gochugaru flakes (or another mild chil flake) are a good addition, too.

Once the broth is made, Corey adds bokchoy or other full leafy greens, mushrooms, and diced root vegetables (potatoes, turnips, or anything you have access to). Once these soften, add white fish (cod, halibut, hake). He then lets it simmer until the fish is tender, then adds a couple drops of light soy or ponzu and sesame seeds to taste. You could add noodles to bulk it up!

Monger Nate Alba’s weeknight go-to is a fast fish chowder, but made without flour as the thickener. Here’s his process:

  • Caramelize onions, carrots, celery in some butter/olive oil combo
  • Add a 50/50 ratio of clam juice and water (clam juice is always readily available in the tinned fish aisle) — about 6 cups liquid total
  • Add 1-2 bay leaves, dried thyme, peeled/cubed potatoes, and simmer until potatoes are almost done, lid off
  • Add cod, hake, halibut and simmer until the fish and potatoes are cooked through.
  • Turn heat off and remove from hot burner, add light cream and chopped parsley, stir to mix. Add butter for more richness if necessary. Heat til it's almost simmering. Serve with oyster crackers. Tastes better as the soup's temperature drops.

Our sales director Desiree Pombo likes to go in either a tomato-y direction or a creamy direction. Here are her tips:

For creamy:

  • You can follow a clam chowder recipe, but swap out clam juice for fish stock
  • Render bacon and cook onion first — that's a must.
  • Instead of clams, swap in a mixture of shrimp, scallops, and halibut
  • Simmer with thyme

For a tomato-based soup:

  • Must start with onions and saffron
  • I’d recommend shrimp, scallops and halibut here, too
  • Serve with warm crusty bread

For our controller, Kiem Ho, there are three main steps no matter what:

  1. Decide what your main flavor direction will be
  2. Get the seasoning right by adding plenty of aromatics
  3. Decide if you want a brothy soup or a thicker style

Any way you look at it, making a good fish soup boils down to having good fish to begin with.