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I do not know culinary terminology; so I use 'piscine' to mean 'with a positive flavour of fish' (because 'fishy' connotes negativity).

My friend drank some flavorous fish soup with a milky white colour at his favourite Cantonese restaurant, one of whose chefs recommended using a fish called 黄鮨斑, which a laborious Google search revealed as yellowfin grouper (abbreviated as YFG).

My friend could not find live YFG to purchase; so he bought some frozen heads. He pan-fried/seared one head which turned a golden brown, then simmered it (over low heat and an electric oven) in around 4 litres of water for around 2 hours. The final product tasted like water (lacked any piscine flavour) and resembled water (lacked the desired milky white colour). The fish itself tenderised and still retained flavour though. How can my friend correct the problems?

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    What else did your friend use for the soup and what was the ratio of fish heads to water? – Stephie Sep 30 '15 at 6:30
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    I am also thinking this is a ratios issue. Also, boiling sounds destructive, perhaps simmering would be a better at extracting the essence of the fish without killing the essence. One more thing...don't forget to use salt. And yet one more thing. Blue fish is particularly flavorful, and you may get better results of you are looking for strength of taste. – Escoce Sep 30 '15 at 15:24
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I think it's not so much the fact that you're using frozen fish (which certainly isn't the best), but the fact that you've missed an important step: pan-frying the fish before making the soup. I can say that all fish soups I've had have always had the fish pan-fried before boiling, with ginger added, otherwise you just don't get the same flavour.

Another thing is, in a properly made soup, the fish should not have much fish flavour remaining as it should all be in the soup.

I would recommend retrying the soup with the same type of fish, but pan frying them and adding ginger. If the soup still does not taste great, it could be that the YFG you're buying just isn't very good, and you could consider using a different type of fish.

Here's a link I found supporting my assertion, with more detailed instructions: http://www.chinesesouppot.com/4-soup-techniques/1195-how-to-make-milky-white-creamy-fish-soup

  • +1. Thank you. I understated my friend's procedure; he has since confirmed his pan-frying of the YFG. Please see my emended post. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Sep 30 '15 at 17:32
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    1 head for 4 litres of water? That definitely sounds like way too much water/not enough fish. I would halve or even quarter the amount of water. – Daniel Chui Sep 30 '15 at 17:43
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    After reading that article, I am pretty sure that fish-heads isn't going to do the trick. I think you need nice filets of flesh. These are fried until golden brown and then the soup is made from the cooked fillets. – Escoce Sep 30 '15 at 17:46
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    I don't think so. If you look at teh pictures they're just frying fish heads/bones/fins/etc. And I very rarely use whole fish when I make fish soup. – Daniel Chui Sep 30 '15 at 17:53
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    Please also note that fish soup is not only fish and water, but veggies & spices etc. and that all fish soup should be boiled/simmered only for a short while, not for hours or you run the risk of the soup getting a "glue-like" taste. – Stephie Oct 1 '15 at 6:18
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Another thing to consider is the amount of water. This of course goes for all stock and soup. If you have too much water the flavour of the other ingredients gets diluted too much, leaving you with a rather bland, watery, gruel rather than a nice tasty soup.
I think every soup maker has had it happen...

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