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In the thick of reporting on Carl Galvan's Asian carp experiment, I was due to make soup for the Hideout's Soup & Bread series, and though I had my gram's mushroom-sauerkraut soup planned, I couldn't resist the opportunity to spring some bighead carp on the gang. Two days prior I hied out to Villa Park to watch Supreme Lobster fish cutter Felipe Chairez butcher a fish, and returned home with two still quite bony fillets and this:
I fairly chopped that cutting board to pieces trying to take the head off with a cleaver. But off it came and the bones went into the pot for a Cambodian-style stock, supplemented by shrimp shells. Afterward, I tried to make a second stock with the head, which was a logistical and aesthetic nightmare.
This stock was just plain gross, green and foamy. I couldn't bear to even taste it, so down the drain it went. But the slightly inauthentic Khmer hot-and-sour soup I made with the first stock and fillets, though a bit swampy looking, was pretty good. It didn't make much, but the small crowd at Hideout finished it off, despite my stern warnings about the bones.
Asian carp hot-and-sour soup
Adapted from Cambodian Cooking, by Joannes Riviere
Khmer Fish Stock
2 lbs Asian carp fish bones (look for it at Asian groceries in Chinatown or Uptown, or use any other fish such as noninvasive carp, flounder, tilapia, catfish)
2 T oil
4-inch piece galangal root, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 onion finely chopped
6 stalks lemongrass, tender inner part of bottom third, finely chopped
1 t fish paste (prahok), or pickled mud fish
8 cups water
3 T palm sugar or dark brown sugar
10 T fish sauce
Rinse the bones in water and chop them to pieces. Heat the oil in a stockpot and saute the bones until they brown. Add galangal, garlic, lemongrass, onion, and fish paste. Add the water, sugar and fish sauce. Simmer gently for a half hour. Strain.
1 winter melon or opo squash
8 cups Khmer fish stock
2 T tamarind pulp
2 jalapeño chilies sliced on the bias
10 oz water lily stems (pickled lotus rootlet) or celery, sliced into one-inch pieces
2 Asian carp fillets cut into bite-size pieces (or other fish)
6 green onions, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Peel the melon or squash, then slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Dice. Boil the jalapeños along with the tamarind pulp in the stock until it's dissolved. Strain. Add the water lily stems, melon, and fish, and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked. Add the onion and cilantro and serve.