My freezer resembles a graveyard. Jagged bagfuls of chicken carcasses, veal bones, and prawn shells pile up and leave little room for ice cream sandwiches.
These precious refuse are eventually transformed into wonderful stocks. The most flavourful part of a prawn is the head because that’s where the gooey fatty goodness lies. When I save up enough, I brown the shells and heads with some aromatics and simmer it down into a rich, oceany stock that is perfect for a summer seafood soup.
Wait. What?! Papaya and fish? You read right. This soup is inspired by my mama’s Cantonese papaya and peanut soup in fish stock (木瓜花生魚湯) and a Malaysian papaya seafood soup I adore. The papaya lends a floral sweetness to the soup, which in return, plumps up its soft flesh with a deep, savory umami. A romantic union between two distant kinds.
Halibut always reminds me of the summer: stroking the fresh fillets lying atop beds of seaweed and ice, dipping paper- thin slices of hirame sashimi in ponzu sauce, or lounging beachside with a basketful of sizzling fish and chips. Its dense, meaty texture and mild flavour deems it highly versatile. It does, however, overcook easily so I prefer gentler cooking methods such as steaming or poaching over grilling.
In this papaya soup, the fish is lightly marinated, then softly poached in the briny prawn broth to reveal its delicate side. I choose line-caught, Pacific halibut because it’s ocean friendly and absolutely delicious.
Summer Papaya and Halibut Soup In Homemade Prawn Stock Recipe
- 1/2 lb. prawn shells
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 3 L water
- 1.5 lb halibut, cubed
- 1 small strawberry papaya, cubed
- 2 cups cooked black eye peas
- 3 handfuls bean sprouts
- 3 handfuls sugar snap peas
- 3 vine ripened tomatoes, in wedges
- white pepper
- 1/4 cup sake
- 1 Thai chili, minced
- 1 handful basil, chiffonade
- 1 lime, in wedges
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
In a stockpot, sautée the prawn shells in oil until pink and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and sweat for several minutes. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns, then cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer with the lid on for 2 hours. Strain.
Meanwhile, marinate the halibut cubes with some white pepper and sake. Cook the sugar snap peas in rolling, salted water for 2 minutes, then shock in an ice bath.
When the prawn stock is ready, simmer the halibut and papaya in it for one minute. Add the sugar snap peas, tomato, Thai chili, and basil and reheat until the soup barely reaches a boil, about two minutes. Remove from the heat immediately, taste, and season with salt.
Divide the remaining ingredients into 4 portions. Line the bottom of the bowl with black eyed peas, topped with bean sprouts.
Ladle the hot soup over. Garnish with scallions and serve with wedges of lime on the side.
Enjoy. Serves 4