Summer Papaya and Halibut Soup In Homemade Prawn Stock Recipe


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.

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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.

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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.

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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


Prawn Stock

  • 1/2 lb. prawn shells
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 L water

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  • 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


Prawn stock
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.

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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.

To assemble

Divide the remaining ingredients into 4 portions. Line the bottom of the bowl with black eyed peas, topped with bean sprouts.

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Ladle the hot soup over. Garnish with scallions and serve with wedges of lime on the side.

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Enjoy. Serves 4

  1. August 16, 2009 by TasteHongKong

    Pairing papaya with prawn stock is interesting to me. Thanks for the idea.

  2. August 16, 2009 by Ellie@AlmostBourdain

    Nice soup! Love how you use the prawn shells to make the stock!

  3. August 17, 2009 by Mel (admin)

    @TasteHongKong: You won’t regret it.

    @Ellie: Thank you, my lovely!

  4. August 17, 2009 by Debi (Table Talk)

    –Really interesting soup. Reading the title, I pictured some sort of chilled soup with the papaya taking center stage. That idea wasn’t working for me….but the shrimp broth, and warmth of the black eyed peas and Thai chile have completely peaked my interest. I am excited to try this dish!

  5. August 17, 2009 by Alta

    I do admit, I was surprised at the idea of combining these flavors, but I imagine this is a refreshing, delicious soup! I had never seen a strawberry papaya before, until last night (I was in Target of all places…). And here you’re using one! Wow, small world.

  6. August 17, 2009 by Jessie

    what an odd pairing, but I have to say I am very intrigued by this because it looks really delicious and I bet it has a sweet and savory flavors going on here.

  7. August 17, 2009 by Butterfly

    Looks delicious!!!

  8. August 17, 2009 by Natalie

    What an interesting combo!! This is not something I would normally prepare together, but the finished product looks so flavorful and fresh!

  9. August 17, 2009 by Cookin' Canuck

    What a beautiful, tempting soup. Your recipes never cease to amaze me!

  10. August 18, 2009 by Fearless Kitchen

    I wouldn’t have thought of using papaya and halibut (and prawn stock) in this way, but I can’t think of a reason it wouldn’t be delicious! It looks like a great treat for a really hot day.

  11. August 18, 2009 by zenchef

    A romantic union between two distant kinds. You just resumed the story of my life! I take one delicious soup and a bottle of sake please (or two… ).

  12. August 20, 2009 by radha

    great combination of flavor. actually papaya, due to her delicate taste, could go with any kind of fish and it s perfect in soups

  13. August 20, 2009 by Tangled Noodle

    Gorgeous! I’m really coming around to using more fruit in savory dishes (and not just when they’re in an unripe stage). I’ve only ever seen the red-pink fleshed papaya around here – do you think that would work as well?

    I love halibut but last night, during the premier of Top Chef: Las Vegas, everyone seemed to be doing halibut! It was almost overload. 8-)

  14. August 25, 2009 by Gina

    WOW, that looks sooooo good!

  15. August 25, 2009 by _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Oh, I’m intrigued. Will have to try this.

  16. August 27, 2009 by Short and Bald

    this looks so good. your great photos make me drooling on my keyboard.

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