If you want a lighter soup with deeper flavour, use dried sole fish, which are available from markets or supermarkets.
These dried flat fish are usually lightly grilled before they are added to the soup – giving a characteristic smoky sweetness to the broth. Also, use very fresh fish for this recipe because you can really taste the difference. Snakehead or shengyu is a good choice as it has a nice firm texture, or you can also use snapper.
500g fish fillet
500g fish bones
3 slices ginger, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon Tianjin preserved vegetables (dong cai)
Dried seaweed (laver sheets), cut into 3cm squares
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoon hua tiao wine (or any Chinese shaoxing wine)
2 litres water
2 slices ginger
2 stalks each of chopped spring onions and coriander
2 cups cooked rice
1. Brown fish bones in a little oil and ginger. Add water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Do not boil. Discard bones and reserve soup.
2. Slice the fish filet into slivers and line up on a serving plate. Season with light soy sauce, sesame oil, wine, pepper and ginger strips. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
3. Bring the fish stock to a boil and add Tianjin preserved vegetables. Stir the soup and add the Chinese wine. Turn off fire and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Place the rice into serving bowls and ladle the steaming hot soup over. Add the laver sheets and the marinated fish slices. Garnish with spring onions and coriander.
Pauline D Loh is a journalist, culinary researcher and cookbook author with a particular interest in food culture and history. Currently working on her fourth and fifth cookbooks, Pauline also maintains a food and travel column in China daily, China's largest English news publication.