Fish Head Soup with Pickled Mustard-Greens

  • 2 large fish heads, such as croaker or salmon, approximately 700 gm (~1 ½ lbs) total
  • 1.5 liter (~6 cups) of oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon Shao Xing rice wine, or sake
  • a few thick slices of ginger
  • 2 green onions, sliced thickly on a bias
  • 170 gm (6 oz) tin of Sichuan pickled mustard greens
  • bean thread noodles, optional
  • finely sliced green onions for garnishing

  1. In a wok, bring the oil to 205oC (400oF). Thoroughly blot the fish heads on a paper towel, and split each head in half with strong kitchen shears. When the oil reaches 205oC (400oF), slip the halves of the head into the oil, one or two halves at a time. Fry until golden brown on all sides. Drain and blot dry again with a paper towel.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 3 or so cups of water to boil. When all the sections of head are cooked, add the heads to the boiling water. If needed, add just enough additional water to cover the heads.
  3. Add the rice wine, ginger, green onions, and the entire contents of the tin of pickled greens. 
  4. Bring the pot to a simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes, until the flesh of the heads is falling off the bones and the broth has turned a milky-white color. 
  5. If a lot of oil has risen to the top, skim it off with a shallow spoon.
  6. If desired, add bean thread noodles: soften the noodles first in warm water, then simmer them gently along with the fish heads during the last 3 minutes of cooking. 
  7. Garnish with the thinly sliced green onion, and serve immediately.