Hot and Sour Fish Soup

Hot and Sour Fish Soup
Hot and Sour Fish Soup
This image courtesy of Maja Smend

Editor's Note: Don't discard the fish bones from your next meal just yet. Those fish bones will be big components when you make the broth in this recipe for Hot and Sour Fish Soup. You can save a little bit of time by making this stock in advance, too. This fish recipe is easy to make and can be ready to eat in under an hour. You'll also love that this soup is full of flavor and can definitely warm you up on a cold winter's night. If this is your first time cooking with water lilies, then take a look at the Notes section below the instructions for tips on how to prepare them.

The slightly peppery-hot Khmer Fish Stock, along with tamarind and coriander leaves, play starring roles in this pleasantly balanced hot and sour soup. Once the stock is made, the soup is relatively quick and easy to make.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus time for making the stock


Cooking Time20 min


  • Hot and Sour Fish Soup Ingredients
  • 1 small winter melon or 2 zucchini
  • 4 cups (1 liter) Khmer Fish Stock (ingredients and instructions are below)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
  • 5 oz (150 g) water lily stems or 1 large celery stalk, sliced into 1 ½ -in (4-cm) pieces
  • 12 oz (350 g) firm white fish fillet such as cod, haddock, tilapia or perch (with skin), roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves (cilantro) or rice paddy herb, coarsely chopped
  • Khmer Fish Stock Ingredients
  • 1 lb (500 g) fish bones (such as sole, flounder, orange roughy, halibut, or tilapia)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2-in (5-cm) galangal root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, tender inner part of bottom third, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fish paste (prahok)
  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or dark brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce


Directions for Hot and Sour Fish Soup

  1. If you’re using winter melon, peel it, quarter it and remove the seeds. Slice into large strips. If you’re using zucchini, do not peel them—simply halve them crosswise and slice into strips.

  2. Combine the stock and the tamarind pulp in a pot and bring to a boil. Strain the stock into a stockpot and discard the tamarind pulp. Add the water lily stems or celery, the winter melon or zucchini, and the fish and bring to a boil. 

  3. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the green onions and coriander leaves or rice paddy herb and serve immediately.

Instructions for Khmer Fish Stock

Makes: 4 cups (1 liter)
Preparation Time: 50 minutes

  1. Rinse the fish bones and chop them roughly into pieces. 

  2. Heat the oil in a stockpot and fry the bones until they begin to brown. Add the galangal, garlic, lemongrass, onion and fish paste (prahok) and mix. 

  3. Add the water then add the sugar and fish sauce and stir to combine. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. 

  4. The stock will keep for one day in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer.


Be sure to remove the transparent skin from the water lily stems before slicing them.


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