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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Arrowroot and Snakehead Soup 粉葛生鱼汤

Oh hoho!!! It's not the head of a snake!!! It's a type of fish.

The Chinese believe in its wound healing properties and is a prized fish. But somehow it's a pest, called a monster fish in US. I saw it on TV and it was nicknamed Fishzilla. There are a few types of snakeheads featured in the show, the toman, haruan and some more that I dunno. Hahaha!!! The toman is really known to be fierce and it's one of the fishes that anglers love to wrestle with. I've heard stories, local stories of toman biting off hands and fingers. But not that much of haruan, which is our beloved "Sang Yue". But still, it's not a docile fish, just that haruan don't get as big as tomans, hence less "monsterous". LOL. Love my adjective!

I didn't buy this fish. It's not cheap to buy. My sis in law's mother in law gave a huge snakehead to us. I divided the fish to 3, the middle was for my kid's porridge and the tail was filleted and used to cook porridge. Whereas the upper part, the head and belly will be used to boil soup. I had no idea what soup to boil. Again, I refered to the soup book that I have, written by Chiu Sang. It didn't ask for snake head, but used dace(Laeng Yue) instead. Dace is not found here. I substituted the dace with snake head and hence this soup came out.

Arrowroot and Snakehead Soup
Recipe Source: Soups for Expelling Dampness and Heat, by Chiu Sang

Functions (according to the recipe when using dace)
Strengthens Chi, promotes excretion of excess water, expels dampness, eases muscle congestion, kills pain and boosts immune system. Snake head fish improves blood circulation, benefits the heart and calms the nerves.

500gm Snakehead fish (生鱼/haruan) )
400gm arrowroot /Kudzu root 粉葛
35gm small red beans, 赤小豆(not adzuki, it’s a herbal red bean that is longish)
50gm roasted hyacinth beans,生扁豆  (the TCM shop sells roasted variety, so I used roasted)
1 dried tangerine peel,陈皮 (about the size of 3 fingers)
Coriander for sprinkling (to mask the soup’s fishiness)
2.5L water
Salt to taste

1. Clean snakehead and cut into chunks. Fry fish chunks in a little bit of oil until the flesh is slightly golden and firm. Wash with running water to remove oil.
2. Soak both beans in cold water for 10 minutes, rinse and drain.
3. Soak tangerine peel in cold water and when the peel is pliable, scrape away the pith.
4. Bring water to boil and put in everything and bring back to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 2 hours. Season with salt and sprinkle in chopped coriander.

To get the tangerine peel, hyacinth beans and small red beans, just head to your nearest Chinese herbal shop.


  1. Wah.. You really scared me there, I tot u would really use a snake's head.. haha :D

    This is one nourishing soup, gotta try this out.. Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

  2. I remember my mom boiled this fish soup with black beans for me after I had my surgery. She said my would will heal faster. Not sure how true it is.

  3. Snakehead good for fishing.....put up real good fight! LOL!

  4. Just the name alone makes me want to try it. Snakehead, just is fun to say. I wonder where I would even find something like that around these parts.

  5. Used to drink this when I was young, but not now anymore coz only my mum will cook this and I seldom go back nowadays..;p

  6. not soup-related post

    tried your cassava pancake with pre-grated frozen white cassava n frozen coconut - used only 1 tsp brown sugar - sweetness just nice for me. another batch i added chopped raisin for sweetness - equally tasty

    (didnt squeeze juice from cassava but no bitter taste)
    thanks for the recipe n a happy new yr to u!

    jo - aus

  7. I also thought that you cooked soup with snakehead. hahaha....I love fish soup. I usually put herbal things in there. This looks really healthy too.

  8. You know, I always feel so geli when I look at anything related to snake including the name of this fish. Haha...timid le.
    Anyway, this soup must be very nutritious.

  9. This soup is nice but I will never be able to handle that fish. Was frightened by it once when I was at the market. The fish apparently leaped off the fishmonger's hand and landed an inch away from me. Had such a fright ever since. But I love the sweetness this fish gives in a soup.

  10. WyYv,
    Haha, got u leh!!

    Yeah, Chinese believe in the healing properties of the Sang Yue. But I heard there are certain protein types in the fish that helps with healing.

    Haha, ya woh, I know you love fishing

    Chinatown. I saw on TV, it's infesting certain lakes in the US, it's more of a pest there, but overfished here.

    Also hard to find in KL ler.

  11. Stefania,
    Thanks for coming again

    Thanks for trying the cassava pancake. Glad you liked it. Level of sweetness is very much a personal preference and feel free to adjust to your liking.

    hohoho, I can't find snake's head here.
    There are a lot of fish soup recipes out there. I'm sure your version is very nutritious as well.

    Little Inbox,
    then just ignore the English name for it. Take the translation to be "Live fish", then maybe you'd feel better about it.

    This fish can crawl one leh. Can survive out of water for quite a period of time. If one rears this in an aquarium, must cover, if not the fish will jump and escape writhing away to the nearest drain.

  12. phew! what a name, 'snakehead'!..sounds so frightening..but it makes delicious soup. also goes well with watercress soup. i think this is the common fish too in making 'yee sang', right?


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