Fisherman's Soup a la Baja
The recipe for the Hungarian Fish Soup
Just try Hungarian fish soup once and you will never forget it! I guarantee! I would say it is not very difficult to cook Fish soup, but it requires lots of patience and time.
There are many variants of the Hungarian Fish soup. The two main trends are the Bajai Fish Soup and Szegedi Fish Soup.
As you probably know there are two big rivers flow across Hungary, these are the Danube (Duna) and Tisza. Both river regions have its own style of making Fish soup.
Bajai Fish soup originates from the town Baja by the river of Danube, and guess what: Szegedi Fish soup comes from Szeged, which is the main town of the river Tisza region.
The main difference between these two fish soups is that we put noodles into the soup if we cook in Bajai style. That's all.
Of course next to these two main trends every family has its own style of cooking this superb soup; therefore I'm sure that lots of people could have totally different ideas about fish soup cooking than mine.
What do you need for this gorgeous soup?
Of course FISH! But it is very important to choose the right fish!
It cannot be sea fish. The original Hungarian Fish Soup is made mainly from carp; of course you can use other types of fish other than carp too: catfish, starlet and bass are all good choices. If you want to make an unforgettably good fish soup, use several types of fish.
Buy 250-300g fish per person. If you have just one type of fish I recommend buying smaller ones too.
- Carp, catfish or sturgeon (4 people = 1-1.5 kg) - 1 kg small freshwater fish - 1 Onion per 1 kg fish - 1-2 green pepper - 1-2 tomatoes - Appr. 2 table spoon ground paprika (Hungarian paprika is the best for this soup) - Salt - Water
How to cook it?
Clean and wash the fishes, open them and remove the chitterlings. Remove the heads, fins and tails. Slice the big fish (carp, catfish etc) in finger width pieces and salt these slices. Clean and chop the onion and fry it in some lard as you do e.g. when you cook Hungarian goulash. When the onion is transparent put the small fishes, the fins, the tails and the heads (without eyes and gills) into the pan with the onion, and sprinkle with ground paprika. Fill up immediately with enough water to cover (e.g. 3 Liter) and cook for 30-40 minutes. The cooking time could be longer, it is ready when the fish meat comes off from the bones. This will serve as broth for the salted fish fillets.
Be careful with the paprika, if you burn it the fish soup will be bitter!
After these small fishes are cooked, mash the whole broth and fish mixture through a colander. You can add more water if it's too thick. Put the salted fish slices, the cleaned and diced tomato and sliced green pepper into the broth and bring it to the boil. Taste it and if needed add a little more salt. Cook the Fish soup for 10 minutes. Don't stir the soup because the fish meat will be broken. If you're afraid the soup might stick and burn, just move the pot a little. If you want you can cook some noodles for the Fish soup and then you will get the Baja style soup. It really depends on your taste, and what you prefer.