Milky Fish Stew with Tofu and Papaya
This deliciously unique recipe contains papaya and tofu - both foods rich in phytoestrogens. Its a soup traditionally prepared with whole fish, eaten to support postpartum to help replenish Qi, Blood, Yin, and Yang and warm the body. That said, it is just as beneficial for someone who is deficient and has been directed to eat more warming foods and is feeling depleted or low energy.
I typically use Wild Pacific Petrale Sole filets that I order from my Good Eggs subscription, so I know it's fresh and sourced sustainably. You can use any kind of white fish including black cod (aka sable- or butter-fish), halibut, Chilean seabass, carp. I wouldn't personally use regular cod because its a bit too lean and dry for my taste.
This video for Milky Fish Soup with Tofu from The Woks of Life is a similar version of this recipe that lends inspiration.
8 oz. of Petrale Sole filet (sliced into 1" strips)
2 teaspoons of potato starch (arrowroot or cornstarch also works)
12-14 oz. Tofu (I prefer firm texture for more protein, but any texture will work well)
1/2 of a large Papaya (ripe, seeded and cubed)
3 stalks of Scallions (sliced diagonally into 2" segments; dividing the greens from the whites)
1" nob of Ginger (peeled and sliced thin)
3 tablespoons of Avocado oil
2 tablespoons Xiaoxing wine (sake or sherry will work too)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon White pepper or more to taste
1 teaspoon Sesame oil to taste (optional)
2 cups filtered water
Bonito fish stock powder or Vegetable stock powder mixed in 2 additional cups of water. (Vegetable or chicken stock or broth can also be used. I use a fish or vegetable stock powder from Marukai Japanese market that has no MSG, which is harder to find than you'd think!)
Slice fish filet into 1" strips and place in a small bowl. Add potato starch and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and coat the fish by stirring in the bowl. Set aside in the refrigerator to let it marinate and tenderize while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Slice the scallions into 2" segments, separating the green parts from the white parts.
Slice the ginger into thin slices.
Drain the tofu, rinse under cold water. Cut it into 2" x 2" x 3/4" cubes.
Seed the papaya and discard the seeds. Cut it into 1-2" cubes.
Heat the oil in a hot wok or large pan on medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot, gently place tofu cubes into the hot oil and fry for 3 mins on each side, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Cover and keep at a simmer while you finish pan-frying the tofu.
After the tofu is browned on both sides, add the Shaoxing wine around the perimeter of the wok. (It will sizzle!) Then add the boiling water and increase the heat to high.
Add the stock powder
Add the ginger, whites of the scallions, and papaya to the wok. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, covered.
Uncover, lay each piece of fish on the surface of the boiling soup (do this one by one. You don’t want the fish to stick together in one clump). The heat should still be medium high to high.
Carefully move the fish around the soup so each piece gets submerged in the hot liquid. Bring the soup to boil, and it’s done. Serve with scallion and cilantro on top.
Finally, add the white pepper, sesame oil, scallions, and cilantro. Add additional salt to taste if needed.
The key is to marinate the fish first so it’s tasty and moist. As you can see, this fish stew is super easy and fast. It’s special enough for the weekend and fast enough for a weekday as well. Enjoy!