Asian-Style Cioppino Recipe (Seafood Stew)

Asian-Style Cioppino Recipe (Seafood Stew) Recipe

The weather is getting cold and damp, so I thought a cioppino-style soup was a good solution to fight the low temperatures we've been having. I didn't really make the authentic San Franciscan fish stew, nor the traditional Provençal version of bouillabaisse, but a more Asian adaptation of the seafood soup using ingredients I recently received from our friends at The major change is that I made the broth using bonito flakes, Asian mushrooms and miso paste. Otherwise, the seafood soup is cooked with the more common ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, corn, fish and shellfish and flavored with fennel, mushrooms, garlic, lime peel, dill and saffron.

I also cracked one separately cooked Dungeness crab and gathered the meat at the last minute to add to the bass fillets, mussels, clams and small shrimp already cooking in the soup. I served it just the way I would bouillabaisse (the Southern-French stew originated in Marseille) with garlic bread and rouille sauce, which is a saffron-flavored mayonnaise. To bouillabaisse purists, the addition of bonito flakes and miso paste may seem sacrilegious, but I think it was a refreshing twist with an Asian flair.

If you’re considering making this dish, I have some good news: our friend Gustavo from is kindly giving away a $50 gift card that you can win this week on Pham Fatale! The deadline is Sunday, October 16th, 2011. And for those of you who can't wait to try products, head over to their online store, enter coupon code PHAMFATALE during checkout (exclusively for Pham Fatale readers) and get 10% off your entire order; the coupon expires on October 22nd, 2011 so make the most of it!


Yields: 8 servings

2 teaspoons lime zest
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ fennel, thinly sliced
½ (3.52-ounce) package bonito flakes (see tips)
6 tablespoons miso paste, to taste
1 ear of corn, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons dried black fungus mushrooms
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (or any hot sauce)
14 ounces bass fillets
2 pounds combined mussels and clams, cleaned, scrubbed and de-bearded
10 ounces raw medium shrimp, thawed
1 whole fresh crab (see tips), cooked and cracked
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon saffron threads
1-½ teaspoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped


Prepping the mushrooms: Soak the black fungus and shiitake mushrooms in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain all the liquid. Coarsely chop. Set aside.

Prepping the saffron: In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads into a fine powder. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of water. Set aside.

Prepping the fish broth (dashi-style): In a pot, add 2-½ cups water. Bring to a full boil then lower the heat to a gentle simmer; add the bonito flakes. Turn off the heat and let stand for at least 15 minutes; you should be able to see the shavings at the bottom. Using a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth, filter the stock, discarding the solids and impurities.

Making seafood stew: In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onions and cook until caramelized. Add the fennel and cook until tender. Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. Add the lime zest, tomato paste, both kinds of mushrooms, corn pieces and 1 teaspoon hot sauce. Cook for 30 minutes. Season with miso paste.

Prepping the shrimp: Remove and discard the head of the shrimp if it's still attached. Carefully shell and de-vein the black part of the shrimp using a sharp hook-like paring knife. Make sure to remove the tip of the tail as well, this part is very delicate. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry using a paper towel. There should be as little water as possible. Repeat the same procedure for each shrimp. This step is tedious but essential for good results. Add the remaining hot sauce, 1 clove of garlic and ½ teaspoon black pepper to the shrimp. Mix well.

Prepping the fish: Pat dry using paper towels. Cut into 1-½" pieces. Add 1 clove of garlic and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.

Cooking the fish and shell fish:

In a separate pan, heat the rest of the oil and add the remaining chopped garlic. Cook until slightly golden. Add the bass fillets and cook until slightly golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan, (make sure the pan in hot) add the shrimp. Stir fry until they change color for about 2 minutes. Do not over-cook as the shrimp will finish cooking in the broth.Transfer to the plate with the fish.

In the same pan, add the shellfish, cayenne powder and about a ladle or two of broth. Cook  for about 3 minutes, until the mussels and clams open up. Discard any that did not open. Gather the insides, discarding the shells. Add dill.

Assembly time:

Bring the broth from the stock pot back to boil. Add the crab meat, bass, shrimp, mussels and clams into the stock pot. Add the saffron liquid. Add more water into the mortar to ensure all the saffron is used. Turn off the heat. The broth should be red, fragrant and properly seasoned. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover for 5-8 minutes and it's ready.

Spoon the shrimp, flaky fish, corn and shellfish into each serving bowl along with the fragrant broth.

Accompany the soup with garlic bread and rouille sauce (see tips).

Garnish with fresh fill.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

Seafood Soup Recipe with Picture


The addition of caramelized onions to the broth gives the soup a natural sweetness. It's a trick when cooking seafood or meat in broth.

To clean the shellfish, wash them thoroughly under running water. Fill a large bowl with very little water at the bottom and add the shellfish. Add salt and let stand for a few minutes; they will naturally release all their sand . Pull off any seaweed that you might find around the shells. Rinse one more time under running water. They're ready to be cooked.

Rouille sauce is a simple mayonnaise mixed with saffron, garlic, cayenne powder  (or paprika) and sometime a little mashed potatoes for a thick consistency.

Little reminder on how to cook a crab: Clean the crab, brush and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot, add about ½ to 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Transfer to an ice water bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid. Remove and discard the abdominal flaps (the triangle-shaped tail). Lift and separate the back-fin with the rest of the claws by placing a large tablespoon at the bottom of the crab. Remove and discard the "lungs" (also known as Devil's fingers; they have a spongy texture and are inedible. Gently remove the crab meat from the back-fins (the inner chambers are filled with meat). Gently crack the claws using a meat tenderizer mallet and gather all the crab meat in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Bonito flakes are usually used for flavoring broths (dashi). They're dried fish flakes that are shaved paper-thin. You can find them in most Asian markets or online.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on October 10, 2011.


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