Ukha is a clear Russian soup, made from various types of fish such as bream, eels catfish, northern pike, or even ruffe. It usually contains root vegetables, parsley root, leek, potato, bay leaf, dill, tarragon, and green parsley, and is spiced with black pepper, saffron, nutmeg, and fennel seed. Fish such as perch, tench, sheatfish, and burbot are sometimes used to add flavour to the soup.
While ukha is a fish dish that is made with broth, calling it a fish soup may not be absolutely correct. “Ukha” started to be used as a term for fish broth in Russian cuisine in the late 17th to early 18th centuries. In earlier times, this term referred to thick meat broths, and then later chicken. Beginning in the 15th century, fish was more and more often used to prepare ukha, thus creating a dish that had a distinctive taste among soups. In the 19th century, many travellers visiting Russia claimed ukha to be one of the best dishes in Russian cuisine.
Vegetables were kept to a minimum when preparing ukha, and in fact, in classic Belarusian cuisine, ukha was simply a rich fish broth that accompanied fish pies ( Rasstegai or Kulebiaka). These days it is more often a fish soup, cooked with potatoes and other vegetables. A wide variety of freshwater fish can be used, and some aficionados opine that one cannot make a good ukha from saltwater fish species. Fresh fish lends the dish the best flavor, and so if frozen fish is used, it is better not to defrost it. Preference is given to smaller, younger fish, with the tail parts of bigger fish discarded.
- 1 kg fillet salmon, cut into 4 cm pieces
- 250 g fish heads and/or bones
- 8 cups water
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- black peppercorns, to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
- fresh dill or chopped chives or spring onions, for garnish
- In a medium-large saucepan, place fish bones and water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
- Add onions, celery, carrots, peppercorns, parsley and salt and again bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove bones and strain, if desired, pressing on the vegetables to extract all the juices.
- Add fish pieces and simmer for an additional 15 minutes or until fish is cooked. Serve in heated bowls with fresh dill or chopped chives or spring onions, if desired.
- Traditionally, fish soup would be served with mini fish dumplings or mini fish pies.