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Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Fish stew with rice

Verdict: A hearty and delicious stew of tender fish and succulent shrimp which can be made in 30 minutes. The dill and soft licorice flavours make for a refreshing version of a traditional fish stew recipe.

Memories are the unreliable narrators of life; selective, pleasantly fuzzy around the edges, and often showered in a soft, warm glow is how I recall most of the past. Since enjoying food can be such a wonderful experience, I tend to hold on tightly to the memories of sharing great meals with friends and family.

Adding tomoatoes to fish stewTomato broth with a soft licorice flavour from the fennel (or anise seeds).

Last year, on a dark, blistering cold night in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), I first enjoyed the comfort of this fish stew. My roommate, with a newly acquired recipe collection from her mom, decided to make this on a -40 degrees Celsius winter night, the kind of cold that freezes nostril hairs together and eyelashes shut. In my memory, we huddled over a small table lit by a solitary kerosene lamp while the wind whistled a lonely tune across the Arctic landscape. Dressed in knee-length parkas, we handled the hot bowls of stew with seal skin gloves. Outside, the sled dogs howled for their dinner.

In reality, we ate this over an Ikea wooden table, in our well heated but poorly insulated house, its windows always dewy with condensation in the winter time. I can recall with confidence that the soup was delicious, fragrant and oh so comforting. Like the shrimp niçoise pasta, this was another example of the winning combination of seafood, licorice flavour and tomato based broth.

Dill for the fish stewFresh dill, a herb commonly used in North Vietnamese cooking.

The Mediterranean fish stew recipe reminded me of my mom’s take on fish stew: she poached salmon steaks in a simple broth composed of sauteed shallots and tomatoes, and seasoned with tamarind powder for the sweet and sour element. When the salmon was almost cooked through, she would add fresh chopped dill and large lettuce leaves, which would wilt slightly but retain their crunch. The stew was served with your choice of rice or vermicelli and garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Since I was too intimidated to re-create my mom’s fish stew, I followed my friend’s family recipe and threw in some Viet twists along the way, like the fresh dill and serving it with white rice. Try out this wonderful stew and create some new fuzzy and warm food memories of your own, Arctic themed or otherwise.

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

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