Have you ever tasted caldo de pescado (fish soup)? Growing up, it was not a dish we ate because my grandma was not fond of seafood and neither was my mom. The only seafood I ate growing up was tuna fish sandwiches made from tuna in a can.
Fish soup was never something that my family made. Caldo de pescado will always remind me of my uncle Wolfgang. You might recognize his name as being a family member we honor on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Every Christmas my uncle Wolfgang, my Tia Vicky, and my cousins from Colorado would visit us in El Paso. And every year the grownups would go eat dinner in Juarez at a restaurant called Villa del Mar.
I remember one year they made it a day trip and took us kids with them. We spent the day shopping at the mercado, and then afterwards we all went to the fancy seafood restaurant that we had always heard about. It was my very first seafood experience.
We had a big table for our large family and I sat next to my uncle Wolfgang. He didn’t even look at the menu. He knew exactly what he wanted to order. He ordered a dish that I had never heard about called, caldo de siete mares (seven seas soup). I remember they brought out this huge bowl of soup that was still bubbling and had creatures hanging off of the side — there were crab legs, octopus, squid, mussels, shrimp, and a fish head (eyes and all).
I kept peeking at him wondering if he was going to eat everything in that bowl and sure enough he did. I think he finally realized that I was staring at him and pulled out the fish head and said do you want me to eat the eyeballs? I’m pretty sure I had a creeped-out look on my face. I just remember before I answered he was slurping out those eyeballs. I thought it was the funniest thing ever.
My friend Alba who shared her gorditas de harina recipe was telling me that she makes a delicious caldo de pescado and shared her recipe with me. We kept it simple – only fish and shrimp.
When she unwrapped the fish from the butcher paper I asked her what kind of fish it was. And she said “bagre” – I had never heard that word, so I googled it. Bagre is catfish. She asked her butcher to filet it for her and kept the skin on. Catfish has lots of tiny bones, so if you’d like to replace it I’d recommend replacing with a white fish of your choice like tilapia or cod.
As the soup was simmering my house smelled delicious and I was surprised how simple and quick it was to make. The soup was also filled with plenty of shrimp with the shell on. The broth was so tasty and reminded me of a spicy Vietnamese pho soup and caldo de pollo combined.
Excellent for a Lenten meal this fish stock and shrimp in a chipotle-tomato broth is slightly spicy and easy to prepare. Serve soup with lime wedges, hot sauce, and saltine crackers.
Photography: Jenna Sparks
Caldo de Pescado y Camaron (Fish and Shrimp Soup)
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeño, chopped
- 2 carrots stalk, peeled and sliced
- 1 celery, sliced
- 1 roma tomato, chopped
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
- 4 roma tomatoes, quartered
- ½ white onion, quartered
- 10 cups water
- 1 2-pound white fish with skin on such as catfish, halibut, or cod, filleted, and cut in large 3-inch chunks
- 1 pound shelled large shrimp
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 fish stock cube
- 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
- Salt as needed
- Lime wedges
- Saltine crackers
- Valentina hot sauce
- In a large stockpot heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add jalapeño, carrots, and celery, and cook for 3 minutes, Add 1 chopped tomato and cook for an additional minute. Turn off heat, place sautéed ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- To a blender add chipotle chiles, garlic, pepper, bouillon, tomatoes, and onion; and puree until smooth.
- Strain blended mixture until smooth and discard any tomato skins and chile peels.
- In the same stockpot heat additional 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add strained mixture to stockpot and bring to a boil for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot bring water to a boil.
- Add boiled water, sautéed vegetables, fish, shrimp, bay leaves, and fish stock to the stock pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until fish is tender. Add cilantro during the last 5 minutes.
- Add salt to taste.
- Tips for serving: Ladle soup into bowls, including a piece of fish and shrimp for each serving, into bowls and serve with lime wedges, hot sauce, and saltine crackers.