Spicy Fish Stock

During the summer, we were at in the Athens Central Market with its endless fish stalls (as you can see in my post Fish Focus) in search of a good firm white fish that wouldn’t fall apart when cooked in a Sicilian style spicy tomato sauce chock-a-block with herbs, olives and capers. We settled on fresh γαλέος (galéos). The fishmonger cut the long fish body right then and there into chunky steaks.

To digress a tiny bit: I was amazed by his inventive solution for the wet – continually sluiced down – floor. Most of the vendors wore rubber boots… Couldn’t help myself from angling down in to photograph.

Back in the kitchen with our catch, I looked up galéos in the invaluable book, Mediterranean Seafood by Alan Davidson to identify the fish. I wish this book would be converted into a fish identification app for my phone! It turned out to be a ‘smooth hound’ type of long, slender dogfish, a common fish of the shark family that inhabits the Mediterranean.

Hope to post the recipe for the Sicilian fish dish when we make it again as it was really good. But, for now, I’m dealing with ‘offcuts’ from the fish to make a spicy Thai-inspired stock. The meaty steaks around the spine were used with the Sicilian sauce, but the thin belly part of the fish as any small end pieces were stashed in the freezer for future use – most likely for stock. Galéos is a gelatinous fish, so it is perfect for stock.

The solution for using those fishy offcuts for stock hit me when I was recently out in the garden weeding the (sadly neglected) herb garden. I had planted a tiny lemongrass plant early in the summer and was amazed at how it had grown. Plus, the fledgling lime tree had produced several limes ready to pick (as you can see above) with many more in tiny form for later harvesting. It was time to get those offcuts out of the freezer and into the stock pot.

Spicy Fish Stock
The flavours are based on a traditional Thai seafood soup Tom Yum Talay, but with quite a bit of leeway applied given the availability of ingredients. The aromatic smell while it simmers is irresistible.

  • 500g gelatinous type fish ‘offcuts’ (or fish bones AND heads)
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 dried hot peppers (peperoncini) or a pinch to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 25g fresh ginger
  • a handful of fresh chopped coriander
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 litres of water
  • 2+ Tablespoons sugar
  • salt to taste

Put the fish in a large stock pot. Chop the tomatoes and add these. Peel a strip off the lime zest and add before juicing the lime and adding this as well. Clean the white part of the lemongrass stalk and bash both this and the garlic cloves with the wide blade of a knife. Add to the stock pot along with the crushed hot peppers. Clean the skin off the ginger and coarsely chop before adding this into the pot. Add the chopped coriander and the soy sauce. Measure the water and add. Put on medium-high heat until the water begins to boil. Reduce to simmer and cover.

Let it simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on, and then for 30 more minutes after removing the lid. Taste the stock. It will be sour, so add the sugar at this point to get the characteristic Tom Yum Talay sweet-sour flavour (adjusting the amount of sugar to your preference – more if necessary). Also adjust with salt, if needed. Let the stock simmer for a few more minutes.

Remove from heat, let it cool slightly before straining and discarding the solids. The stock is ready to use or freeze.

It makes a delicious vegetable or noodle soup. There are numerous ways to use this sweet-sour fish stock base. Be inventive!


    • I was so glad that I could finally produce a Thai based stock – given the availability of ingredients here in Greece plus a need to accommodate a shellfish allergy. It isn’t easy producing anything Asia when you have to avoid shrimp!


  1. […] A general characteristic of November in Athens is the change of weather. It gets cold. Out comes the duvet from storage and I find myself reaching for a cardigan to wear during the day. Perhaps my northern blood is beginning to thin in the 2+ years we have been in Greece. Whatever the cause, comfort food is required at this time of year. Soups register quite high on the list. Recently I made a fantastic sweet potato, coconut milk and coriander soup, a smooth warm orange colour. It is based on my spicy Thai-inspired homemade fish stock. […]


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