Monday, March 7, 2011

Seafood Chowder






The last time I had clam chowder was back in 2009 when we had our year end vacation at California.  It was a wonderful self-drive holiday that brings us from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, up north to the beautiful Yosemite National Park, driving through the Death Valley.  We then proceed further north to San Francisco before heading back south to Los Angeles, via the stunning coastline view of the 17-Mile Drive, where we took stops at Monterey, Santa Maria and Santa Monica.

We spent a few days at San Francisco.  One of the places we visited is the Fisherman's Wharf, a popular tourist attraction, famous for its wide variety of seafood, especially the Dungeness crab and clam chowder in bread bowl.  We headed into a restaurant, Sabella & La Torre, and ordered the dungeness crab (cannot remember, was it US$26 for a kilo?), clam chowder and the fried calamari.  Food? Average.  Decor?  Below average.  Service?  Below average, probably cos it was at lunch-time and the place was fully-packed with hungry tourists. 






Since back from my US trip, I did not have any clam chowder or seafood chowder.  I guess I was feeling a little "gelak" from the heavy cream in the clam chowder.  It was very thick and heavy.  I prefer lighter soups.

I did not plan to cook this seafood chowder, instead I had wanted to cook Chinese-style cream of corn chicken soup.  But, I have just used up the minced chicken meat the day before.  Ok, Plan B - cream of corn with potato (since I had a few russet potatoes left). 

"Hmmm... why not add some chopped carrots for colours and texture?"  
"Hey, I have a small piece of fish fillet in fridge ...." - grab it.  
"Ahh ... how about making fish chowder instead?"
"Better still, add some prawns and scallops!"
"That's it - seafood chowder!"

It's a light seafood chowder - something that caters to the Asian palate.  It is very tasty and I will definitely be cooking this again!


Ingredients:
(serves 2 to 3)

1 to 2 tbsp butter (or cooking oil)
1.5 tbsp plain flour
400ml of fish stock
100ml prawn shell stock*
400ml of water
1 carrot (cut into small cubes)
1 potato (cut into small cubes)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 can cream of corn
Fish fillet (about 150g), cut into slices (marinate with a 1/4 tsp salt and dash of pepper for 10 minutes) 
3 to 4 medium-sized tiger prawns (remove heads/shells, slice each into half horizontally)
3 large scallops (sliced into thin pieces horizontally)
2 tbsp heavy cream or 50ml milk

Salt and pepper to taste

[Note: You can use other seafood in this soup - squid, clams, crabs etc.  I just used what's available in my fridge.]


Method:

1) Heat butter in pot over low heat.  Add chopped onion. When it turns translucent, add in the chopped carrot and potato.  Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.
2) Add the plain flour, stir and cook for about a minute.  Add a little water and whisk it.  When the mixture turns dry and lumpy again, add a little more water and whisk.  Repeat for another 2 to 3 times.  Then, add in the fish stock, prawn shell stock and remaining water.  Bring to boil and then simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
3) Add cream of corn and all the seafood into the soup.  Cook for another 2 minutes.
4) Add salt to taste.
5) Stir in heavy cream or milk, cook for a minute and serve.

* To prepare prawn shell stock:
1) Wash and drain water from prawn shells. 
2) Heat oil in pot on high heat.  Add 2 slices of ginger and 2 to 3 crushed garlic.  Stir.
3) Add the prawn shells and stir fry till aromatic.
4) Add water (about 200 to 300ml).  Bring to boil and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. 
5) Sieve to obtain clear prawn stock.  Discard shells.



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