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Ukha/Uha Russian Fish Soup

Here’s a Russian favorite. Ukha, sometimes also spelled as Uha, is a Russian “fish soup” which is mostly just fish broth. The story goes that Russian fishermen would prepare this soup in the woods on open fire using the day’s catch.

The recipe is loose but revolves around making the fish broth.  Almost any kind of fresh water fish can be utilized, but small, young fish are more common. We used store bought perch that was only gutted, not scaled or beheaded. Tried to keep things authentic but convenient at the same time.

Ingredients:

  • 7 medium sized perch
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Celery/leeks (optional)
  • Salt
  • Whole black peppercorns
  • Bay leaf
  • Ground dill
  • ½  cup vodka (to make it more Russian)

Since ukha is fish broth based soup, you don’t actually eat the fish you boil. However, we wanted to keep some of the fish for the final product, so there are additional steps involving scaling the fish which can be ignored.

Firstly, get your fire going.

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Prep vegetables for the broth. Wash but do not peel one of the onions and the head of garlic, peel the carrot.

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Wash the fish in cold water.  Scale and cut up the fish you want to use for the actual soup and set aside. Drop  the remaining unscaled fish into a metal pot and fill with water. If you are using small fish, consider using a mesh gauze or cheese cloth to hold all the fish to make taking them out of the pot later easier.

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Place the pot over the fire and allow it to come to a boil.

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Add the unpealed onion, head of garlic, and carrot, salt and pepper. Let the broth simmer for at least 40 minutes. If you have more fish, you can boil them in batches to make the broth richer. Use the down time to dice up the potatoes and the remaining onion. Taste check the broth well into the cooking, to make sure there’s enough salt.

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Fish out the onion, garlic, fish and discard.

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Fish out the carrot and dice it. Add the potatoes and cook until soft. Add the carrots back into the broth along with the fish for consumption.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

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In the meantime, fry up the diced onions in some butter until golden brown.  Add the onions into the soup along with remaining ingredients. The Vodka is more for show, the alcohol will quickly evaporate from the soup.  Let it cook for a few more minutes.

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Serve hot alongside your other Russian favorites.

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6 Comments

  1. Anna says:

    This is dish is really surprisingly easy and very delicious but beware that it must be made on open fire, otherwise, it’s just not as good.

  2. Topov says:

    When possible, I use shallots or spring onions (scallions) instead of onions, as their flavour is better with fish. Leeks are a good addition, and I always add a bayleaf, fennel, parsley and dill for flavouring. I prefer not to use carrots (too sweet and the wrong texture – they cook too slow) but sometimes as well as the potato I’ll add freshly-dug-up turnips, a piece of swede (rutabaga), kohlrabi or jerusalem artichokes (topanimbours).

    I usually make this with sea fish too: oily coldwater types such as salmon, salmon-trout, and char are the best. Once the fish is added, cook as a fast boil – it helps amalgamate the water with the oil from the fish to make the broth. A splash of vodka (pertsovka for choice) a few mins from the end is not authentic but I like it.

    Good bread – eg. sourdough, light rye, French or Italian-type country rounds etc – is essential.

  3. Dr Ranjit Singh says:

    I had eaten Russian food in Russia. I am trying to search for russian recipes.
    I have learned borsh,kompot,potato puree, kasha.I will try ukha.

  4. Margo says:

    It seems one step is missing from the fish soup I enjoyed cooked over a fire at a lake near Yekaterinburg… the piece of burned wood in the soup. I don’t know why it was there, because my translator was off enjoying himself at the time, but my wonderful hosts were quite tickled to show me the small burned log in the soup- and I think assured me that it was quite part of the soup recipe. What do you think- is it traditional?

  5. sputniktomorrow says:

    I haven’t seen that before, but many people have their own interpretations of various recipes. That definitely seems like it may be a good way to add smoky flavor to the broth. I’ll have to try it.

  6. Svetlana says:

    I was 5 when we moved to the US and was lucky to grow up eating real Russian food most of my life. Now, having been away from my parents’ kitchen for almost 20 years, I find myself calling my parents often to get recipes, methods, etc. On Sunday, I called my dad to ask about Uha and he gave me the low-down. He never said anything about cooking it outdoors, but having just stumbled upon this site and these pictures, I very suddenly remembered a distinct occasion of having witnessed this as a very small child. Thank you!

    As for the adding smokey flavor to the soup by throwing a scorched piece of wood in, it might be carcinogenic. I think the soup is really quite delicious all on its own. Thanks again for sharing the recipe. I used halibut and it turned out fantastic.

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