The ocean covers roughly 70 percent of the entire planet and touches numerous shores spanning the globe, so it’s no surprise that so many countries have their own beloved fish and shellfish dishes, from several versions of ceviche to seafood bakes and boils. There’s practically an entire sea of fish soups and stews out there too, way beyond clam chowder and cioppino, though some aren’t nearly as widely known as they should be.
Here’s a sampling of some of the best seafood soups from around the world, in no particular order, so you can do a little globetrotting even in your own kitchen.
A hallmark of San Francisco cuisine, cioppino is an Italian-American stew thick with various types of firm fish and shellfish. It has much in common with cacciucco, a fisherman’s stew from Livorno, Italy, and either one would make a fine addition to a Feast of the Seven Fishes spread—but even served alone, they’d make a pretty perfect meal. Get our Cioppino recipe.
Similar in appearance to cioppino, bouillabaisse is made from both fish and shellfish (including, sometimes, octopus and sea urchins) in a tomato broth flavored with saffron, fennel, garlic, and olive oil, plus vegetables like leeks and potatoes. France is home to other seafood stews as well, like bourride, with a broth enriched with garlicky aioli, and cotriade, a simpler soup with fish and potatoes that originated in Brittany, but Marseilles’ bouillabaisse is most well known, and traditionally served with toasts topped with rouille, a spicy pepper sauce thickened with breadcrumbs. Get the recipe.
This stew from Brazil has a rich—yet not too heavy—broth thickened with both coconut milk and dende, or bright red-orange palm oil, which is worth seeking out (although, be sure to buy a sustainably harvested brand). Bell peppers, firm white fish, and shrimp often swim in the broth, and a topping of torn cilantro gives it a fresh lift of flavor, as does lime juice. Get the recipe.
Thieboudienne, the national dish of Senegal, is composed of fish, vegetables, and broken bits of rice all simmered together in spiced tomato sauce. It’s often termed a stew, although it’s much less brothy than you might expect. It goes by several other names, including ceeubu jen. Before being added to the other ingredients, the fish is scored and the slits in the flesh are stuffed with rof, a mixture of parsley, onion, and garlic somewhat like Italian gremolata. Another Senegalese dish, soupe kandja (or soupoukandia), is technically considered a sauce with okra and palm oil, but is likely a precursor to another seafood stew: gumbo. Get the recipe.
According to Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, those who eat Chile’s caldillo de congrío know heaven on earth. This stew is based on pink or rosy conger, a “giant eel of snowy flesh” (that’s Neruda again), and the broth, based on fish stock, is flavored with garlic, tomatoes, carrots, and onion, with just enough cream to make the mixture a little cloudy and opaque. Get the recipe.
Caldeirada is named for the clay pot in which it is traditionally cooked, and like so many other seafood stews, there’s no set-in-stone ingredient list. It’s filled with a mix of fresh fish and often includes squid, with tomato and herbs in the broth, and vegetables like potatoes regularly make an appearance too. Portuguese mariscada is similar, but packed with shellfish instead of finfish. Many recipes, like the one here, add chorizo for extra kick. Get the recipe.
Russian ukha is a super simple fish soup best made with just-caught fish, ideally outside near the banks of a river, over an open fire. The entire fish, including the head, is used to impart flavor to the broth, while carrots, onions, and/or potatoes are added to make it heartier. Get the recipe.
Korean hot pots come in many varieties, and this one is full of fish and seafood like crab, octopus, and clams. Gochujang and other flavorful ingredients add spice and savor to the broth, and vegetables like soybean sprouts, mushrooms, and cabbage are added to it as well. Maeuntang is another spicy Korean fish stew that’s a little simpler, with fewer ingredients, but its flavors are just as big. Get the recipe.
This seafood curry from Malaysia is soupy enough to be considered a stew, and too intriguing not to include. It’s spicy thanks to plenty of red chiles; fragrant with turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, and shrimp paste; and tangy with tamarind paste. Fresh pineapple and okra are added along with firm white fish to the vibrant broth. Get the recipe.
Although rich and fragrant with spices like ginger, cinnamon, and curry leaves, this coconut milk enriched Indian fish stew from Kerala is fairly mild, and perfect spooned over lots of steamed basmati rice. Get the recipe.
This spicy shrimp chowder hails from Peru, and in addition to the shellfish, includes corn (preferably the large-kerneled Peruvian staple called choclo if you can find it; Goya Foods sells it frozen), potatoes, queso fresco, and poached eggs. No wonder it’s thought of as a warming and filling winter dish. Get the recipe.
Chipotle makes the tomato broth for this Mexican seafood soup a little smoky and spicy (jalapeño, garlic, and hot sauce also help). The type of seafood that goes into it varies widely, but you can keep it as simple as you want with just one or two kinds. Get the recipe.
Similar to Russian fish soup, this Hungarian dish is best made with freshly caught fish in the great outdoors, but it’s still good made at home. Plenty of paprika gives the broth a brick red hue as well as authentic Hungarian flavor. This is much the same as Croatia’s riblji paprikaš too. Get the recipe.
Catalan fish stew, or suquet de peix, starts with picada, a thick paste of toasted hazelnuts, almonds, and bread crumbs plus garlic and chili. This forms the base of the broth, which is also flavored with saffron and smoky pimentón. In it, you’ll find potatoes, fish, and shellfish. As with practically every seafood stew, it’s very flexible, so you can use whatever non-oily fish and shellfish looks best at your market. Get the recipe.
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