Ukha – a Traditional Russian Fish Soup

Ukha… The aroma and taste of this dish doesn’t compare with anything else for Russian people.

“Ukha” is an ancient word. In Sanskrit it means “broth.” For the most part, if you say “ukha”, people will think of a delicious fish broth. But in the old days it was not so…

So What is was in the Old Days?

Up until the 17th century in Russia ukha was not only a soup broth from fish, but also from meat, mostly chicken. Chicken ukha was available only to the rich and to nobles. It was prepared with lots of spices and seasonings. There was a white ukha (with pepper and salt), yellow (with saffron or cinnamon), and black (with cloves and pepper). The broth was very concentrated, with the addition of vegetables and grains. Today, such dish is not called ukha. But it remained almost unchanged under the name of “chicken soup.” Instead, ukha for four centuries now is made only from fish.

What Fish is Good for Ukha?

Real ukha is made of those fish which create transparent and sweet broth. Preference is given to pike, perch, ruff, burbot, catfish and line. These fish are used to make a so-called white ukha. In second place – carp, chub, European carp, and rudd. They are suitable for black ukha. But red ukha was made only from sturgeons – sturgeon, beluga, stellate sturgeon and salmon. Completely not suitable for ukha are roach, bream, herring, dried fish, mackerel and gobies. Other sea fish can be used as well.

Specifics of Making Russian Ukha

As pointed out by culinary historian William Pohlebkin in his research, fish is added into an alreadyprepared vegetable broth. Only basic vegetables are used, usually potatoes, carrots, onions, and parsley root. Always add lots of spices, and the more fatty the fish is, the more spices you should put in your ukha. Fish is then added into a boiling salted broth. It is cooked only briefly: sea fish – up to 12 minutes, freshwater fish – up to 20 minutes, and fish of northern rivers – up to half an hour. Fish in ukha should not fall apart. Its meat should become juicy and soft, and the broth should acquire a light fish flavor.

Bon appetite! 


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