Zanzibari Fish Soup

September 19, 2016
0 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe is based on a soup of like name served to me at a lovely outdoor restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya in August, 2016. I amended it to add shrimp and mussels, for more texture and flavor, but the soup can be prepared with a just a firm white fish as well. Simply adjust the cooking time as appropriate. The flavors are subtle and rich. —David Prescott

What You'll Need
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and diced
  • 10-12 fresh cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 spring onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • small red pepper, finely diced
  • zest of one lime and thin slices for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups fish or shrimp stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 15 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 pound firm white fish (cod, tilapia, or similar) cut into 3/4" dice
  • 10-12 mussels
  • 1/4 pound shrimp, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of saffron (optional)
  • cayenne pepper for spicier flavor (optional)
  1. In large saucepan, saute shallots, ginger and red pepper in a tablespoon, more or less, of hot mixed oil until soft. Do not brown.
  2. Add fish stock, white wine, coconut milk, cilantro, bay leaf and lime zest. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes to blend flavors.
  3. Add fish pieces and simmer 2-3 minutes more, covered. Fish should be not quite cooked through.
  4. Add shrimp and simmer 2 minutes more, covered. Do not over cook shrimp.
  5. Add mussels and simmer, uncovered, until they are open, 2-3 minutes. Fish and shrimp should be cooked through by this time. If not, simmer until fish and shrimp are just done, but do not overcook.
  6. If using saffron, stir in a few threads, crushed between your fingers. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. If using cayenne, stir in desired amount to spice soup to your liking.
  8. Serve immediately, alone or over basmati rice, garnished with 1 or 2 thin slices of lime. A mixed green side salad with balsamic dressing will go well, too.

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1 Review

punama July 3, 2022
Thank you so much for this recipe. The restaurant in Nairobi is called the Talisman and it is one of their signature dishes. It must be one of my favourite soups in the world and i'm so excited to find this recipe. I swapped out spring onions with leeks for a sweeter flavour and used prawn heads and shells to intensify the seafood flavour in the soup (but removed them before blending). Overall your recipe was just perfect and has become a staple in our household to make for special ocassions.