Coconut milk fish soup (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Coconut milk fish soup (Photo/Faith Kramer)

A good-luck fish soup for the Jewish leap year

Celebrate the current month of Adar I and the coming of Adar II on March 4 — as we are in 5782, a Jewish leap year — with this mellow fish soup with Southeast Asian flavors made from easily accessible ingredients, such as cilantro and coconut milk.

This year is one of seven in every 19-year cycle that an extra Adar gets added to the Hebrew calendar. Adar is considered the most joyous month on the calendar, full of good luck and good fortune. In a leap year, this extends to both Adar 1 and Adar 2 (as the double months are known).

Fish, harbingers of good luck, are the symbol of Adar, according to Kabbalah tradition.

This golden bowl of soup, with fish and rice noodles, certainly brought joy to my dinner table. The coconut milk broth tames the spice paste’s heat, making a parve, creamy bowl of goodness. Seed the jalapeños for an even milder dish.

Coconut Milk Fish Soup

Serves 8 as main course

  • 1 bunch (2 oz.) cilantro with stems, divided
  • ½ cup chopped jalapeños (¼-inch pieces), divided
  • 1½ cups chopped red onion (¼-inch pieces), divided
  • 3 Tbs. grated lime zest, divided
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¼ plus ½ tsp. salt plus more if desired
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice, divided, plus more if desired
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable or coconut oil
  • 8 cups purchased or homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 cup carrot rounds (cut ¼-inch thick)
  • 2 cups green beans (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 cups red bell pepper (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake, cremini or button mushrooms (cut into ¼-inch slices)
  • 4 cups green cabbage (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (cut in ½ inch chunks), divided
  • 2 (13½ or 14 oz.) cans regular or low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 lbs. thick cod, halibut or similar white fish fillets, cut into 1½- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. package rice stick noodles (¼-inch thick) or fettuccine, cooked
  • Lime wedges

Make the spice paste: Trim ends off cilantro stems and cut your bunch just below the leaves. Chop up the stems. If less than ½ cup, use chopped leaves to make up the difference. Chop the remainder of the cilantro leaves. Reserve for use later in recipe.

Place chopped stems in blender jar. Add ¼ cup jalapeños, 2 Tbs. red onions, 1 Tbs. lime zest, ginger, garlic, turmeric, ¼ tsp. salt and 2 Tbs. lime juice. Blend on high until it forms a fairly smooth paste, stopping motor and stirring down from sides as necessary. (If needed, add 1 Tbs. water.)

Make the soup: In a 6-quart or larger pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in spice paste, stirring until combined with oil (do not brown), about 1 minute.

Stir in broth. Raise heat to medium-high. Cover and bring to simmer. Add carrots. Cover pot and lower heat to keep at simmer. Simmer until carrots begin to soften. Add green beans, red bell peppers and mushrooms. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir in cabbage. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are just tender. Stir in 2 cups tomatoes and both cans of coconut milk. Cover and return to a simmer. Stir in sugar, ½ tsp. salt, 1 cup red onions, 2 Tbs. jalapeños (optional), and ½ cup cilantro. Gently stir in fish. Simmer (be careful not to boil) until fish is cooked through (about 5 minutes, but timing will vary greatly). Stir in remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice. Taste. Add salt and/or lime juice if needed.

To serve: Rewarm noodles in boiling water, if necessary. Place noodles in large, individual soup bowls. Ladle hot soup on top. Garnish with remaining jalapeños (optional), red onions, lime zest and tomatoes. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the remaining chopped cilantro leaves on each bowl. Serve with lime wedges.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].