This soup is called biche de pescado, also known viche de pescado, and is a typical soup of the province of Manabí, but is served all over the coastal region of Ecuador. It has been quite some time since I’ve had this delicious fish soup, it’s very thick, almost a stew, and the contrast of flavors is amazing: fish, yuca or cassava, sweet plantains, sweet corn, peanut, onions, garlic, spices, and cilantro.
Preparing this soup brought back so many memories, especially when I got to the point where I could start smelling the final result it (and even more as I tasted it). It’s one of those soups that is so good and comforting. If you’ve ever had it before you’ll remember the taste just by thinking of it or looking at a picture of it. If you never had it before, try it, you will not be disappointed, it will become one of your favorites.
Biche de pescado, or viche de pescado, is a traditional coastal Ecuadorian soup made with fish, peanuts, yuca, sweet plantains, corn, and other vegetables and spices.
- ½ - ¾ lb fish heads and bones, or use a small whole fish
- 8 cups + 2-4 cups water, adjust based on how thick you want the soup
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup peanuts, lightly toasted
- 2 tbs sunflower oil
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- Salt to taste
- 2 lbs white fish fillets (halibut, monkfish, ling cod, sea bass, etc), cut in medium sized pieces
- 2 tbs butter or oil
- 2 cups chopped red onion, about 1 whole onion
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bell pepper, diced, about 1 cup
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- ½ tbs ground cumin
- 1 tsp achiote or annatto powder
- 2 tbs plain peanut butter, unsweetened
- 1 ½ lb yuca or cassava, peeled and quartered, fresh or frozen
- 2 very ripe plantains (the ones that are starting to get black), sliced in about 10 rounds per plantains
- 2 corn ears, cut into 6-8 small rounds per ear of corn
- 2-3 finely chopped cilantro or parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lime slices and hot sauce
- Bring 8 cups of lightly salted water to boil, add the fish heads, bones and other pieces, boil for about 30 minutes or until the pieces begin to come apart, strain the broth.
- Heat the 2 tbs of oil over medium heat to prepare a quick refrito, add the onions, garlic, cumin and salt, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Blend the lightly toasted peanuts with the refrito, the milk, and 2 cups of the fish broth, blend until smooth.
- Strain the peanut, milk, refrito and broth mixture and mix with the remaining fish broth plus 2-4 cups of cold water.
- Heat the 2 tbs of oil over medium heat; add the chopped onions, garlic, pepper, achiote powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cook over low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the fish peanut broth and bring to a gentle boil.
- Add the corn, the yuca and the 2 tbs of peanut butter. Simmer for about 35-40 minutes or until the yuca is cooked.
- Add the plantain slices and the fish chunks, cook on low heat until the fish is cooked, about 8-10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve warm with lime slices.
There is something about soups in Ecuador, we take them very seriously, probably because we eat them almost every day, when I go to a restaurant in Ecuador it isn’t a questions of whether to have soup but which soup to have, but anywhere else (US, Europe) that I’ve been unless there’s a strong recommendation for the soup I usually don’t order soup, even at home I need to eat soup at least once a week.
Additional vegetables, such as squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, and other types of beans, are sometimes added to this fish soup. For a summer soup I prefer it a little bit lighter and am not adding more than the essential sweet plantains, yuca, and corn. Biche de pescado can also be made with shrimp (biche de camaron) instead of fish or a mixed version that includes shrimp and fish, they’re all very good. The soup is prepared using a quick homemade seafood broth, which is usually made with fish heads, unfortunately I arrived at the fish market at little bit early –and apparently the best time to find fish heads is after 3pm – so instead of making the broth with fish heads and bones, I bought a small ¾ lb trout, cut in a few pieces and used it to make the broth. You can also substitute with store bought seafood stock or just use plain water instead. Most of my dishes always have a few side dishes, but this is one of this really simple ones, lime or lemon slices are a must have, and hot sauce is optional, I like it with hot sauce, but my husband thought the soup was so good and the flavor was perfect that it didn’t need hot sauce, I took this a compliment since it came from a guy who doesn’t really like peanuts that much and is a huge hot sauce consumer.
Step by step preparation photos for Ecuadorian biche or viche fish soup: