Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe #90: Fante-Fante (Fresh Fish Soup), Versions I and II

I always think of Fante-Fante as a red soup/sauce made only with very fresh fish. When I asked people in Ghana how to make this dish, which originated among the coastal Fanti people of the Western Region, I got multiple answers: one we prepared at Flair Catering, which was similar to a stew where some of the ingredients were first fried ; one I was told to do with similar ingredients as Flair's, but without frying them first (but "you never fry the fish"); finally, I was told it could be made it like a simple fish light soup without any palm oil. Some people said to grind the ingredients, others to grate them; some to add ground shrimp, others not to; some to steam the fish first separately in a little salted water and onion; some used ginger, but most did not; people often said to use seasoning cubes. It was somewhat confusing.

However, after sifting through all of the information, here are 2 versions. The first one, the one I made tonight, does not involve any frying; the second does.

Basic Fante Fante, Version I

  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of fresh fish (red snapper seems popular [that's what I used today], along with grouper, or cassava fish or even octopus [octopus requires some special treatment, so I'm not recommending it here.] Also, usually people use "white fleshy fish," but it is also apparently made with "dark fish," in which case one should use a "white" oil as opposed to the traditional red palm oil.)
  • an onion
  • fresh red chili pepper to taste (seeded and with membranes removed, if desired. I used a very hot habanero, and needed no dried ground red pepper.
  • 2 good-sized tomatoes, seeded, if desired (I always core the tomato, and remove the seeds over a strainer placed over a bowl so that I can add the juice.
  • 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste (or more or less, as desired, or substitute more fresh tomato)
  • 4 Tablespoons of good quality palm oil (spiced dzomi oil if available--ginger is one of the spices infused in dzomi)
  • salt to taste (or seasoned salt, or a little ginger and/or garlic and/or no salt seasoning)

  1. Scale (if necessary) and clean the fish, cut it into 4 pieces (or in halves if using 2 fish), and wash it with a little water with lemon squeezed in it.
  2. [Optional: put the fish in a saucepan with a little chopped onion and some salt, and a little water  and steam it for about 3 minutes. I omitted this step today.]
  3. Seed the tomatoes if desired, and puree the tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper  (fresh and some dried red pepper, too) and onion in a blender. I find that if I chop the onion, pepper, and tomato coarsely, put everything a bowl, and begin adding it a bit at a time to a blender container while pulsing, it's easiest. Eventually add the tomato paste.
  4. Add 3/4 cup of water to a soup pot (use part of the water you steamed the fish in, if you steamed it), add the fish pieces to the pot in a single layer, sprinkle them with salt, and pour the pureed ingredients over the fish, using another 1/4 cup of water to rinse out your blender container. Bring the water in the pot to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for four minutes.
  5. Add the 4 tablespoons of palm oil (Ghanaians would probably use twice that much) and shake the pan gently to mix everything without breaking the fish apart. Let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes and adjust seasonings. Continue cooking until the fish flakes easily.
Variation: Omit the palm oil.
Fante Fante goes well with Fante kenkey, banku, yam, rice, potatoes, etc.

Fante Fante Version II (Flair)
When we prepared this dish at Flair Catering, we used basically the same ingredients, but grated the onion and omitted the fresh tomatoes, increased the palm oil to 1/2 cup, and reduced the amount of water.

After washing the fish with the lemon water, we shook off the extra water and seasoned the fish with: 
  • a clove of garlic, 
  • 1 heaping teaspoon grated onion 
  • 1  teaspoon grated ginger 
  • half of a large shrimp-flavored seasoning cube (I would substitute some dried ground shrimp/crayfish) 
  • some fresh chili pepper (we used kpakpo shito)
While it marinated, we continued:
  1. Next we heated the palm oil in a frying pan (seasoning the oil first with a few slices of onion, and removing it before proceeding), then added 1/2 cup of well-packed grated onion, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and a little more fresh pepper, and cooked it together for about 5 minutes. 
  2. We added another teaspoon of grated ginger and the other half of the seasoning cube, and adjusted the seasoning, adding about 1/2 teaspoon salt and some dried red chili pepper.
  3. We placed the fish in a single layer in the pan, added 1/3 cup of water and shook the pan to stir it, adding a few more kpakpo shito and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. We covered the pan and simmered it until the fish cooked, about 15 minutes. We checked during the cooking to make sure the water had not evaporated.
 Let me hear from you. What version of Fante Fante do you use?


SugarHeart said...

Hi Fran, great post as usual. Basically as I remember, Fante -FANTE is traditionally only made with fresh fish and eaten with fante kenkey.
My mom taught me to do it with the tomato gravy made with palm oil. She never had me use tomato paste but im sure this was her preference. Also onions must be sliced in rings and not in half moons. The fish must be fresh and lightly preseasoned before added to the tomatoe sauce. She never had me fry the fish..I think pple do that so the fish doesnt break apart easily. The fresh cut pre seasoned fish is then gently simmered for a few minutes to allow it to cook. Then served with Fante kenkey.
Fresh ground red peppers only - makes it fragrant and spicy.
Freshly Ground ginger is added cos it takes helps reduce the pungency of the fresh fish.
=white pepper
- a dash of nutmeg - barely 1/8 tsp.
-sea salt..i remember my mom telling me not to use maggi cube for this stew but that was her preference.
I also remember a stew called 'mpatawa stew". This was made by layering tiny tialpia fish with freshly cut tomatoes, onion, palmoil and salt. This is slowly cooked. Its very very Fante as well. Hope this helps!

Jennifer said...

These both look like great versions of the soup! I have also found it funny how everyone cooks their soup differently. I like the method of seasoning and precooking used in the second method! I always add ginger, and to help with pureeing, I add the fresh tomatoes and peppers to the fish (or meat if making a different soup) while it steaming to soften them up! I will be making this tonight! -- Jennifer at Raisin Questions