Smoked Fish Solyanka, a much loved Russian Smoked Fish Soup, is a semi hearty soup, with a full on sour, smoky and a touch hot, flavour.
This is a reader requested recipe and one that I’ve been making from memory for about 20 years now. The recipe was learnt at the hands of Lidiya, a friend’s mum, sometime in the mid 90s. She is also the one who taught me to make Salmon Coulibiac, that glorious Russian Fish Pie of salmon, rice and boiled eggs, encased in puff pastry.
What is Solyanka?
Solyanka or Soljanka refers to soups that are made with salted cucumbers, that, along with the capers, give these soups their characteristic sour flavour. The heat comes from the peppercorns that we drop into the soup. As you are eating it, every so often you’ll bite into one for a wonderful burst of peppery, fruity hit.
Solyanka comes in different forms; besides today’s Smoked Fish Solyanka, there is Meat Solyanka and Vegetable Solyanka, which is mushroom based. The word solyanka means “salty” in Russian, from the word salt (соль).
And no, I didn’t just copy that, I do also speak a little Russian, just enough to make sure I don’t ever get lost when in Russia and can find the loo! It’s one of those languages that I’d always wanted to learn, ever since I read War and Peace in my late teens.
So one day, I got myself the Michel Thomas Russian language app, and was amazed at how, contrary to popular belief, the spoken language isn’t at all difficult to learn. It was purely coincidental that I ended up with a few Russian friends when I was living in London in the 90s. Sadly though, these days, it’s only my beauty therapist that I get to practise the language with!
But back to the recipe! I make this soup pretty much the way I learnt it. The only thing I have done is to increase the sour factor by adding some white wine vinegar right at the end, along with the lemon juice.
This is a pretty healthy soup too, with not much added fat, especially if you don’t have it with any additional smetana/crème frâiche. And you know all that fish and those vegetables are good for you!
Once the cold weather comes around, it features quite frequently on our dinner table, despite the fact that my oldest hates fish (he gets a piece of grilled chicken!) It’s a straightforward soup, and made in just about 30 minutes, even more reason to make it frequently. Any leftover is kept in the fridge, and heated up gently for lunch the next day.
Fish Solyanka Ingredients
Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients in our Russian Smoked Fish Soup.
Some people make this with just regular fish, some add a little smoked fish to the soup. I love using a variety of fish: salmon, some white fish and a little smoked fish for a hint of smokiness.
Salted cucumbers are a very common ingredient and snack item in Central and Eastern Europe. They are not the same as pickled, as they are only preserved in salt water, not vinegar. You should be able to find these easily if you live in, or are near to, a big town. Supermarkets ought to stack them. As always, Amazon is bound to stock them too.
Failing that, you can use gherkins or cornichons as substitutes. Of course, if you are up to it, you can always make your own. We always have some homemade in autumn and early winter from our mini cucumber harvest. Sorry, but it’s one of those tutorials, that despite its simplicity, I’ve not got around to posting! Soon, soon!
This is just soured cream that is widely used in Central and Eastern Europe. So you can just use crème frâiche or even soured cream, if you like, although the latter is just a little stronger than real smetana.
Well that’s it, let’s take a look at some pre photos before we get cooking!
And if you love your soups, check out the Soups and Stews page for recipes like:
Have a superb weekend everyone, are you a fan of Russian food?
Smoked Fish Solyanka is a much loved Russian Smoked Fish Soup, with bold, sour flavours guaranteed to warm and fill you up!
- 2 medium onions
- 1 large carrot
- 150g (5 1/3 oz) salted cucumbers (about 6 mini ones)
- 250g (8 4/5oz) fresh salmon
- 150g (5 1/3oz) firm white fish like haddock, cod
- 100g (3.5oz) smoked white fish (I used smoked haddock
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp tomato purée
- 750ml (3 cups) good quality fish stock
- 12 black olives
- 12 green olives
- 1 Tbsp capers
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- smetana or crème frâiche, as needed
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 sprigs dill, finely chopped
- 4 slices of lemon
- Chop the onions, carrots and salted cucumbers into 1cm (about 1/2″) squares, keeping the cucumber separate.
- Chop all the fish into bitesize pieces, about 2.5cm (1″).
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and carrots for 5 minutes.
- Add the salted cucumbers, bay leaf, black peppercorns and tomato purée, stir, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat right down and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the fish, olives and capers and cook for about 3 minutes, until the fish is cooked.
- Add the lemon juice and white wine vinegar, stir and taste the seasoning. It shouldn’t need any salt but if you think it does, add a pinch, or as needed. Turn the heat off.
- Take 1 tablespoon of smetana or crème frâiche, lighten with a little bit of the soup in the ladle or in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly, then pour back into the soup in the saucepan, and mix, VERY GENTLY, as we don’t want to break the fish up. Finish off with some freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve with the chopped dill and a spoonful of smetana or crème frâiche, with some fresh bread.
The serving size indicates 4 as a main course, or 8 if you are serving it as a starter.
- Category: Main Course or Starter
- Cuisine: Russian
- Serving Size: 4-8