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What Is Ukha?

By A. Gamm
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ukha is a traditional fish soup that may have originated as early as the 12th century in Russia. During this time, the term was not used exclusively for fish soup. Instead, many other ingredients were sometimes used. It was not until centuries later that the word became associated with a fish broth. As of the 19th century, ukha is traditionally made with at least three different types of fresh water fish and a sparing amount of vegetables and seasoning.

During the 12th century, the soup was made with a variety of ingredients. It was not unusual to see ukha ingredients include mushrooms, meatballs or cereals. Indeed at this time, ukha was used more as a general term for soup. Even during the 16th and 17th centuries, an assortment of ukha was often served in royal courts between savory pie courses. It was also around this time period that Russian fisherman started making the traditional fish soup.

As of 2011, it is unknown when fishermen began to make the fish-based ukha, but many speculate that it was approximately around the 16th and 17th centuries. At this time, the Russian soup was more of a fish broth created with a variety of the fresh water fish caught that day. Typically, the fishermen made this broth as their lunch while docked, which meant the luxury of preparing a full soup was not always an option. Instead, they took a selection of fish to gut and boil down. It was the different types of fish that lent the unique and rich taste of the ukha.

It did not take more than a few years before the fish broth became more complex. Many people began to make it and keep in pieces of the poached fish as well as add vegetables and different types of seasoning. Still, it was not until the French in the 19th century begin recreating ukha that is became known as a fish soup with additional ingredients.

By 2011, ukha ingredients have become generalized, and in fact the only ingredient that remains somewhat constant is that three different types of fresh water fish must be used. The best fish to use is freshly caught fish, as older fish typically clouds the soup. Russians also normally believe that bonier fish create a sweeter broth. Popular additions to the soup include potato, carrot, onion, garlic, noodles, dumplings, dill and parsley root.

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