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Coconut Fish Stew With Ginger and Greens

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Swimming in gentle coconut flavor.

This is a lovely, Asian-inspired recipe for coconut fish stew. A simple coconut milk broth combines with chunky white fish, bok choy, and toppings for a simple, all-seasons dinner. 

finished bowls of coconut milk poached fish in bowl with bok choy and lime

Introducing This Easy Coconut Fish Stew Recipe

After about the millionth time I threw some cod filets in the oven and broiled them the same (albeit tasty) way I always do for dinner, with lemon, butter, and dill, I needed a new move. Fish is one of the healthiest and sustainable proteins out there — provided that you buy the right fish.

This recipe for coconut milk fish stew, adapted from Colu Henry, made our night. It is a simple, elegant meal with gentle but amazing flavor.

coconut milk fish ingredients code scallions, lime, garlic, coconut milk

Which Fish Is Best for This Recipe?

Choosing the right fish for this recipe starts with sustainability. I recommend that everyone print and keep handy this fold-up seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which tells you which fish are the best, ok, and worst choices both for safety and sustainability.

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, sustainable fish include: 

  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Bass (US farmed)
  • Catfish (US)
  • Cod: US, Atlantic
  • Rockfish (AK, CA, OR & WA)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (AK)
  • Salmon: New Zealand, Atlantic (BC & ME farmed) (CA, OR & WA)
  • Scallops (farmed)
  • Shrimp (US farmed)
  • Tilapia (Canada, Ecuador, Peru & US)
  • Trout (US farmed)
  • Tuna: Albacore (trolls, pole and lines)
  • Tuna: Skipjack (Pacific trolls, pole and lines)

Worst choices:

  • Bass: Striped (US gillnet, pound net)
  • Cod: Atlantic (gillnet, longline, trawl)
  • Cod: Pacific (Japan & Russia)
  • Crab (Argentina, Asia & Russia)
  • Halibut: Atlantic (wild)
  • Mahi Mahi (imported)
  • Salmon (Canada Atlantic, Chile, Norway & Scotland)
  • Shark
  • Swordfish (imported longline)
  • Tilapia (China)
  • Tuna: Albacore (imported, except trolls, pole and lines)
  • Tuna: Atlantic Bluefin (imported longlines), Pacific & Southern Bluefin, Skipjack (imported purse seines), Yellowfin (imported longlines except US)

It’s all a little hard to navigate, but for our purposes, the point is that U.S. and Atlantic cod is sustainable, and the way to go here. So let’s talk more about this effortless, gorgeous recipe fish soup recipe.

finished bowls of coconut milk poached fish in bowl with bok choy and lime

Coconut Fish Stew: Recipe Notes

This recipe is closely adapted from the wonderful Colu Henry’s coconut-poached fish recipe for the New York Times. Her recipe errs on the mild side, so I tweaked the seasoning a bit. This can be made mild or spicy by simply adding or eliminating the hot Thai bird chili pepper. I love bird chilis, which give a real warmth without tasting harsh or making steam come out of your ears.

How to poach — and not poach — fish:

  • Do keep the coconut milk at a gentle simmer. This allows the fish to remain tender, and gives enough time for the fish, shallot, garlic, and other ingredients to permeate the coconut milk, and vice versa.
  • Do not boil the coconut milk. This will toughen the fish and cook it before the flavors can come together.

Bok choy is the preferred vegetable here. But I could also see Napa cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, or Chinese broccoli working well as a substitute.

finished bowls of coconut milk poached fish in bowl with bok choy and lime

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finished bowls of coconut milk poached fish in bowl with bok choy and lime

Coconut Fish Stew With Ginger and Greens

A lovely, effortless fish stew recipe for cod poached in coconut milk with fragrant ginger, garlic, and shallot.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American, Asian, Thai
Keywords:: bok choy, coconut milk, cod, dinner, easy, fish, poached
Servings: 4 people
Print

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces fresh cod filets
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Thai bird chili, peeled and sliced into very thin rounds (optional)
  • 2 13-ounce cans coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 7 ounces bok choy, bottoms removed and chopped into large pieces
  • 1/4 cup roughly-chopped cilantro
  • 2 scallions, green and light green parts, sliced thin
  • 2 limes, 1 for juice and one for wedges to serve
  • kosher salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Season the fish with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. Set aside.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat with the oil. Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper (if using). Cook, stirring, until the shallot is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in the coconut milk, juice of 1 lime, fish sauce, brown sugar or coconut sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and add the fish. Turn the heat to low and cover. Poach the fish at a low simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Do not boil or the fish will be tough.
    PRO TIP: You will know the fish is cooked when it has turned very white and flaky.
  • Remove the fish with a slotted spoon or spatula and divide it into the bowls.
  • Add the bok choy to the coconut milk liquid and raise the heat to medium-low. Cook until just tender but not mushy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Taste the broth for seasoning.
  • Divide the bok choy and broth among the bowls. Top with scallions, cilantro, and a couple of lime wedges. Serve hot.

11 comments

  • One of those afternoons when it is raining, cool and damp. Hit the freezer for fish, had bok choy, coconut milk, etc and tried your recipe. SO GOOD. Thanks. Added forbidden rice for a full meal.

    • Unpeeled

      Fantastic! So glad you enjoyed this, and I LOVE the idea of using forbidden rice. The color and texture cannot be beat.

  • Melanie

    4 stars
    Really enjoyed this, great way to enjoy several fillets after a successful fishing trip.

    • Unpeeled

      Yea! Wow–I feel like you took the recipe to the next level by catching your own fish! Congrats on the haul, and thanks for writing.

  • 5 stars
    This was amazing and vibrant! I made a few modifications – I was only cooking for two, so I halved the fish, coconut milk, fish sauce, and scallion, but kept everything else as written to turn up the volume on all those delicious flavors. My store didn’t have a Thai bird chili, so we went with Serrano. I microwaved Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice medley and served that under the fish and sauce. This was easy and delicious – a definite keeper! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes.

    • Unpeeled

      Yea!!! So glad you enjoyed, Wendy! Savvy modifications 🙂 And I have to try this TJ’s rice medley! I love Trader Joe’s. Thanks again for this lovely review and comment.

  • Made this tonight and my family loved it! I used the Thai bird chili and it was spicy, flavourful and absolutely delicious!

  • 5 stars
    A good fish soup/stew.

  • P. Long

    5 stars
    I loved it. I thought it was different and a really nice way to cook fish. I made it a little spicy and thought everything was great. A refreshing and nice change from all of the heavier fall comfort food!

  • Georgiana

    4 stars
    This really is a nice recipe. I did not use the Thai chilis because my partner doesn’t like spicy food, so that may be why it tasted very mild. This is a nice dinner but mild flavor if you don’t use the spice. Still, it looked really nice and we ate it all! I wonder if if would be good with poached chicken as well? Thanks!

4.45 from 9 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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