This hearty fish soup was originally prepared by fishermen along the banks of the Danube and Tisza Rivers, but has since become one of the most popular Christmas Eve dishes in Hungary.






Skill level

Average: 3.5 (175 votes)

A number of versions exist, some are served over pasta, others include cream, but all are made using freshwater fish such as carp, perch or pike. Fried fish are also served at the festive dinner, along with warm potato salad. To complete the feast, beloved Hungarian desserts are offered, such as beigli (walnut and poppyseed roll), kifli (crescent-shaped yeast roll), and chocolate-coated fondant candies called szaloncukor, which are hung on the Christmas tree and used to decorate yuletide gifts.


  • 2 x 800 g whole perch, filleted, bones and heads reserved (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
  • sour cream, flat-leaf parsley and crusty white bread, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Drink 2011 Salomon Sal’mon Groovey Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria ($22)

Cut fish into 3 cm pieces and refrigerate. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low heat, add fish heads and bones and cook, turning once, for 2 minutes. Add 3 litres cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve lined with muslin, discarding solids.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and capsicum, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 5 minutes. Add paprika and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant, then return strained stock to the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add fish pieces and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked. Season again.

Divide soup between serving bowls and top with sour cream and parsley. Serve with bread.


Photography by Chris Chen


As seen in Feast magazine, Dec/Jan 2013, Issue 27. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.