What Is Encebollado?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

Encebollado is a kind of fish soup. It is the national dish of Ecuador, where it originated. A fairly simple food to make, encebollado has only four primary ingredients: fish, tomatoes, onions and yuca. The soup is both pungent and spicy in flavor.

Salt is a common seasoning in encebollado.
Salt is a common seasoning in encebollado.

The base of encebollado is a mix of tomatoes and onions, and the Spanish word encebollado is roughly translated as "onion fish soup." This mix, known as sofrito, also calls for spices common to the Ecuadorian region, such as cumin, chili and cilantro. Salt also is included. In some versions, the cook also adds some fresh chili peppers.

Encebollado is often garnished with tomato and pickled onions.
Encebollado is often garnished with tomato and pickled onions.

Albacora, or tuna, is the traditional encebollado fish. One reason for this is that tuna is so plentiful in the waters near Ecuador. With tuna, a common fish, as the primary protein, encebollado is a relatively inexpensive soup.

In addition to the sofrito and tuna, encebollado recipes include yuca. Yuca is a root vegetable found in much of South America. A highly coarse and fibrous plant, yuca provides the starch for the soup and is a major source of carbohydrates.

To make this simple fish soup, one first prepares the base. This requires frying the tomatoes, onions and spices in some oil. Only medium heat is required during this step.

After the base is finished, the cook adds water to it and boils the tuna for about 15 minutes until it is cooked all the way through. He or she than adds the cilantro to the resultant fish broth during this process. Then the tuna is taken out and drained, and the yuca is boiled in the fish broth until the roots are tender but firm. After the yuca roots are cooked, they are removed from the broth so that their coarse strings can be removed and the roots chopped. Adding the yuca and tuna back to the broth with some salt completes the main part of the fish soup.

People usually top encebollado with pickled onions and tomato. Salsa sometimes is used in addition to or in place of these toppings. Another option is topping the soup with some additional chili pepper slices. Some cooks like to sprinkle the dish with a little lemon juice, as well, and lime slices sometimes are served on the side.

Encebollado is believed to work well as a home remedy for hangovers. Its effectiveness might come from the fact fish oil helps get rid of the free radicals that result from the breakdown of alcohol in the body. Restaurant owners in Ecuador often sell the soup in the morning for this reason, although it is versatile enough to work for lunch and dinner, too.

Encebollado is also sometimes used as a home remedy for hangovers.
Encebollado is also sometimes used as a home remedy for hangovers.

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