Zarzuela de Mariscos (Seafood Soup or Sopa de Mariscos)

December 9, 2020
Zarzuela de Mariscos

When I went back to the land of my birth, Barcelona, Spain, I was already nineteen.  An old friend of my mother Pilar Santos, took us out to a seafood restaurant claiming that they served a very good Sopa de Mariscos. The dish was truly delicious but it lacked something to my somewhat Asian palate. I then told my Mom that when we go back home to Manila, we should add rice to the soup; then it will be perfect!

Our family ever since has been well known to serve the best Zarzuela de Mariscos in town. Whenever I visit my family in Manila, usually for my father’s birthday, I am requested to cook and serve this savoury dish for the party. It usually is two days’ labor since I have to cook it for 100 guests.

This dish is usually served for very special occasions since it takes a lot of preparation but it sure is worth every morsel.

Zarzuela de Mariscos (Seafood Soup or Sopa de Mariscos)

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By Marianne de Leon Serves: 12
Prep Time: 1 hour Cooking Time: 3 hours Total Time: 4 hours

A special ocassion seafood soup with Spanish origins. It's rich with prawns, calamari, clams, scallops, and crab with my own twist - rice!


  • 1 kilogram medium sized prawns - peeled, leave head on, deveined
  • 500 grams squid medium size - remove head and tentacles, remove skin of main body, and cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 500 grams scallops - removed from shell and cleaned
  • 1 kilogram mud crabs - steam and peel; set aside
  • 1 kilogram Manila clams - cook in 2 cups water till open and remove from heat, reserve juice, remove clams from shell; set aside
  • 3 pieces chorizo Bilbao in can - slice into 1/2-inch rounds or 2 Spanish chorizo sliced the same way
  • 50 grams bacon - sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup Japanese rice - rinse, soak in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes and half cook in low fire (about 15 minutes); using chop sticks or long fork, fluff the rice (make sure the rice is not in clumps) and set aside
  • 1/4 cup sliced red pimento
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomato
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons mirin - Japanese cooking wine or cooking sake
  • 2 teaspoons tabasco sauce (Habanero)
  • 6 cups chicken broth (can use chicken cubes 2 in water)
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG - optional
  • 2 tablespoons grated Edam cheese
  • salt - start with 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



Before the main soup, there are lots of things to be done, one at a time.


In a medium sized frying pan, over medium fire, warm pan and place 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the pan has reached 180ºC, sear about 4 to 5 prawns at a time, 30 seconds on each side; then set aside. Continue doing this until all the prawns have been seared. Adding olive oil as needed when searing.


Using the same pan, do the same with the squids but about 15 seconds. Set aside.


Using the same pan, sear the scallops also and set aside.


Prepare a large cooking pot or large wok (14 cup capacity) and place over medium-low flame.


When the pot is warm, pour in the olive oil and butter.


When the butter has melted, add the crushed garlic and saffron threads and sauté till the garlic is a light golden tan.


Add the onions and continue sautéing and stirring till the onions are translucent.


Add in the bacon and cook for 1 minute.


Turn fire to low then pour in the tomato paste and tomato sauce. Simmer and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes.


Pour in broth and clam juice and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.


Add in chorizo slices and roasted pimento and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.


Taste the broth and season with salt, pepper, Mirin, MSG (if desired), and tabasco sauce.


Set aside till you are ready to serve.


When you are ready to serve, add the half cooked rice and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.


Bring the flame to medium fire and add the prawns, crab meat, scallops, calamari or squid and stir, gently, continuously for about 5 to 10 minutes.


Taste the soup and adjust taste.


Serve hot.


Zarzuela de Mariscos goes very well with garlic bread and Caesar Salad.

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