Rob Kinneen’s Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Pho Soup

September 23, 2014

Rob Kinneen has been one of the chefs I have most enjoyed getting to know over the course of #5days5ways with Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon. His pledge to fresh food extends far beyond the marketing ploys of the booming “farm-to-table” scene in metro areas. Rob is a champion of Alaskan culture and cuisine, and his pride for the region feels kindred to my own admiration for the Finger Lakes’ culinary history and treasures. His recipe is a testament to his roots in Alaskan food, honoring the resourceful ways Indigenous families cooked to optimize nutrition and respect ingredients, such as cooking fish heads to leach calcium in “an otherwise dairy-free culture.” Nothing goes wasted when seasons are short, which resonates with the abbreviated harvests in Ithaca. Rob’s approach to food helps diners and home cooks discover how to eat “Alaska Grown” year-round, which he showcases at his restaurant Fresh 49 and through YouTube cooking videos like his Local Pork Chops, Over Root Veggie Hash with Red Eye Gravy and Spot Prawns (there’s coffee to stay awake when the sun barely shines). This recipe celebrates Rob’s adventurous spirit, and is for the home cook who wants to delve into a masterpiece that will raise your senses to euPHOria!

As a chef I get to travel all over Alaska and sometimes the country promoting local Alaska food. On occasion I will visit rural villages and do cooking demonstrations using Indigenous foods. I have made muktuk sushi in Barrow, porcupine-fried rice in Iliamna, stir fried duck in Bethel, seal posole in Stebbins and spot shrimp fresh rolls in Sitka.

I like to “educate with entertainment.” By talking of the nutritious benefits of eating indigenous foods, taking hold of those traditions, and making them work for you while engaging in your environment…it can be very powerful.
Emma Frisch Rob Kinneen’s Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Pho Soup Recipe
This Pho is based on a fish head soup. Traditionally the heads were cooked down long enough to leach calcium (in an otherwise dairy-free culture). By adding a seaweed or beach green, high in vitamins and minerals that help the omega 3’s and vitamin D absorb into your bloodstream, this is a great balancing act to compensate for the lack of sunlight in the winter in Alaska, as well as a great way to demonstrate the resilience and fortitude of Alaska’s Indigenous people.
Emma Frisch Rob Kinneen’s Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Pho Soup Recipe

Read more about this pioneering chef:
TEDX Anchorage
Anchorage Press
Today Show, Alaska
Alaska Home Magazine
Intelligent Traveler, National Geographic Blog
Native Iron Chef Cook-Off at the NMAI in DC


Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Pho Soup

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  • Broth: Part I
  • Vegetable oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Yellow onion – 1/2
  • Garlic cloves – 3, smashed
  • Fresh ginger – 5 slices
  • Salmon head – 1, gills removed and rinsed in cold water
  • Cinnamon stick – 1
  • Star anise – 1
  • Water or vegetable stock – 1 quart
  • Broth: Part II
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground star anise – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Hoisin sauce – 3 tablespoons
  • Sriracha (optional) – 1 tablespoon
  • Noodles & Vegetables
  • Rice vermicelli – 1 (8 ounce) container, bloomed in warm water
  • Yellow onion – 1/2, julienned
  • Carrot – 1, julienned
  • Zucchini – 1/2, julienned
  • Kale or chard – 1 cup, cut into 1/4 inch ribbons
  • Garnish
  • Fresh bean sprouts – 4 ounces
  • Fresh basil – 1 tablespoon, torn
  • Fresh cilantro – 1/4 cup, torn
  • Lime – 1, cut into eights
  • Roasted or smoked salmon (optional) – 3-ounce portion on top


  1. Broth:
  2. Sweat the onion, garlic, ginger in a pot over medium high heat.
  3. Add the salmon head (for best results, chop it in half, down the middle and add flesh side down).
  4. Add the liquid, bring to a boil and drop to a simmer for about 2 hours. Add more water if needed.
  5. To finish broth:
  6. Strain, reserve the heads.
  7. Add the spices and condiments to the broth, bring back to a simmer for 15 minutes, (should finish with 24 oz of broth).
  8. Reserve broth.
  9. Noodles & Vegetables:
  10. In a tea kettle warm water. Pour the water over a bowl of the rice noodles, and cover. The noodles will cook, and cool.
  11. The vegetables should be cut thin enough so that they cook when the hot broth is poured over them.
  12. Salmon (optional):
  13. Tamp salmon with a dry paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  14. Season with cinnamon, star anise(ground and kosher salt.
  15. In a saute pan over medium high heat add oil (1 tablespoon) and place flesh side down. Cook for approximately 1 minute, flip and finish to desired temperature.
  16. To assemble:
  17. In four bowls, divide the noodles.
  18. Top with the vegetables, herbs, and pieces of cooked(pan seared or from the fish head) or smoked salmon.
  19. Pour the broth over, about 6 oz per bowl.
  20. Finish with the garnish of lime wedge, bean sprouts.
  21. Enjoy.


  • Serving Size: 4

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