Did you know the secret ingredient to an HK-styled Russian Borscht is Worcestershire sauce (and some lemon juice)?
Falling off the bone oxtail?
Soft delicious veggies?
Savory and a hint of tart delicious broth?
Yes, the Hong Kong Styled Russian Borscht is a classically adopted fusion soup that is very different and uniquely different to the traditional European borscht (no beetroots or cream). Instead, it’s a tomato based beef broth and a range of choice vegetables diced small.
I love the subtle tart flavours of the soup, but yet incredibly savory and hearty. This soup indeed eats like a meal!
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 120 minutes
Total time: 150 mins
Serves: 8 bowls
1 full oxtail
Optional pieces of beef flank
3 potatoes, peeled and largely cubed
2 carrots, peeled and largely cubed
2 celery stalks, peeled and largely cubed2 tomatoes, quartered
1 onion, halved
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 head of cabbage, slicked thin
3 dried dates
Fresh green onions
1 small can of tomato paste
5 dried bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons or Worcestershire sauce
11-12 cups of water
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
In your soup pot, with a bit of oil on med heat, pan fry the garlic cloves and oxtails until golden brown and fragrant (they smell so good!). I don’t blanch and will do this instead.
Add the cubed beef flanks and potatoes, allowing them to also brown nicely
Add in your soup water, about 11-12 cups of water and turn on high heat
I will then drop in my vegetables, tomatoes, celery, onion, carrots, and the dried dates
Cover and let it come to a full boil, then reduce to med heat for another 1.5 hours
Here you can now add in the flavouring of the soup (this is what really makes it distinct as a the HK-styled Russian Borscht)
I will also throw in the cabbage
Cover and let that simmer for another 30 minutes
Garnish with fresh green onions, serve, and enjoy!
One of my favourite soups of all time is the Vietnamese beef broth that is made for pho noodles, or specifically, Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup. I first truly learned it while travelling to Vietnam and took a cooking course given by locals, and my life has never been the same! After learning the original base, you can pretty much tweak it as you like. The good thing is that I live in Asia, and all the ingredients are readily available. The challenge is that to make a good beef soup base, you need to boil it for quite some time – we’re looking at a solid 3 hours or more (like all broths). Even if you can’t find all the ingredients, no worries – just improvise!
Soup Name: Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup
Traditional Chinese Name: 越南牛肉河粉 (Yuè nán niú ròu hé fěn)
If you want to skip my running commentary, just go to the bottom for the full, quick-read recipe.
First, you need FRESH ingredients. I’m talking about fresh beef bones, fresh vegetables, and fresh beef slices. For this round, I used beef ribs. They are giant bones, so you’ll need a giant pot! I use a thermal pot to save electricity and it does the boiling for me so I can go out! The recipe usually calls for fresh beef knuckles or leg bones (with plenty of marrow goodness) – but these tend to be more fatty in nature, so just be sure to skim off the oil (and scum) when it surfaces.
Fresh Beef Bones
Start by blanching all the bones in a separate pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. This will remove impurities, scum and oil off the bones in preparation for your soup.
You can also begin to char the fresh ginger and fresh onions – usually done with an oven or on an open flame. This will bring out the wonderfully natural flavours of these ingredients. I can already smell the onions as they broil in the oven and I’m not even on to making the soup yet!
Fresh ginger and onions for Vietnamese Pho
Charred fresh ginger and onions
Next are the spices. In Asian supermarkets, you can usually buy them pre-packaged as a bundle, but if not, you’ll need a handle of each for the flavouring. Pick up some star anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, fennel, and coriander. You’ll also need a soup mesh bag to keep all the spices together because at some point, you’ll need to remove them and it’s way easier this way!
Soup mesh bag with spices for Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup
For the soup base, you’ll also need fish sauce, salt, and rock sugar. In the meantime, just throw in the blanched beef bones, charred ginger and onions, spices, salt, fish sauce and rock sugar into a large pot of boiling water and boil uncovered for at least 2 – 2.5 hours.
Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup base
I was taught that at around this point, you should remove all the floating ingredients of the broth and taste test the soup for saltiness or flavour. You can adjust the taste by adding either more fish sauce, more salt or more sugar depending on what fits your taste. Do this in small amounts so that you never go overboard because it’s pretty darn hard to remove dissolved salt – or at least correct without adding more water, which will then dilute the beef stock. I personally don’t even take out the ingredients and taste it like that and serve. Whatever tickles your fancy as a chef.
Also start to soak your dried Vietnamese pho noodles. Soak in a large pot of cool water for at least 15 minutes – or whatever the instructions of the noodles are. You can even use Thai noodles, Chinese rice noodles, or whatever noodles you like. Actually, it doesn’t really matter because you’re eating it!
At this point, I lay out the bowls – layering first the bottom with thinly sliced fresh white onion rings and bean sprouts. Or you can leave it up to your guest to lay their own, kind of like a buffet.
Fresh onions and bean sprouts ready for Vietnamese Pho
Put in noodles to the bowl, as much as you’ll eat. I then blanch the fresh beef slices quickly in the broth and lay them on top as well and then ladle out that heavenly soup goodness so that it covers the beef completely. Be sure the soup is still boiling at this time. Top with fresh mint, cilantro, parsley, basil, more bean sprouts, chilli peppers and lime to finish it off. And ta-da! Yummy Vietnamese Pho, made from scratch!
Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup
Recipe Type: Vietnamese Pho
4-5 pieces of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/fresh-beef-bones/”]fresh beef bones[/url]
In soups, beef bones are primarily used to make beef stock
Not a common ingredient used in Chinese soups at all – in fact, beef is not a common ingredient for “old fire” soups traditionally compared to pork – if you consider it from a historical perspective, having a cow back in those days meant you were wealthy
Bones are rich in nutrients (calcium & magnesium), collagen, easy to digest and rich in flavour
Shown in the picture are the ribs of the cow – I used this for my pho base because it’s relatively low in fat, but you can consider using cow knuckle and leg bones as well
The amount of fat on the bones will vary depending on which part. The ox-tail (of beef tail) is often a fatty part of the cow, but the most commonly purchased bone part from the vendor! He usually has the tail on reserve already for clients.
How do I prepare it?
Make sure the pieces you buy can fit into your pot (that’s probably the first most important thing!)
Blanch the bones in boiling water for at least 5 minutes to boil out the impurities and fat – this will produce a brown film of “gunk” which you should just throw out
Where can I buy this?
Most Asian wet marts will carry beef bones at the beef vendor
Supermarkets may also carry beef bones, which are already cut up into manageable pieces for you to take home
What is the cost?
The cost will vary depending on supply, but in Hong Kong, 3 bones (as pictured above) cost me $30 HKD
Bones (any animal) are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and silicon
The broth created from bones are easy to digest, are high in amino acids, collagen and gelatin
Bones broth is actually known to help fight colds and viruses because of these amino acids that help boost immune system and heal disorders like allergies, asthma and arthritis
Nothing beats real stock with real bones – store bought stock (which are primarily enhanced with flavour enhancers) has nothing over real stock
Be careful of an over fatty cut of the bone – knuckles, ox-tail, or any other cuts that come with fat should be either cut off or boiled off and then removed from the soup
Consider purchasing animal products that you know are pasture-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones
Be sure to remove any scum that boils from the soup or blanching process
Traditional Chinese Name: 泡菜豆腐牛肉湯 (pàocài dòu fu niú ròu tāng)
This is a Korean dish that I love eating. I say eat because of the volume of ingredients, it turns into a stew that packs a bunch (in terms of spiciness) and nutrients. The ingredients are readily available and it’s not your traditional old fire soups because you can make this in about half an hour. And of course, it’s flexible in that you can add your favorite ingredients to make it more wholesome. My husband and I literally had this for dinner (only), the kids of course, couldn’t take the spiciness, so they didn’t have any. You can serve this with rice, rice noodles, noodles or add any other starches to really make it filling.
It is not common to use beef slices in Chinese soups, but you will find ox tails and other parts sometimes. I bought this beef from the wet part and truly, the softest and tenderest part has to come with fat. It is unavoidable. Depending on how you make it, you can eliminate the fat in soups through a fat scooper. This type of beef cut is probably best used for quick boil soups (as old fire soups) will just beat the living daylights out of the meat.
What is this?
Fresh beef slices from the loin portion of the cow
This muscle does the least amount of work (in the cow’s body) and therefore is normally the most tender
This type of meat is often used in tartares, whole steak or sliced
It is one of the more expensive parts of the cow for consumption
How do I prepare it?
To prepare, wash first before cooking or marinating
You may need to cut up into pieces if you’ve purchased it by the pound
Where can I buy this?
You can buy this in any supermarket
In Asian supermarkets, you can purchase them by the weight and cut
What is the cost?
1 bitter melon about 30cm in length cost around $5-6 HKD
Lean beef is an important source of 12 essential nutrients including high quality protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins
Be sure to remove excess fat
Many believe that organic beef is best as there are no growth hormones and antibiotics, which can potentially make you sick if there is over consumption of beef
Depending on the soup, pork or even chicken meat is substitutable