4 articles Articles posted in soup

pumpkin soup with salted pork

There’s a certain section of all the grocery stores here in Grenada that has a particularly pungent smell. If you follow the scent, it’ll lead you to a back corner where you’ll find an assortment of salted meats – salted fish, salted pig snouts, and different varieties of salted pork. My sister and I have always had a love and fascination for cured meats, whether it’s prosciutto from Italy, nem from Vietnam, or iberico from Spain. So when I stumbled upon some salted pork in Grenada, I knew I had to try it.

Granted, it definitely didn’t look like the kind you’d snack on with a glass of wine or with some cheese. But I was certain that it’d impart some yummy flavors to any dish that it was part of. So I threw a pack of salted pork riblets into my cart and continued on to the produce aisle. As I continued my shopping, a store clerk started chatting with me and asked me what I was making with my salted pork. I confessed, I didn’t yet know. He suggested a pumpkin soup and proceeded to give me step by step instructions on how to prepare the pork, which was confirmed by an elderly lady passing by — who, I might add, preceded her comments with “Let me tell you how to make it. I am a woman.” :)

So I came home with the pumpkin and salted pork in hand and looked through a few more recipes online. I ended up combining their suggestions with a recipe that I adapted from Hank Shaw’s recipe here. The key differences include the use of pumpkin rather than butternut squash, and substituting salt pork for bacon.

Pumpkin Soup with Salted Pork
Serves 4–6

I had some chicken stock left over that I had made previously with a whole chicken and some fresh thyme thrown in. The thyme adds an extra layer of complexity to the soup, so if you’d like some in your soup as well, you can feel free to throw in some fresh thyme or other fresh herbs as well.

If you’re not able to find salted pork, you can always salt your own. Any cut of pork will do, but riblets are a favorite because they have a bit of fat that flavors the soup and they’re fun to nibble on later. You can go hardcore and make “real” salt pork (takes two weeks) or just cover a piece of pork with salt and throw it in the fridge overnight. If you do the latter, you can probably get by with just rinsing the salt off. Don’t boil it before you add it into the soup or it’ll lose all its flavors and saltiness.

The traditional West Indian version of this soup sometimes includes chopped cabbage leaves. Alternatively, you can also leave out the pork riblets and season the soup with cloves, nutmeg, and some cinnamon. Chilled, this would make a refreshing soup for a summer day! This version is more heavy and substantial, which I find works nicely as a full meal with some crusty bread.

3 lbs West Indian pumpkin (also called Calabaza, but feel free to substitute with butternut squash)
3/4 lb salted pork riblets
2 small onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 bay leaves
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 Tbsp oil

1. Rinse pork riblets to wash off all the extra salt.

2. Put some water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Put the pork riblets into the water and let it boil for about 5 minutes.

3. Discard the water, rinse pork riblets, and repeat one more time. Set pork aside.

4. In a large stock pot, sautee the garlic and onions in oil over medium-high heat.

5. When the garlic and onions have browned, add in the chicken stock, pumpkin, bay leaves, and pork. Bring the mixture a boil and reduce heat to let it simmer softly. Simmer for at least an hour or until the pumpkin has broken down.

6. Remove pork riblets and bay leaves. Puree the soup.

7. Garnish with fresh herbs and a swirl of heavy cream or coconut milk.




vietnamese beef stew (bo kho)

Fall is well under way here on the Hill. That means lovely cool days, gorgeous colors, scarves, boots, hot apple cider… Indeed, after growing up in Canada, then spending high school and college in the desertlands of Arizona, one of the major things I celebrate about being in the Northeast is having distinct seasons. I love all of them! There is something about seasonal change that my body and soul cannot live without — the cyclical nature of time and growth, the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

Among the many things that fall marks is harvest time and the change in the foods available to us and what we eat. Hot stews make some of the greatest meals now, and this one is a favorite in our household. You might say fall came early over here, as both my husband and his dad love slow-cooked meats and stews, so when my father-in-law came for a visit in August, this was an obvious dish to put on the menu.

Bo kho is actually my husband’s favorite Vietnamese dish. It’s his regular order at any Vietnamese restaurant that serves something other than pho. And what he loves even more than slow-cooked meats is soft, gelatinous beef tendon. So when we make bo kho at home, we make sure to include plenty of that.

Bo kho is another one of those French-influenced Vietnamese dishes. It’s essentially a French ragout with Asian spices. In Vietnam, it’s actually eaten for breakfast and often with a baguette for sopping up the sauce. At Vietnamese restaurants in North America, you will often have the option of eating bo kho with baguette, rice noodles, or egg noodles, all of which make for a hearty, comforting meal. It’s served with Thai basil, a squeeze of lime, and a dipping sauce of salt, pepper, and lime.

Bo Kho
Makes 6 servings

This can be made in either a slow cooker or a Dutch oven. Beef tendon is very tough and requires cooking separately for several hours to become tender. We like our tendon super soft and gelatinous rather than chewy, so we simmer it for a good number of hours, until it can be easily sliced through, before adding it to the stew to simmer even longer and to soak up some flavor.

1.5 lbs beef tendon
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 lbs beef chuck or shank

1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 star anise
3 cloves
3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 4-inch pieces and bruised
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp 5-spice powder

2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
beef broth or water
3 medium carrots, cut into thick slices

baguette, rice noodles, or egg noodles
Thai basil
lime wedges
salt, pepper, and lime dipping sauce

1. Boil a pot of water with the beef tendon and 1 tsp of baking soda. Simmer for 3 hours or until tendon becomes tender enough for a knife to cut through it with some ease. You may want to simmer this in a slow cooker overnight, so that the tendon is ready to cook in the stew the next day. When tendon is tender, drain and rinse. Cut the tendon in half lengthwise and then into pieces about 2 inches long.

2. Wash and pat dry the beef chuck or shank. Cut into 1.5-inch cubes. Mix in the marinade ingredients. Let marinate for 30 minutes and up to overnight.

3. Heat the oil on medium-high, and then add the crushed cloves of garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, add the marinated beef chuck/shank, along with all the marinade ingredients, and let it brown. You may want to do this in several batches to avoid overcrowding the pot, so that the meat sears rather than steams. Put all the meat, plus the cooked tendon, back into the pot. Then add enough beef broth or water to cover everything by an inch or so.

4. Let the stew simmer on low for about 3 hours. (You can also transfer the stew to a slow cooker at this point and cook on low overnight.) Add carrots to cook during the last half hour.

5. Serve the stew in shallow dishes with baguette, or serve over rice or egg noodles. Include Thai basil, lime wedges for squeezing over, and salt, pepper, and lime dipping sauce for the meat.

wonton soup

Thanks to our Cantonese roots, my dad made lots of Hong Kong-style wonton soup while we were growing up. His wontons are characterized by the addition of finely chopped, almost ground, shrimp in the filling, and sometimes, he even uses crabmeat for an extra-rich flavor. He also cooks the wontons and noodles separately, never in the broth they’re served with, so that the starch from the wontons or noodles won’t thicken and contaminate the broth.

For as long as I can remember, my dad’s soup for wonton has consisted mainly of chicken broth or a combination of chicken and pork broth. He might add some extra seasonings, but these were fairly normal pantry staples. This all changed one night as we sat in the kitchen of a family friend’s home.

As we started eating the noodles that our friend had prepared for us, my dad slowly contemplated the strangely familiar taste. He realized suddenly that the noodles reminded him of the wonton soup back in Saigon. He learned that it was made with the same type of dried flounder that’s used to flavor wonton soup back in his hometown. After some research, I’ve discovered that dried flounder is also one of the key ingredients in the wonton soup served at the famous wonton restaurant in Hong Kong, Mak’s Noodle.

Since the rediscovery of dried flounder to flavor soup, my dad has taken it upon himself to turn his wonton soup up a notch. So, without further ado, here is my dad’s current recipe for authentic, Hong Kong-style wonton soup.

Serves 4

You can substitute shrimp with crabmeat in this recipe, though in that case, I’ve found that 1/4 lb of crabmeat works better than 1/2 lb, because the crab taste can overwhelm the traditional pork flavor of the wonton.

1/2 lb shrimp
1 lb ground pork
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cooking oil
2 tsp corn starch
1 egg
1/2 tsp dried flounder powder, see recipe below (you can also substitute fish bouillon powder or anchovy powder as well, but the taste will not be quite the same)
1 package of wonton wrappers
handful of chopped scallions and/or cilantro
a few drops of sesame oil

1. If using fresh whole shrimp, peel and devein. Finely chop the shrimp.

2. Combine the ground pork and chopped shrimp together with the other dry ingredients.  Add in the oils and egg.

3. Completely mix the ingredients together, but be careful not to over-mix (over-mixing makes the meat tougher).

4. Using a spoon, scoop out a dollop (about a generous teaspoonful) of the meat mixture onto a wonton wrapper. Fold two of the opposite corners together and pinch the top.  Be careful not to press the other corners close yet.  There should be air in the middle, so it looks almost like a loose cannoli.

5. Next, take the two side corners and gather them up to meet the top. Press on the part just above the meat, so that there is a nice flat, overlapping layer of wonton skin sealing the meat pocket. Do not twist and squeeze like you would a candy wrapper around a hard candy, however. The seal should be flat, not twisted. It should look a bit like a lionhead goldfish, with a flowing tail. Depending on your preference, there are also various other ways that you can fold your wontons. My sister likes to use my dad’s mysterious method of spontaneously scrunching up the entire bundle.

6. Place finished wontons on a lightly floured plate or tray.  Be sure to do this step or else all your hard work will go to waste as you peel your sticky wontons off the plate and tear holes in the wrappers. (I speak from experience :\) At this point, you can also freeze your wontons for future use. Place them in a single layer first on a tray, with a little space between each wonton, so that they don’t stick together. After they freeze on the tray, you can pack them together into a bag for storage.

7. Bring a 3-qt. pot of water to a boil (use more water if you’re planning to cook noodles as well). The flour from the wontons adds excess starch and unnecessarily thickens the cooking liquid, so you don’t want to contaminate your beautiful broth by cooking either wontons or noodles in it.

8. As the water starts boiling, drop in your wontons, about 8-10 at a time.  When the wontons float to the top of the water, they should be done.  This takes about 5-8 minutes.

9. When wontons are done, put them in a bowl and generously ladle soup over the wontons.  Sprinkle with scallions and cilantro.  Finish with a dash of sesame oil.

Dried Flounder Powder
You can find dried flounder at most Chinese supermarkets.  They may also be labeled with the names “Stock Fish” or “Rough Scaled Flounder.” This can be made in advance and stored for several months at a time.  For a quick pick-me-up for bland soups and dishes, add in a sprinkle of flounder powder!

1. Deep-fry pieces of dried flounder in oil.  Fry until crispy, but do not burn.

2. Let the pieces of fish dry on paper towels, allowing the paper towels to soak up excess oil.

3. Using a blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle, grind up the dried flounder until it becomes a fine powder.

4. Store in an air-tight jar for up to 3 months.

There are several different ways to make the soup for wontons, depending on the amount of time and effort that you’d like to put into the soup. I’ll start with the simplest and end with the most complex.

1. Water + wonton soup base
At your local Chinese supermarket, you should be able to find instant wonton soup base.  I like to use the Knorr brand wonton broth mix. This works great if you’re in a rush and don’t have the time to make your own broth.  The flavor is decent, and you can easily spruce it up with a dash of pepper and fish sauce.

2. Chicken broth + dried flounder powder
If you have chicken broth on hand (maybe after poaching chicken), simmer up some of that broth for the wonton soup.  Add in 1-2 tsp. of dried flounder powder (or fish bouillon or anchovy powder), and you’re all set!  Again, a dash of pepper or fish sauce may help enhance flavors.  This is my usual go-to method for making wonton soup.

3. Chicken bones + pork bones + dried flounder + dried shrimp
If you’re feeling like impressing your in-laws or dinner guests, try this version of soup.  Dry-roast the dried flounder at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, parboil the chicken and pork bones.  After bones have been washed, combine 1 lb. of chicken bones,  1 lb. of pork bones, and 1 piece of dried flounder about the size of the palm of your hand with 3 quarts of water. You can add a few slices of ginger if you wish. Simmer for at least 2-3 hrs. During the last 30 minutes of simmering, add a small handful of dried shrimp.  Add salt to taste.  Before you serve the soup, strain the soup to get rid of the bones, fish, shrimp, and ginger.  Serve hot!

You can certainly have a bowl of wonton soup as a starter or as a meal of its own, but it’s tasty served with noodles as well. Fresh thin yellow egg noodles are best, but if not available, dried thin yellow egg noodles will work too. Similar to cooking the wontons, boil a separate pot of water to cook the noodles, so as not to thicken your wonton broth with any excess starch. (If you boil an extra-large pot of water, 5-6 quarts, you can probably cook both the wontons and the noodles — one after the other, not together –  using the same pot before the water turns too thick and goopy, in which case you should start a new pot of water.) Cook the fresh noodles for about 3-5 minutes, until al dente. Unlike pasta, where you never rinse the noodles, so that the extra starch helps the sauce cling better, in this case rinsing the noodles actually helps. My dad always runs egg noodles under ice-cold water to give them an even firmer bite and to wash off excess starch. When serving, place the noodles in the bowl first, add 6-8 wontons on top, ladle soup over until it covers both noodles and wontons, and garnish with chopped scallions, cilantro, and a few drops of sesame oil. You can also add some boiled greens, such as bok choy, to the bowl if you like. The greens can be boiled in the broth itself to give the soup a bit more flavor.

Dipping Sauce
Though this is entirely unnecessary because the wontons are quite flavorful eaten plain with soup, I grew up eating my wontons with a dipping sauce.  Here’s a basic recipe for the sauce.

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese red vinegar
1 Tbsp oyster sauce

Mix everything together well. Enjoy!

lotus root soup

Growing up, we were accustomed to having soup with all of our family dinners.  Sometimes, this consisted of simple greens in a light chicken broth prepared only minutes before we sat down to eat.  Other times, the soup was slow-simmered for hours, even overnight, to create a full-bodied, full-flavored broth.  The Chinese have a term for these types of slow-simmered soups – lo foh tong.  The term lo foh literally  means “old fire,” and tong means “soup.”   To be considered a loh foh tong, soups must be simmered for at least three hours.

Ever the practical mama, my mom would often boil her various loh fong tongs on the stove for the first hour and then transfer it into a slow cooker or thermal cooker to gently cook throughout the day.  This way, she wouldn’t have to watch the stove all day and could save energy too.

One of my favorite loh foh tongs is lotus root soup (or leen ngow tong).  My parents’ method of making this soup is pretty traditional, but they’ve also made a few changes over the years to really perfect the taste. :)  Most notably, they substitute pork ribs with semi-fatty pork.  They discovered that because lotus root contains a lot of iron, it often results in a soup that leaves a dry, astringent aftertaste on the tongue (making your tongue feel like sandpaper).  To remedy this, they use semi-fatty pork, which releases oils that balance out the astringency to create a more enjoyable taste.

Whenever my parents served this soup, it was always a beautiful, rich, brown color.  I always thought the color came from the brown lotus root or from the red dates.  My first time making this soup, I called my dad and asked in bewilderment why, after fifteen minutes of simmering, my soup was still clear.  He laughed at me and said, “Of course it’s still clear — you’ve only been simmering it for fifteen minutes!  You need to simmer for at least three hours!”  Needless to say, I felt like a nube.  I redeemed myself a bit the next day when I sent my dad a photo of the finished product, to which he responded, “That looks pretty good.” My dad is not one to shower you with compliments  — he saves them to use on rare, worthy occasions, such as this one. :)

Lotus Root Soup (Leen Ngow Tong)
10-12 servings

3-4 lotus roots, washed, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ pieces cross-wise
1 lb. of semi-fatty pork
5-6 pieces of dried cuttlefish
handful of dried red dates
5 qts. water
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar (or rock sugar for a clearer broth)
1 tsp. pepper

red beans
dried mandarin orange peel (only add if using red beans)
2 cloves of garlic (for an extra kick!)

1. Put water in large stock pot to start heating. Cover with lid and prepare other ingredients while water heats up.

2. Rinse red dates and cuttlefish in water to remove dust and dirt.

2. Parboil the pork in another pot by putting the meat into boiling water and allowing excess fat and impurities to release. After a few minutes, when no more fat or scum is releasing, drain and rinse the pork. Cut into 3-inch chunks.

3. After water in stock pot comes to a boil, put in the lotus root slices and the pork chunks.

4. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil lotus root and pork for 30 minutes.

5. After 30 minutes, add remaining ingredients (including red beans, orange peel, and garlic if adding).

6. Simmer for an  additional 1-4 hours. If you plan to eat the meat as part of your meal, simmer for a shorter amount of time.  If you would like a richer, more flavorful soup, simmer longer and discard meat.

7. Before serving, add in the salt, pepper, sugar, and oyster sauce.