Category Archives: Soup Recipes

Pho – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

I started working as a chef in a hotel that is right next door to the Adelaide Central Markets and China Town.

As a young chef learning their trade, I could not have asked for anything more.  Imagine seeing your states best produce on the walk to work.  Can’t get any more inspiring and educational than that really.  You see the freshest ingredients and also learn about the seasonality of many fresh produce.  You get to talk to vendors and build that ever so important relationship between producers and cooks.

The other thing I loved was being next door to China Town.  Many types of Asian cuisine at its best here and a few of the restaurants in this area are iconic to the locals and well known to a lot of visitors.  One place I loved to hang out before work to eat was at the food hall.

In the early days of my career I was obsessed with laksa.  I went to the Laksa House in the food hall and there wasn’t a day that I missed out on a good bowl of laksa.  I love the Asian soups especially ones with so many complex and rich flavours.  I also like the heat that comes from the chillies and creaminess of the coconut broth.  I remember leaving the food hall with sweat beading off my forehead.  I thoroughly enjoyed those meals but none more than the day after a hard night of pub crawls with the boys, it just cleans you out, sweats out the prior nights damage.

On one occasion the Laksa House was closed and I was forced to find another “hang over cure”.  Desperate, I ordered a soup from the Vietnamese stall.  It was called Bon Bo Huy.  A spicy clear beef broth with rice noodles, beef and a chilli, lemon grass paste that you stir through.  What a find.  I enjoyed the clear, clean flavours of the broth and heat that came with chilli paste.  The broth didn’t leave you feeling heavy, in fact it left me feeling refreshed and not so bloated.  I loved the spice of the chillie paste and freshness that the lemon grass imparts into the broth.  I knew I had found a new love, a new cure for “the day after’ a pub crawl.

As I progressed with my new found love of Bon Bo Huy, I was excited to let one of my Vietnamese chefs know about my love of Vietnamese soups.  She then went on to tell me about Pho, the soup that most Vietnamese people have.  It was more traditional and she told me of a place in Adelaide called Pho 75, a restaurant that only sell several flavours of Pho.  Again, I fell in love with yet another Asian soup.  Pho is again cleaner on flavours, the broth even clearer and lighter yet the flavours of beef very distinct.  The broth is garnished with much of the same such as rice noodles, thinly sliced raw beef, tripe and beef gravy, a cut of beef full of gelatine which once slowly cooked, becomes like soft jelly, much loved and prized by many Asian cuisines.

I now see Pho coming up in a lot of cooking magazines like laksas in it’s hay day.  It seems that a lot of people are now on the Pho bandwagon.    It is good that people are getting out there and getting to know food, but it kind of feels sad because it takes that exclusivity away in a selfish way.  I did really feel the connection with this food and a deeper understanding of it when I went to Vietnam and ate Pho at the very iconic Pho shop, Pho 2000.  On that trip, I fell in love with Vietnamese food in general and especially Pho.

The Iconic Pho 2000 in Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City

I make this recipe in large batches, pack into a take away container with the meat already sliced into it.  When it is time for me to eat it, I just buy the noodles and other bits.  Great way to have home cooked meals with out the fuss, perfect for those times when I just don’t have enough hours in the day.

 

Pho – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

2 Lemons

1kg Beef Bones – ask butcher to cut it into smaller pieces

2 Gravy Beef

3 Brown Cardamoms

3 Cassia Bark

8 Star Anise

200 gr Ginger – Sliced into smaller pieces

4 Large Brown Onions – peeled and large dice

1 pkt of Beef Tendon Balls (available at any Asian Grocer)

1 Red Onion – Finely sliced (paper thin, preferably on a mandolin if possible)

1 pkt Pho Noodles (fresh)

1 pkt Bean Sprouts

1 Bunch Thai Basil

Method

  1. Pre heat oven at 180C.
  2. Soak beef bones and gravy beef in cold water, lemon juice and lemons for ½ an hour.
  3. In a large pot, bring water to boil.
  4. Drain bones and gravy beef from the lemon juice and blanch in boiling water until impurities come out, about 15 minutes.  Drain the bones and beef and wash in cold water.
  5. Roast cardamom, cassia bark, star anise, ginger and onions for 30 minutes at 180C.
  6. Place the blanched bones and beef and all the roasted spices in a 10 litre  pot and fill the pot with cold water and bring to boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and skim all the scum that floats to the top, simmer for 2-3 hours
  7.   In the mean time blanch the noodles similarly to pasta, in salted water and cook until al dente.  Refresh in cold water and set aside.
  8. Slice the tendon balls into 4 pieces.
  9. After 2-3 hours of simmering (or until the gravy beef is tender), strain the stock.  Remove the gravy beef and discard the rest.
  10. Slice the gravy beef into even, thin slices, like discs
  11. It is important to keep this beef submerge in a little stock so as it does not discolour.  Season strain beef stock with salt and white pepper.
  12. In a deep soup bowl, place a small hand full of noodles followed by some sliced tendon balls, a couple of slices of beef gravy and some red onion.
  13. Pour piping hot stock over the ingredients in the bowl and serve with fresh ground white pepper floating on top.
  14. As an accompaniment, serve with Hoi sin and Sriracha chilli sauce (Vietnamese chilli sauce, available in most Asian Grocers) along with Thai basil and bean sprouts.
  15. This dish may also be served with thin sliced raw, lean beef and blanched tripe.

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Pumpkin Soup

Photo by Jun Pang

Roast Pumpkin Soup in Bread Roll

Serves 6

1 Large Butternut Pumpkin                peeled, deseeded & roughly chopped

¼ Cup Vegetable oil

1 Large Brown Onion                         peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes

200gr Butter

3 liters Water

2 Cups Cream

1 Bunch Parsley                                  finely chopped

6 large Kaiser Rolls

Sea Salt

Fine White Pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius
  2. Toss the pumpkin in vegetable oil until well coated.  Sprinkle it with sea salt and pepper then place in roasting pan and roast until soft, about 20 minutes
  3. Heat up a large pot for about 2 minutes on medium heat then add butter and heat until completely melted
  4. Add the onions and cook through, stirring continuously until it’s translucent but with no colour
  5. Add the roasted pumpkin into the pot and stir through until well incorporated through
  6. Pour the water into the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it from catching
  7. Add the cream and off the heat using a stick blender, puree until smooth.  You can also use juice blender
  8. Season with sea salt and fine white pepper to taste
  9. Hollow out the Kaiser rolls and baked it in the oven for about 5 minutes until slightly crispy
  10. Pour the soup inside the hollowed out roll and garnish with chopped parsley.  You may also want to sprinkle a small amount of nutmeg on top.

Photo by Jun Pang


Laksa

Laksa

 

What can I say about this wonderful, coconutty, spicy broth of goodness?  Teamed with wonderful garnishes such as yellow egg noodle, chicken, prawns, tofu, bean sprouts and plenty of fresh Asian herbs, it’s a heart warmer in winter and so easy to make in large quantities for when the friends drop by or to have for lunch the next day, after all the flavour only gets better the next day.  Make a large batch of the paste and freeze it, in readiness for next time, either way it’s a non-complicated dish loved by every one.

Photo by Jun Pang

For the Paste

What the paste looks like with the rest of the ingredients

250 gr Candle Nuts

8 Large Brown Onions – peeled and quartered

250 gr Garlic – peeled

½ cup Dry Shrimp Paste (Belacan) – wrapped in foil and toasted on dry pan

2 cups Large Dry Chilli – deseeded and reconstituted in warm water

300 gr Galangal – roughly peeled and cut into 2cm pieces

60 gr Fresh Turmeric (or dried) – cut into smaller pieces

For the Broth

10 Cans Coconut Milk

5 litres Chicken Stock

8 Lemon Grass – stems removed and stalks bruised

10 Lime Leaves

500 ml Tamarind Water

100 ml Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)

100 gr Coriander Seeds – toasted and finely ground

For the Garnish

Hokkien Noodle

Bean Sprout

Prawns – cooked & shelled preferably

Fired Tofu Puffs – cut in halves

Chicken Breast – par steamed/boiled and cut or stripped into “chopstick” friendly sizes

Coriander Leaves

Laksa Mint

Thai Basil

Method

  1. “Split” the cans of coconut into cream and milk.  This is better done when the cans have been refrigerated for at least 45 minutes, this separates the “cream”, which floats to the top and solidifies and can be easily extracted with a spoon and the clear “milk” to the bottom, which you reserve for later use.
  2. Heat a large stockpot to high heat.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the paste in a blender and blend to a fine paste.
  4. Place 1 cup of vegetable oil in the pot then immediately followed by the separated coconut “cream” (taking care because it will splatter).
  5. Add the paste to the pot and cook/fry for around 20-25 minutes or until the aromas coming out of the pot are less pungent and take on a more “sweeter” aroma.

This tells us that the natural sugars in the ingredients used are caramelising, taking over from the raw pungent smell. This also indicates correct doneness of the paste.

  1. Add the chicken stock, lemon grass, lime leaves and ground coriander and reduce this by a 1/4.
  2. Add coconut milk and continue reducing to a half
  3. Reduce the heat and add the tamarind water (to balance acidity) and season with fish sauce in replacement of salt.  Add to taste.
  4. For the composition, add as little or as much of the ingredients listed in the garnishes in a deep soup bowl.  Pour hot laksa broth over the contents of the noodles and garnish with fresh coriander leaves, laksa mint and Thai basil leaves.

This recipe makes around 5 litres of laksa, enough to freeze in smaller batches for next time.  Its is also worth noting that the paste can be prepared and frozen for long periods of time, which also makes cooking a delicious meal seem easy.

Photo by Jun Pang

Belacan – is a common ingredient in Asian cooking especially in South East Asia.  Made from tiny little shrimp which has been fermented, dried and formed into little blocks for sale.  It has many names, like ngapi, terasi and in Filipino, it’s called bagoong!  Belecan is dried and to make it a little more falvoursome, you toast it first on a hot surface, usually wrapped in foil to avoid the smell being so bad!

One type of Belacan wrapping

Belacan toasted in foil in a dry pan until change in colour – Warning very smelly

Galangal – is part of the ginger family.  It is woody in texture and you must use a sharp knife to use it.  It has a “pine” smell and flavour.  Used in mostly in curries and sauces, predominantly in In Thai, Vietnamese and in Malaysian cooking.

Candle Nuts – Used mainly in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine.  High in oils, it is used to thicken sauces/soups.  They are round in colour and are similar to a macadamia nut (as in Australia) and usually used as a substitute for when candle nuts are not available.

Tamarind Water – sold commercially in bottles, it is tamarind pulp soaked in water and the juice squeezed out to get tamarind water.  Usually used to season food to add the tangy, earthy and zesty flavour to a dish.  In this case it helps to soften or cut through the richness in the coconut cream.

Tamarind Water

Fish Sauce – a pungent, fishy smelling golden brown liquid made from fermented fish.  It is used in South East Asian cooking for seasoning or as part of an ingredient in dipping sauces which imparts the umami flavour due to the high glutamate content .  It is known by many different names such as patis (Philippines), nam pla (Thai) and many more, with each Asian country having their own version

One type of fish sauce,  Golden Boy Brand is my favourite to use in curries


Congee – Chicken and Ginger

Filipino’s call it “lugaw” but most people know it as “congee”

It is by far the easiest thing to cook and it was definitely one of the first things I picked just by watching my mum and my grandma cook this dish.  It is a dish that my mum cooks on a cold winter’s day, especially for lunch.  It’s filling, tasty and it warms the body  really quickly.  Traditionally the Chinese have this as a breakfast meal.  As the name translates to rice porridge, it’s usually served plain with condiments like  soy sauce, spring onion, ginger and steamed chicken.  Brilliant way to start the day!

Photo by Jun Pang

Chicken Congee with Ginger

Serves 8

 

1tblspn Vegetable Oil

1 Brown Onion                       finely diced

550gr Chicken Wings              jointed, discard wingtips

3tblspn Ginger                        cut into fine match stick like shapes

1 Cup Jasmine Rice

3lites Water

1 bunch Spring Onions            finely sliced

Salt

White Pepper

Method

  1. Heat up a large pot on medium heat and add oil
  2. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and translucent
  3. Add the ginger and chicken wings and stir through
  4. Add the water and bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes.  Season the stock with salt and white pepper
  5. Add the rice and cook for one hour until it takes on the consistency of porridge, stirring it often.  Season with salt and pepper
  6. Serve with chopped spring onions


A recipe for my nephew Aidan!!

Prawn and Pork Wanton Soup with Egg Noodles and Bok Choy

Serves 4

For the Wantons:

200 grm Pork Mince

100 grm Prawns                                            Chopped into small pieces

1 Stem of Spring Onion                                  Finely Sliced

1 tblspn Shaoxing Chinese Cooking Wine

2 tblspn Light Soy

Ground White Pepper                                       Pinch

Wanton Skins

For the Soup:

1 ltr Chicken Stock

1 tspn White Pepper Corns

100 gr Ginger                                                   Sliced into thin discs

1/2 Bunch Spring Onions

1/2 cup Light Soy

1/2 cup Shaoxing Chinese Cooking Wine

1 x 500gr Fresh Egg Noodles

2 Bunches Bok Choy                                         Washed and quartered

Sea Salt                                                           Season to taste

Method

For the wonton

  1. “work” the pork mince a little by kneading it in bowl for about 5 minutes to give the final product a smoother texture.
  2. Add prawns and mix through thoroughly.
  3. Add the spring onions and mix through thoroughly
  4. Add the light soy and Chinese Cooking Wine and light soy and mix through thoroughly.  Add the white pepper and test the seasoning by frying off a little of the mix.  Adjust seasoning if needed.
  5. Place a teaspoon of mix in the middle of the wanton skin then moisten the edges with a little water.
  6. Bring the corners to the middle, making sure you pinch the edges to seal together.  Set aside ready for the broth

For the broth

  1. Place the chicken stock, white pepper corns,  ginger and spring onions into a pot and simmer for 30 minutes then strain.
  2. Just before serving add the Chinese cooking wine and light soy to season the broth.  Add sea salt if needed.
  3. Blanch Noodles in hot water until soft and same again with bok choy, drain and serve into a noodle bowl.
  4. Blanch the wantons in also in hot water for about 2 minutes then place into the noodle bowl.
  5. Pour broth to cover

Photo by Jun Pang


Oxtail Soup

Oxtail Soup with Cannellini Beans, Tomato and Vegetables

Serves 4

 

1kg Oxtail –                             Ask butcher to portion it into individual serves

1 Large Carrot –                       Sliced into 2cm cubes

5 Sticks Celery –                     Cut into 2cm squares

2 Lge Brown Onions               Cut into 2cm cubes

1 Fresh Bay Leaf

6 Large Tomatoes –                 Cut into 2cm cubes

3 Litres of water

250 gr Cannellini Beans –       Soaked over night and cooked in water until soft

6 Garlic Cloves –                     Crushed and finely chopped

Black Pepper

Sea Salt

Olive oil

 

Method

  1. Heat up a frying pan on high heat.  Season oxtail with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. Pour a little oil into the pan and brown the oxtail evenly on all sides.  Once all pieces have been browned, set them aside ready for use.
  3. Using a large pot, heat up some oil and sauté the onions and garlic and cook until soft.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes (fresh is best but canned tomatoes are alright).  Cook until the tomatoes start to break down slightly.
  5. Add the water and the oxtail.  Take to boil then down to simmer.  Simmer until the oxtail almost falls off the bone to touch.  Add more hot water if reduced too much.  Whilst simmering, skim the scum that floats to the surface (be diligent with this so you get a clean stock in appearance and flavour)
  6. Check seasoning.
  7. Serve into bowls and with crunchy baked bread.

 

 

 

 

 

To me, there is nothing more satisfying than using a secondary piece of meat like lamb shanks, pork necks, pork hock or in this case, oxtail.  The preparation takes hardly anytime and although the cooking time is longer than the average home meal, the wait is well worth it.  You get to see how the flavours meld together and you can manipulate the outcome as it cooks, by adding bits and pieces into pot like herbs and spices.  Winter is usually the time for these full on, bursting with flavour meals.  It’s hearty, rich in flavour and because you are using secondary cuts of meat, its cheap!!  You can freeze them into individual serves; make enough and you can hibernate in winter quite comfortably!!

Photo by Jun Pang