Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hong Kong Borscht

Once in a while I get a craving for Hong Kong borscht soup. Hong Kongers borrowed the recipe off the Russian refugees who passed through in the early 20th century, but must have ditched all the ingredients that made the locals grimace in bewilderment or disgust. There are no beets in it. Served at every diner and coffee shop in the city, the Hong Kong concoction is actually a tomato soup with cabbage and beef. It ranges from cheap-and-nasty diluted tomato paste swill to quite hearty versions which are pretty good in their own right, even if they aren't really borscht.

I decided to try making some at home. Vast quantities of it in fact, so that I could keep it in the fridge and reheat portions all week for lunch. I made it up as I went along, but I managed to produce something that tasted quite authentic. Or rather, inauthentic. (If you successfully commit culinary blasphemy, is that a good or a bad thing?)

I'm going to cut my portions in half here, since you probably don't want a whole vat of the stuff.

You need:
1 large pot

1/4 catty stewing beef (about 150 grams or 5 ounces). You can use a bit more if you want.

3 tomatoes
1/2 a small cabbage
1/2 an onion
3-4 carrots
1 large potato

1 can tomato paste
2-3 tablespoons ketchup (no kidding)
1 cup beef stock (or 1 beef stock cube, dissolved)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 cups water, depending on size of your pot

1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig marjoram (optional)

Chop the beef up into bite-sized cubes. Chop up all the vegetables.

Put everything in the pot, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for at least an hour.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and if it's too sour, sugar. Chili flakes optional.


Lana said...

Ah, Hong Kong-style borscht! It does bring back memories. However, what on earth is "catty" stewing beef?! O_o (That's me, google-eyed.)

Kea said...

Er. Not made of cats. Catty, as in the Chinese weight measurement, a "kun", which google claims is equivalent to 0.6 kilos.

I have absolutely no clue why it got translated that way. Doesn't even sound close. Another linguistic mystery. Much like "congee".

MooCow said...


Unknown said...

I can't wait to try this recipe!