The other night the topic of food trends came up at home. S and I talked about the food we had in our teenage years and shared with J, our fond memories of Hong Kong restaurants that were born out of the then-growing western influence in the 1980s. Their menus typically include pasta, pizza and grilled meats. Often, there will be set menus (which is still a very common thing to have on all restaurant menus) that goes typically like this:
1) choice of soup: soup of the day, creamy mushroom (“white” soup), tomato borscht type soup (“red” soup)
2) main of grilled meats (chicken thigh, pork chops and beef rump, or a mixture) with choice of pasta, potatoes/vegetables or rice. You also get to choose between a black peppercorn, belchamel or tomato sauce.
3) coffee or tea, and of course the “combination” drink yin yeung.
Sometimes you also get for dessert a small bowl of jelly or ice cream served in a tiny aluminium bowl.
This became in my mind, the iconic western meals in the 1980s to 1990s for the previous British colony. A step up from the cha chaan teng, which serves the more basic Hong Kong fare, like macaroni soup, pineapple buns and “stocking” milk tea.
For 99% of the time I will choose the borscht soup, which is an adapted version of the Russian Ukrainian tomato soup. It doesn’t normally have beets, and can have a variety of stable vegetables from any Hong Kong vege market. It’s the most popular soup in my childhood days, and is now J’s favourite soup.
My mum makes this with oxtail or beef shin. I’ve been able to source end-cuts of parma or prosciutto and prefers that now for the depth in flavour it adds to the soup (one time I didn’t use prosciutto and S and J both asked me about the lack of flavour. Seriously!) You can also use bacon or ham bones too.
This soup tastes better when cooked for longer. Cook on the stove for a few hours, in a crock pot, Instant Pot or a thermos, it will all work!
This quantity easily serves 5-6 people.
- 1 onion, cut into large chunks
- 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 2 small potatoes, cut into large chunks
- 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks (I sometimes leave out)
- 1/2 cabbage, cut into large chunks
- 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
- 50g tomato paste
- 2 tbsp beef stock (I use Simon Gault’s)
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 300g parma ham, end cut or substitute with other meats like beef shin, oxtail
- 2 – 3 litres of water
- Lightly oil a hot pan, sautée the onions, carrots and celery. Transfer into a large soup pot (I use a Thermos pot, similar to a Crock Pot, except it has no heating function).
- Add potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and parma ham into the soup pot.
- Add enough boiling water to cover, about 2 litres, and bring it to a boil.
- Let it boil for 15 minutes and then turn it down to a simmer for 2 hours. If using a thermos cooker or Crock Pot, after the initial boiling, transfer that into the thermos/Crock Pot and let it continue to cook for a few hours. I often prepare this the night before and leave it to cook overnight.
- It’s ready when the cabbages and other vegetables are soft. Taste and add salt as required.