Soups and Stocks

Good stocks are fundamental in the kitchen. Not just as the foundation for soups, but as the starting point for sauces, stews and braised dishes as well.

Chinese Superior Stock - 上湯

Chinese Superior Stock – 上湯

A good Basic Chicken Stock is essential in the Chinese kitchen, but for very special soups or other dishes suitable for the banquet table, a very rich broth known as ‘Superior Stock’, or 上湯  (pronounced shàng tāng), is required.

Basically, a traditional Chinese Superior Stock is prepared using chicken, pork and ham, the latter very often the prized Chinese ham known as ‘Jinhua Ham’. A select few other ingredients are used, ginger and scallion usually, but not much else in the way of vegetables are added. It is a very rich and complex preparation and a good stock can make all the difference between a mediocre dish and one that is truly special.

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Basic Pork Stock

Chinese Pork Stock - 猪肉汤汁 for Pork Noodle Broth

Chinese Pork Stock – 猪肉汤汁, or Pork Noodle Broth

A stock made with raw pork bones, skin, and meat is sometimes called a ‘White Stock’, or even a ‘Milk Stock’, in Chinese cookery, because, unlike a thin, clear Chicken Stock, for example, it is quite opaque and somewhat ‘milky’ in appearance.

Chinese Pork Stock of this sort doesn’t have quite the same elegance those used in refined soups, or banquet dishes, but it shines in simpler dishes based on Pork Noodle Broth, such as Ramen bowls, or as the ‘soup’ part of the filling in the celebrated 小籠包, or Shanghai-style Soup Dumplings.

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Basic Chinese Chicken Stock and Noodle Broth

Basic Chinese Chicken Stock for Soups, Sauces, and Noodle Broth

A good quality Chicken Stock is as indispensable in the Chinese kitchen as it is in the west. Not only is it the starting point for many sorts of soup, it is even more widely used as the broth for noodle dishes, and as the base for a wide range of sauces for stir-fried dishes, and more complex preparations.

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Split-Pea Soup

Split-Pea Soup

Split-Pea Soup Recipe

When I was a kid, my mother would often make split-pea soup using the bones and scraps leftover from a ham roast. It was a dish I could take or leave back then but I grew to like it more and more and have made it many times as an adult. Here, I have used the bone and some of the meat from a lightly smoked Pork Picnic Shoulder rather than the traditional Ham, and I have offset the smokiness with the sweetness of an added Parsnip.

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