This bowl of hot Hong Kong Style Borscht Soup will keep you warm and full all winter long. This tomato soup is made with beef bones and packed with plenty of vegetables! Hearty with a hint of acidity from fresh lemon juice.
Let me be very clear. This is not the East European borscht. There is no beetroot and sour cream. This is the borscht soup (羅宋湯) that is common in Hong Kong. According to Apple Daily (Hong Kong newspaper), Russian cuisine was once popular in Shanghai around the time of Word War II. After the war, many Shanghainese migrated to Hong Kong and they brought along Russian food. However, Russian food never took off in Hong Kong. Since borscht soup is a vegetable soup and it’s seen as part of western cuisine, many restaurants start making it. It has gained popularity, especially in Hong Kong style cafes (cha chaan teng). The recipe was changed to fit into the liking of Hong Kong people. The soup is no longer made with red beets. Instead, it is a beef broth based tomato soup with lots of vegetables.
In Hong Kong style cafes, when you order a meal, it usually comes with a soup. There are often 3 choices, creamy corn soup, borscht and the daily special Chinese soup. I picked borscht almost every time, and so does my mom! It’s nice to have something lighter and a bit acidic before the entree.
My version of borscht is a bit richer than restaurants’ version, because it’s made with a good amount of beef bones and tons of vegetables. Before starting the soup, the beef and beef bones need to be blanched first. It’s a common Chinese practice to remove blood from meats and bones. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beef and bring to a boil again. Some brown stuffs and foam would float to the top. Drain and rinse under tap water to remove all the brown stuffs. The bones are now ready for the soup.
Get another large cleaned pot, saute the vegetables (onion, carrot, celery) for a deeper flavor. Add the tomato paste, bay leafs, beef bones, water and cabbage. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 hours. At last, season with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. The acidity is a nice touch and a must for borscht! If you want to turn the soup to a hearty meal, just add cooked macaroni right before serving. Voila! You got yourself a bowl of noodle soup!
Hong Kong Style Borscht Soup
- 1 pound beef bones
- ½ pound beef chunk meat or stew meat
- 1 small onion (diced)
- 3 small carrots (peeled and diced)
- 4 celery stalks (diced)
- 1 can tomato paste (170g)
- 3 tomatoes (core removed and diced)
- 12½ cups water
- 1/2 cabbage (rinsed and cut into large bite size)
- 5 bay leafs
- 6 black peppercorns (optional)
- 2 red potatoes (peeled and diced)(optional)
- 2½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ground black pepper
- vegetable oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the beef bones and meat. Bring back to a boil. Drain and rinse the bones and meat under tap water for a couple minutes. Set aside to drain and cool.
- In another large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add carrot and celery and cook for another 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and mix well. Add the bones, meat, 12½ cups water, chopped cabbage, bay leafs and black peppercorns (if using). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the beef chunk meat and cut into bite size pieces. Put back to soup. Add potatoes if using and continue to cook for another 1½ hours. Season with salt, sugar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. Taste and adjust with seasoning to your own taste. Remove bay leafs and peppercorns. Transfer to serving bowls. Serve immediately with dinner rolls (or Hawaiian rolls).
- For beef bones, ask your butcher and he should have it.
- If you like, you can just use beef short ribs. I have done it with 1½ pounds short ribs.
- If you prefer, you can also add cooked macaroni into the soup at the very end to serve as a noodle soup.