Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nothing Like Mom's Soup!

I've been feeling under the weather lately and wanted something warm and comforting. As I was browsing through all the wonderful things I wanted to buy at Uwajimaya, the oxtails jumped out at me. I can make my mom's awesome luo song tang!

Luo song tang tastes a lot like borscht but without beets. The sweetness of the beets is replaced by the sweetness of the carrots, and in my mom's version, daikon radish. It looks like you can find different variations of this Chinese recipe. Many incorporate potatoes and more tomatoes than my version of ma's recipe.

My mom never wrote down her recipes for me. Everything I learned about Chinese cooking was by watching my mom cook from when I was a toddler through college. She never measured her ingredients, and I never stopped and asked her how much she's putting in. Instead, we chatted about other things going on in life while I served my time as her sous chef. Chinese cooking became second nature to me. By the time I had to cook my own meals, I didn't have to ask her for a collection of her recipes. I bought the ingredients for luo song tang based on my memories of the look, smell, and taste of the soup.

Luo Song Tang with Oxtail Bones
1 small cabbage, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 medium daikon radish, chopped into semi-circles
3 carrots, chopped
1 large white onion
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
4-5 slices of ginger
2 bay leaves
salt to taste

I remembered that we preferred the lighter and sweeter taste of boiled daikon over potatoes, and I remembered that you need to have good chunks of beef bones to give the broth depth. Whenever my mom was going to braise meat or boil them in a soup, she always par-cooked the meat in water to get rid of the blood and fat. In Western cuisine, you would usually brown the meat in a pan on all sides to seal in the juices. That's really tasty, but I boiled the oxtail chunks this time because I didn't want a rich broth. I wanted a clear and soothing broth.

I chopped all the veggies while the oxtail bones where boiling and dumped them all into a slow-cooker along with the bay leaves and ginger. I added water to the slow cooker about a third of the way up the pile of vegetables. The vegetables release a lot of water, so don't pour too much water!

After the oxtail bones cooked for about 10 minutes, I pulled them out and placed them on top of the veggies in the slow cooker, sprinkled some salt, and I let it cook on high for 8 hours.

Oxtail chunks

Halfway through, I nestled the oxtail bones underneath the veggies. Once the soup is done (trust me, you'll know when it's done by the aroma that fills the kitchen), pull out the ginger slices and bay leaves, and skim out the beef oil.

You can serve the soup with or without the meat from the oxtail. My mom used to reserve the bone meat for the two of us to share after a hard day in the kitchen, and we would dip the meat in Chinese black vinegar. It was a simple but delicious treat!

Thanks for making me feel better, mom, even though you're not here in person!

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