THE WEST LAKE HYBRID

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You know… as someone who’s been gutting dead animals… chopping things… hacking and hammering in the kitchen for the past 15 years, I pride myself for the fact that I seldom, and I mean rarely burn or hurt myself inside my ruling domain.  No, it isn’t because I’m more masterful at wielding heavy machineries, but because I have a deeply-rooted, intolerated fear for pain which led to a full spectrum of obsessive precautions before any hazardous conducts in the kitchen.  But… just before I sat down for a chat with you, I though, hey, maybe it was a good idea to first finish slicing those mathafuckin’ fibrous and tough galangals for easy freezing… just to check it off my list…

Well, just like that, there goes my left middle-finger now looking tragically like a tissue paper and tape-wrapped lollipop, summer strawberry flavour.  You see?  You see me waving my middle finger in 360º just so you can see clearly?  Especially at you, galangals.

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So what does this mean?  This means that it’s extremely difficult let alone say… PAINFUL to type any words with the letter “e”, “d” and “c”, which is to say that it has been the case for 149 times so far, and counting (150).  Thank God I typed the recipe-part ahead of time…  So if you don’t mind, to prevent myself from continuously tapping my wound against the keyboard, I’d like to keep this one short.  Thank you.

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I have one rule of (intact) thumb when it comes to calling something “fusion”, and that is – don’t even think about it.  Instead, I’d like to characterize such dishes as “con-fusion” as more appropriately so, and you are looking at an excellent example at such.  It was first brought to my attention by Saveur’s November issue, as a hearty Portuguese soup called Acorda a Alentejana (bread and garlic soup with cilantro), which strikes a close resemblance as a Chinese classic (more) beautifully named as, West Lake Beef Soup.  More than a “soup”, it’s a “geng” which means soups that are thicken with potato starch for a silky and velvety texture.

So, I decided they should get married and make babies.

It has its Portuguese parent’s green hue, from an exceeding amount of pureed cilantro, green chilis and garlic, and of course some garlic and anchovy croutons to soak it all up.  The Chinese side brought tender bites of minced beef throughout, plus a thick and silky texture with beaten egg whites swirling inside like pretty laces.  Mildly spicy, herby and hearty.  A perfect November child.

It’s a much better thing to lick than a fresh wound I tell you.

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Servings: 2

This isn’t a secret or anything but I suspect a lot of people, who aren’t familiar with Chinese cooking, wouldn’t know.  Often times if you’ve ever had a Chinese dish with some kind of sautéed beef, and wondered why texture of the beef is strangely tender and “tissue-less”, it’s because the beef was marinated with baking soda.  Just a tiny tiny amount of baking soda will break down the protein in tough cuts of beef, and is used in almost all Chinese restaurants for stir-fry.

Ingredients: adapted generously from Saveur

  • 4.6 oz (130 grams) of beef chuck
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp of baking soda
  • Chili, cilantro and garlic paste:
    • 3.5 oz (100 grams), or approx 7 long green chilis
    • 3.2 oz (90 grams, or approx 1 cup) of cilantro
    • 8 cloves of garlic
    • 1/4  cup of olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander
    • 1/4 tsp of ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cup of low-sodium good-quality chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch, or potato starch
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Bread croutons:
    • 1 heaping cup of diced rustic bread
    • 1 1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter
    • 1 fillet of anchovy in olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 cloves of garlic, grated

Use a sharp and heavy knife to mince the beef chuck into tiny pieces, but not to “ground” it.  Mix the minced beef EVENLY with 1/4 tsp of salt, black pepper and 1/8 tsp of baking soda, and let marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Add green chilis, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, salt, ground coriander and ground cumin in the food-processor and ground into a paste-consistency.  Set aside.

To make the crouton, preheat the broiler at high.  Melt the unsalted butter in a skillet and add anchovy fillet, and ground black pepper.  Break up the anchovy with a wooden spoon and sauté until fragrant.  Mix in the grated garlic, and toss the mixture with diced rustic bread, and toast under the broiler until crispy and browned.  Watch closely as this will happen quickly.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, add 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook the marinated beef until slightly browned, then add 1 cup of the herb-paste.  Cook the paste for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant, and the moisture slightly reduced.  Add the chicken stock and let it simmer for another 3 ~ 4 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until frothy.  And evenly whisk the whole milk and cornstarch together.  With the soup simmering, slowly drizzle in the milk-mixture while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Cook for a couple of minutes to let the soup thicken.  Then again, with the soup simmering while stirring constantly, drizzle in the beaten egg whites.  Keep stirring for about 30 seconds, then TURN OFF the heat completely.  The egg whites should look like little, pretty tiny strands throughout the soup.  Re-season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve the soup immediately with the croutons and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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10 Comments

  • I am OBSESSED with soup and have never seen a recipe for such look so unique and delicious! Your blog is stunning. I will definitely be trying this recipe sooner than later.

  • Reply November 15, 2013

    Sophie

    I have never heard of a dish with all these flavors and textures! I’m so intrigued…. and since I can’t imagine how it must taste, of course I’m going to make it.

    So sorry about your strawberry-popsicle finger. Though if I’ve learned anything from you so far I doubt it will slow you down much!

  • Reply November 16, 2013

    Annette Venditti

    I adore this recipe! I do however admit to a strong dislike to cilantro… in heavy doses. I need to try this lovely recipe of yours but will replace the cilantro with parsley and basil mixture.

    I have also been making anchovy and cheese croutons with day old bread since my childhood in upstate NY. Wonderful to see them used in this Portuguese and Asian fusion recipe.

    I also wish to send you my highest compliments on your stunning photography. I aspire to shoot images like this for my food blog. Please take a moment to visit my blog at: http://www.cuinadimammina.com

    Thank you for this wonderful post, will be making this for my famiglia soon :)

  • Reply November 16, 2013

    Laurie

    Oh poor Mandy!!! I HATE when I have a cut on the hands. So painful and fucking inconvenient. Hope you heal fast.

    I love the recipe. Want to make it soon since it is soo cold here, now. I just got some wonderful anchovies from Spain that will be perfect for the croutons.

    Kiss the pups for me!

  • Reply November 17, 2013

    Laurie

    Hey – forgot to ask – can you do the same with the baking soda for chicken or pork?

    • Reply November 17, 2013

      Mandy L.

      Laurie, technically you can, to more fibrous cut like chicken breast (it’s less applied to pork). But be careful not to put too much or marinate for too long.

  • Reply November 19, 2013

    Kari Jaquith

    So making this very soon.

  • Reply November 19, 2013

    Shuku

    I’m definitely going to be trying this…well, when I get cilantro and beef in the house. :P I’ve actually not done the baking soda trick myself, amazingly enough – my grandmother always used cornstarch but not baking soda, and I do the same, and so far no complaints. Yet. But I’ll definitely be trying the baking soda so I can do a comparison. Also: your gorgeous winter scones are still on my to do list. I just can’t make ‘em till I go home in December to visit my parents – I have a Housemate Situation that makes baking Not Advisable.

    Geng. Mmmmmm. Much much love for those, indeed. It’s actually chilly enough here after a week of torrential monsoon rains to merit the Digging Out Again of Soup Recipes!

    • Reply November 19, 2013

      Mandy L.

      Shuku, some people don’t like the idea of putting baking soda in their marinate at home because somehow it’s deemed as “not good for your health”… but I think that’s kinda silly because we allow ourselves to eat cakes and bakeries everything without fretting…

      Some people like the effct of baking soda on beef (making them tender and tissue-less), some don’t. You really have to try it to know :)

      It is getting cold and perfect for all these warm recipes! HOLIDAY SEASON!

  • Reply December 15, 2013

    Teresa

    I just made this and it is absolutely wonderful.

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