Saturday, May 13, 2017


A century ago Russians fleeing political discord in Moscow and St. Peter's Burg crossed the Manchurian border, and set about finding something to eat. Alas, there were no beets! And no red cabbage! So they made do. The result was a dish that a few years later had deviated considerably from the original, and perfectly suited the cosmopolitan tastes of Hong Kong's working classes far to the south.

['lo sung tong']

Hong Kong Borscht, as served in chachantengs and dining halls, is made by rubbing meaty beef bones with oil, browning them in the oven, and drawing a stock. While the cauldron is simmering, one chops and sautées onion, garlic, celery. When fragrant, chopped tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and tomato paste, and a dash of Worcester are added, the bony beef stock is strained, skimmed, and poured in, and the pot set to simmer.
Many cooks also add chunks of oxtail, as well as potato.
Some eccentrics also include diced carrots.
A daring few add cabbage.

Barely at a bubble for over an hour. Skim occasionally. When done, adjust the flavour with salt and sugar.

[If adding potato, peel and cube, and put them in fifteen minutes before the end.]

"Gauze" "Song (Dynasty)" "Soup"

One or two onions, two or three stalks celery, three or four cloves garlic; choppity chop. Plenty of beefy bits; bones, stewmeat, or tail. One or two cans of chopped tomatoes, four or five fresh. Then just use your culinary common sense. Hearty, tomato-red, not too tomato-y. Salt, pepper, wooster, and a pinch of sugar.

If you were expecting anything like the tart Slavic product in a Hong Kong style chachanteng, it is possible that being in touch with reality is not one of your strong suits. Perhaps not even part of your skill set. But by the same token, borscht today is not the borscht of hundreds of years ago either.

"This beautiful pagoda that, sour dairy grease."

For the benefit of the insane, the Chinese word for 'smetana' is 斯美塔那酸奶油 ('si mei taap noh suen naai yau'), whereas commonly sour cream is called 酸忌廉 or 酸奶油 ('suen gei lim', 'suen naai yau').

Southern Chinese have a hard time considering such dairy products as edible, and you will not be asked if you want a dollop on your borscht.
It will just be assumed that you don't.

At a chachanteng (茶餐廳) the version served is sometimes a little thinner, at Chinese restaurants in Holland instead of beef bits and ox tails, the meat component will be delicious marble-sized meat balls, and the soup made a little more silky with corn starch.

It isn't Russian or Polish, it is Chinese, and the recipe has been word-of-mouthed for generations, skipping from one coastal metropolis to the next. It had reached Shanghai by the late twenties, Hong Kong by the mid-thirties. Like toast and Christmas pudding, it had adapted.
It isn't Russian or Polish, it is Cantonese.

麥兜 [Bliss Distribution Ltd.]
Regent Lane Ltd.

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