Traditional Chinese Pork Bone Broth
January 14, 2019
As you may have already noticed, I’ve decided to expand Brad & Butter’s realm beyond that of baking & pastry. While I do intend to continue focusing my recipes on desserts & sweets around the globe, I want to respect one of my resolutions: diversifying my culinary skill set. Thus, from now on, you’ll begin to see recipes here and there from the savory corner of Brad & Butter.
Another reason I decided to branch out is because I have always wanted to include family recipes on Brad & Butter to honor my roots and traditions. However, the lack of baking & pastry in Chinese cuisine thus forces me to explore other options. There is something so humbling about sharing a recipe that I quite literally grew up with, passed down and improved from generation to generation. It’s also a joy noticing the subtle changes in the recipe as it’s handed to the next successor, adapting and changing to the likes of the person making this broth.
The Cornerstone of Chinese Cuisine
First and foremost, I chose to explore soups & broths. Soup is an essential component of almost every meal in Chinese cuisine, and those who grow up with such traditions will quickly familiarize themselves with the classic pork bone broth. Chinese cuisine places a certain importance on soup as a dish that ties all other components of a table together. Typically consisting of lighter broths, the soups act as a palette cleanser, but is also worthy of its rich flavors.
While the recipe is extremely simple, the results truly speak for themselves. The light broth takes on a certain creaminess from the bone marrow, which fills the broth with a layer of complex umami flavor. I prefer to use the pork shoulder, knee, and/or spine bones for this soup to introduce a fair amount of meat, but also maximize flavor in the broth. And although the bone is crucial to a rich broth, the szechuan peppercorn is equally as important. Typically, the szechuan peppercorn is used for its numbing spice factor. It shines in this recipe because it imparts just the right touch of tart acidity to balance out the rich bone broth.
I mentioned previously how this recipe was adapted several times from owner to owner. The addition of bak choi came from my grandmother, while the szechuan peppercorn was a trick my mom learned from her group of friends. So what did I do? I put a slight western influence on this dish by browning the meat & ginger to intensify the flavors in the broth. Of course, I can’t wait to see what happens to this recipe next. But that, of course, is up to you :)
Over the years, I’ve come to truly appreciate the role of soup through the lens of Chinese cuisine. My mom would always tell me to drink soup when I’m feeling under the weather, to ease my upset stomach, or to scare away whatever cold I had in me. While I may not know whether soup was the catalyst for healing, I definitely understand why even today, I find so much comfort and warmth in a simple bowl - and it all started with a simple broth.
- 2 lb of pork shoulder, spine, and/or knee bones
- 1/2 a ginger, sliced
- 3 tbsp. of szechuan peppercorns
- 6-7 cups of cold water
- 5-6 stalks of bak choi, rinsed & sliced in half length-wise
- kosher salt, to taste
- In a large sauce pot, heat the oil over high heat. Add the pork bones and half of the sliced ginger to brown the residual meat on the bones. Approximately 5-6 minutes.
- Add the water, remaining sliced ginger, and szechuan peppercorns to the browned meat. Cover with a lid and wait for the broth to boil.
- Once the broth boils, reduce the heat to low and skim off any residual scum. Leave to simmer for approximately 4 hours.*
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the bak choi and kosher salt, boil for approximately 7-8 minutes or until the bak choi is soft & tender.**
- Serve immediately and enjoy!