Friday, April 9, 2010

West Lake Beef Soup

Usually when I have no idea what to cook for dinner or if I need to whip up something really quickly, I go for Chinese food.  You can almost stir fry any type of vegetables, put some meat in, and you have a dish in no time.  But Chinese soup is different.  The ones that my mom likes to make, with meat, vegetables and Chinese herbs,  usually take 2 to 3 hours to simmer. And it is said that those type of soup have medical value.  I have yet to learn the right ingredient combination to make those type of slow-cook soup.  The one that is easy and quick to make is the thickening soup, such as hot and sour soup, egg drop soup and West Lake beef soup. In an unusually windy and cool spring day like yesterday, I suddenly longed for the beefy taste and strong cilantro fragrant. So, I made the West Lake beef soup

*Kitchen notes:  
  • This is my version of the recipe. As with other recipes, you can find thousands of ways to cook it on the internet, especially if you can google in Chinese. Like, whether you should parboil the beef first or not, whether you should marinate the beef or not. After trying different ways, I came up with my own way to suit my own taste. 
  • I like cilantro a lot. To get the taste of the cilantro into the soup,  I boil the cilantro stems with the soup for a while.  If you do not like strong cilantro taste, please skip the step.
  • You can use just the egg white rather than the whole egg to make the egg strands.

Recipe:  West Lake Beef Soup (西湖牛肉羹)
Serve 2 to 4

For marinade:
1/2    lb extra lean ground beef
2       Tbsp light soy sauce
1       tsp Chinese cooking wine
1       tsp cornstarch
1/2    tsp sesame oil
dash of white pepper

For the stock:
1       cup low sodium chicken stock
3       cup water
3       thin slices of ginger
1       box of soft tofu, diced
1       bunch (about 10 stalks) of cilantro, rinsed, pick the leaves off the stem*
1/3    cup frozen peas
         soy sauce
3       Tbsp of cornstarch
1       egg, lightly beaten*

  1. Whisk all the marinade seasonings together and toss with the beef. Let the beef marinate for at least 15 mins.
  2. Combine 3 Tbsp of cornstarch with 3 Tbsp of water.  Stir until all the lumps are gone.  Put it aside.
  3. Boil the chicken stock, water and ginger together in a saucepan over medium heat.. When the stock is boiling, put the tofu and the cilantro stems in. Let the stock simmer for about 1 to 2 mins. When the stock is boiling again, put the marinated beef in. Break the clumps of the beef with a wooden spoon. Let the stock simmer for a while, about 4 to 5 mins, or until the beef is no longer pink. Stir in the frozen peas. Let it simmer for another min.
  4. Take out the cilantro stems. Skim off the foams or the impurities on the surface of the stock. Adjust the taste or the soup with salt and soy sauce. I put around 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of soy sauce in.
  5. Stir the cornstarch mixture again before adding to the soup.  To thicken the soup, pour in half of the cornstarch mixture while the soup is simmering. Stir and let the soup simmer for a while, check the consistency of the soup before pouring in more cornstarch mixture. The soup should turn a little bit translucent when it is thicken to the right consistency.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat.  Drizzle the egg into the soup in a steady, continuous stream while stirring the soup at the same time. The egg will turn into thin strands that floats in the soup.  Stir in the cilantro leaves.  Serve hot.


  1. "if I need to whip up something really quickly, I go for Chinese food. You can almost stir fry any type of vegetables, put some meat in, and you have a dish in no time." <<- loved that, it's so true!

    Beautiful photography

    Hungry Jenny x

  2. Joan - Thank you.
    Hungry Jenny - Thank you.

  3. It's nice. I've eaten this soup a few times at some restaurants. I looked at several recipes online. This I like most. I'll try to cook this today and put it on my blog. Greetings from Serbia.

  4. I've cooked this many times now. I've tried others, but I like your recipe the best. It's delicious and comforting. Thank you!


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