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The Mysterious East: Ginger, Fruit & Beef Soup

As you may have noticed, my style of cooking involves a lot of improvisation.  I like to work with what I’ve got on hand.  But since I’m not on a first-name basis with most ingredients found in Asian cuisine nor very well-versed in Asian cooking techniques, I tend not to go there.

Until now.

Pacific Rim Paradox

Pacific Rim Paradox

At the risk of sounding offensive, I still find Asian cooking a little inscrutable.

I enjoy the cuisines of China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines, but am intimidated by cooking in any of those styles.

It’s partly to do with my childhood.  My family ate often at Mexican restaurants, albeit Americanized ones (I’m talking to you Red Onion) and even cooked it at home, if you count taco night and tamale pie. But the choices for Asian cuisine were limited to one Chinese take-out restaurant that we visited only on occasion.  And cooking it at home?  Forget about it.

I’m trying to remedy that situation with my own children and, to my credit, the only way my eldest will eat green beans is when they’ve been stir-fried.  Pot stickers are another favorite of the girls.

I know, I know, big deal.  Anyone can fry beans in peanut oil and open a bag of frozen dumplings from Costco.

Trader Joe’s was actually what got me going in this far eastern direction.  On a whim I had picked up a can of coconut milk the last time I was there, and that purchase spurred me to buy the next ingredient: ginger.

At that point I was already half way across the pacific.

I knew enough to peel the ginger before using it and was pleased by the pungent smell that filled the kitchen when I began chopping. Next I added the minced root to the stock along with the coconut milk. The goal was to make a broth that resembled those I’d tasted in the various restaurants I’d been to throughout my (adult) life, or, to use the jargon of American hegemony, to “Asian it up” a bit.

Then the lure of improvisation took over and I threw in peaches and kiwis, because I had them, yes, but also to push the soup in a more summery direction.  In the process I took the soup into the realm of fusion cooking.  I had planned on putting the beef into the pot a minute before service, like a Vietnamese Pho, but I decided to add it earlier to give the broth a little more heft. The chili powder gave it more than enough kick.

You could say that I brought it back to the Asian side of the Pacific by adding Chinese parsley. But that’s just another name for cilantro, so the soup truly landed in the realm of California cuisine.

Ditto for the lime juice and scallions.

We shared it with my in-laws and a horde of mosquitoes on the patio and had nothing but positive comments.  In fact, it was really good.  A perfect follow-up to the last game of my daughters’ first year playing that other pan-Pacific pastime: baseball (okay, softball).

Like my first foray into Asian soups, my girls were a little humbled by the difficulty of the game and the talent already on the field.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and produced some great results.

As with anyone who truly loves the game, we can’t wait to get back out there again.

Ginger, Fruit & Beef Soup
(serves 6-8)
¼ cup fresh ginger, minced
8 cups stock
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 cups onions, sliced
2 T chili powder
4 med. peaches, peeled and cut into chunks
4 kiwis, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb beef, sliced into short thin strips
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup cilantro, chopped
The juice of 2 limes
Green onions, sliced on a diagonal

  1. Peel and mince the ginger, add it to the stock, coconut milk and onions and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the fruit and chili powder to the pot and continue to simmer.
  3. At this point I seasoned the beef, added it to the soup along with the cilantro and continued simmering for 10-15 more minutes.
  4. Right before service, I added the lime juice and green onions and put the soup warm into bowls.
  5. We served this soup with a warm spinach salad and it went very well with the warm summer night.

Image Credit: Another Lucky Lager Tribute Image from the old college days

In the periodic break between Midwestern thunderstorms, leave a comment about your favorite Asian ingredients and, if you like, this week’s posting.  How else am I going to learn? I’ll be reading and responding.

4 Comments to “The Mysterious East: Ginger, Fruit & Beef Soup”

  1. Titania says:

    That sounds great, Phil, and thanks to Tofurky’s beef strips, even I can make it. You’re not the only one who has ventured into Asian cuisine, as soon as the kids left home we too extended our tastes.

    • pcandres says:

      Let’s not forget the trips to the middle east with Kibbe and cinnamon rice. There’s a lot more stuff out there to learn. I hope that keeps the blog interesting.

  2. Bonnie says:

    The mention of coconut milk and ginger soared me back to many trips to Asia where I experienced such wonderful, aromatic cuisines. I’m looking forward to trying this!

    Just wanted to check in and say hi – send me an update if/when you want. I’ve been thinking of you guys

    • pcandres says:

      I have never been to Asia, but the cuisine is easily the biggest enticement. Since you’re a veteran traveler, I’d be glad if you let me know how authentically it turns out.