Originating from Ukraine, borscht is a soup that is made with beets as the main ingredient. Surprisingly, you may find borscht or even Russian borscht (“loh sung tong” / “lor sung tong”) on the menus of some Hong Kong style diners. The borscht served in these Chinese restaurants is more like a hot and sour vegetable soup with tomatoes and/or tomato paste as the main ingredient(s). It’s delicious and my siblings and I love it. In fact, every time my brother sees me, he asks me when I’m going to make more of this soup for him. I made it for my housemate recently and she asked for the recipe. Every Chinese restaurant makes their borscht slightly differently, so feel free to add whatever vegetables you like. The following recipe was created to taste just like the soup that’s served at our favourite Hong Kong style diner in Markham, ON.
Chinese Borscht Recipe
4 cups of beef, chicken, or vegetable broth plus 2 cups of water (or more if you want the soup to have a higher ratio of liquid to veggies)
1 1/2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, pureed in a food processor or blender
3 cups thinly sliced cabbage (stem and core removed, remaining cabbage cut into wedges and then sliced)
2 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 large onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
Chinese chili paste, chili oil, hot sauce or dried red chili flakes to taste (I used approx. 1 tsp chili paste)
pinch of ground white and/or black pepper
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Then lightly coat the bottom with vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, stirring frequently. Add the cabbage and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage softens slightly, 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the broth, water, tomatoes and tomato paste and raise the heat to high. Once the soup comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, covered, until the carrots have reached the desired softness, between 25 and 40 minutes (depending on the size of your carrots). Stir occasionally. Then stir in the vinegar, ground pepper, and chili paste to taste. Allow the soup to simmer for 2 more minutes and remove from heat. Serve hot with ground white pepper so that your guests may add an extra dash or two to their bowls of soup if desired. This soup freezes well.