胡辣汤 (Hu La Tang) is the most popular breakfast in He Nan province. Tang means soup, Hu is the first character of peppercorns in Chinese, and La means hot or spicy. This dish is famous for its outstanding peppery flavor and a lasting, complex spice fragrance. The soup is warm, creamy, and thick – perfect for winter.
1. Separate the Wheat Starch and Gluten – Xi Mian Jing (洗面筋)
I will show you the traditional method of how we separate the gluten and wheat starch. It is a time-consuming process called Xi Mian Jing (洗面筋), which means washing the gluten. Not that many people will do it this way anymore, but it is always good to know how things are traditionally done. Also, I will talk about the shortcut later if you don’t have time to do this, so do not worry.
I am using bread flour today because it contains a higher percentage of gluten. All-purpose flour will also work, but you might get a bit less gluten out of it, which is totally fine.
In a mixing bowl, combine 300 grams of bread flour and 175 grams of water. Give that a pre-mix to roughly corporate everything. You can knead the dough by hand which is not that difficult, but since I have a KitchenAid, why not use it. Let it run at low speed for 8-10 minutes.
When it is done kneading, it should be smooth and nonstick. Roughly shape it into a round ball. Cover it. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This will give the dough enough time to allow all the proteins to bond with each other.
30 minutes later, take the dough out and wash it into a bowl that is filled with water. As the water gets cloudy, you will see some strings appearing on the surface of the dough; it looks kind of like a network. That is gluten. All the wheat starch was in between these strings, so you just do your best to wash the starch off. Keep rubbing and rinsing it gently as you are hand washing a delicate cloth.
In about 10 minutes, you will have a piece of gluten and a big batch of starch water. Pour the starch water into a big bowl to collect it. Use a sieve to catch any small gluten bits. Continue to wash the gluten with a little more water several times until the water becomes clear.
Soak the gluten so it doesn’t dry out. Let the starch water sit for at least 6 hours to allow the starch to sink to the bottom completely. Pour out the topwater carefully.
We will use this starch water to thicken the soup later and we will cook the gluten in the soup as a topping. I understand it is time-consuming so if you want a shortcut, you can buy the wheat starch and wheat gluten from the store; I will link the products in the description. If you want a gluten free option, you can use cornstarch to replace the wheat starch and use tofu sheets to replace the wheat gluten or simply skip the wheat gluten altogether. Ok, let’s set them aside and we will move on to the beef stock.
2. Make the Beef Stock
You will need 3-4 pound of beef. You want to get the cut that has 50% meat and 50% bone, such as beef ribs, beef neck, shank. The bone is gonna help to enrich the broth and we need the meat to make the soup.
I prefer my broth to come out clean and clear so I will blanch the beef first. Fill a pot with water and add your beef. Bring it to a boil and skim off the foamy scum. Take the beef out. Discard the water.
Star with a new clean pot and add the beef in along with 2.5 liters of boiling hot water and simmer for 2.5 hours.
3. Prepare the Ingredients That We Want to Put Into the Soup
Technically, you can use whatever you like but I want to introduce some classic items so you can recreate the local flavor. Mostly they are dried ingredients so you will have to soak then 2 hours ahead until they are fully rehydrated.
- Raw peanut (60 grams) – The peanut that I am using has the skin on. Optionally, I will rub it off and discard it as it brings a slight beany taste. If you can find skinless peanuts, that will be even better
- Dried day lily flower (25 grams) – It is also known as dried lily buds or golden needles. It has a unique woody, earthy aroma.
- Dried kelp (18 grams) – It is a large, leafy brown seaweed. You can buy it in almost any asian markets because Chinese, Japanese, and Korean love to cook with kelp. It gets quite slippery after soaking so you will have to rinse it before cutting and cooking.
- Dried wood ear fungus (10 grams) – also known as black fungus and jelly ear. It gives a nice crunchy texture which I really like. I only used 10 grams of dried forms, but the volume became much bigger once rehydrated. Slice it thinly.
- Sweet potato starch noodles (85 grams) – Once rehydrated, cut them into 2-inch-long pieces.
Note: It is OK to use other ingredients if you don’t have access to these Chinese products, juliened cabbage, carrot, tofu, mushroom, rice noodles will also do well in this recipe.
4. Make the Spice Powder
This is the key of Hu La Tang. It provides a lasting aroma, which is the character of this soup. Some people believe that it has many health benefits, but there aren’t any studies about it. Toast the spices below and blend them into a fine powder. I listed all the spices below, which does look like a ton. I understand it is hard to collect all of them so if you miss one or 2 kinds, it is fine. You will not ruin the dish but the flavor will be a bit different.
- White pepper (2.5 tsp)
- Black pepper (2.5 tsp)
- Piper longum (3 pieces) – It is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae. It has a taste similar to black and white pepper, but much hotter.
- Sichuan peppercorns (1.5 tsp)
- Fennel seeds (1/4 tsp)
- Star anise (1/2 of a piece)
- Cinnamon stick (a small piece)
- 1/8 of a nutmeg
- Angelica dahurica root (1 piece) – It is a traditional Chinese medicine called baizhi (白芷)
- Licorice root (2 pieces) – It has a strong sweet taste. The chinese name is Gan cao (甘草)
- Amomum villosum pod (1 piece) – It is a plant in the ginger family. We call it Sha Ren （砂仁）
- Black cardamon (1/4 of a piece)
- Cloves (2 pieces)
- White cardamon (1 piece)
- Ginger powder (1 tsp) – it is already a powder form so I didn’t grind it.
Note: For some of these spices, I gave very small measurements such as 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8 of a piece. That is because the amount that I make is for 1 pot of soup. If you try this recipe and you love it, you can double or triple the measurements and make a big batch so next time you do need to go through all this work.
5. Put Together the Soup
When the beef stock is ready, the beef should be fall off bone tender. Remove all the bones and shred the meat with forks.
Add the shredded meat, peatnut, 3 tbsp of diced scallion, 1.5 tbsp of diced garlic, and 1/2 tbsp of finely minced ginger, day lily, kelp, wood ear fungus, and sweet potato starch noodles into the broth. Keep cooking it on low heat.
Stretch the gluten and rip it into small little pieces then put it in the soup.
Season the soup with some salt, 3 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce, and the spice powder.
Note: I did use all the spice powder because I like the strong and heavy flavor, but if this is the first time you are making this dish you should add it little by little to make sure it fits your preference.
Use the starch water to thicken the soup. The texture should be like gravy.
Top it with some diced cilantro. If you like it to be spicier you can drizzle in a little hot chili oil. This soup is commonly accompanied by deep-fried dough sticks. You can cut them into bite-sized pieces and soak them into the soup. In Henan province, local people will eat this as breakfast like every day. To me, it is definitely a winter warmer – better than a goose down jacket because every time I eat it, I can just feel the heat building up all over my body.
WINTER WARMER - Hot Pepper Soup (河南胡辣汤)
INGREDIENTS (Serve 5-6 people)
- 300 grams 10.6 oz of bread flour
- 175 grams 6.2 oz of water to make the dough
- 1.6 kg 3.5 lbs of beef bones & meat I used 1.5 lbs of beef ribs and 2 lbs of beef neck
- 2.5 liters 10.5 cups of boiling hot water
- 25 grams 0.9 oz of dried day lily 黄花菜
- 60 grams 2.1 oz of raw peanut 花生
- 10 grams 0.35 oz of dried wood ear fungus 木耳
- 18 grams 0.63 oz of dried kelp 海带
- 85 grams 3 oz of sweet potato starch noodles 红薯粉条 红薯粉条
- 2.5 tsp of white pepper 白胡椒
- 2.5 tsp of black pepper 黑胡椒
- 3 piper longum AKA long pepper 荜茇
- 1.5 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns 花椒
- 1/2 of star anise 八角
- 1/4 tsp of fennel seeds 小茴香
- A small piece of cinnamon stick 桂皮
- 1/8 of a nutmeg 肉蔻
- 1 piece of Angelica dahurica root 白芷
- 2 pieces of Licorice root 甘草
- 1 piece of Amomum villosum pod 砂仁
- 1/4 of a black cardamon 草果
- 1 white cardamon 白豆蔻
- 2 cloves 丁香
- 1 tsp of ginger powder 姜粉
- 1/2 tbsp of diced ginger
- 1.5 tbsp of diced garlic
- 3 tbsp of diced scallion
- 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp of salt
- 3 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
- Diced cilantro as garnish
- Hot chili oil Optional
- In a mixing bowl, combine 300 grams of bread flour and 175 grams of water. Knead it into a smooth and nonstick dough. Rest for 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes later, fill a big bowl with water and wash the dough for 10 minutes or until the gluten and the starch are fully separated.
- Soak the gluten so it doesn’t dry out. Set it aside.
- Pour the starch water through a sieve to get rid of any gluten bits. Let the starch water sit for at least 6 hours to allow the starch to sink to the bottom completely. Then discard the topwater carefully. Set it aside.
- Blanch the beef: Fill a pot with water and add 1.5 pounds of beef ribs and 2 pounds of beef neck. Cover it. Turn the heat to high and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, skim off the foamy scum by using a fine sieve.
- Take the beef out. Discard the water. Wash the pot, then add the beef back in. Pour in 2.5 liters of boiling hot water and turn the heat to the lowest. Let it simmer for 2.5 hours.
- Soak 60 grams of raw peanut, 25 grams of dried day lily flower, 18 grams of dried kelp, and 10 grams of dried wood ear fungus, and 85 grams of sweet potato starch noodles for 2 hours or until they are fully rehydrated.
- Remove the peanut skin if there is any.
- Rinse the kelp to remove the slippery mucus. Then cut it into 2-inch-long strips.
- Slice the wood ear fungus thinly.
- Cut the sweet potato noodles into 2-inch-long pieces.
- Toast the spices in a cast-iron skillet on low heat for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant. Put the spices in a bowl. Let it cool a little bit. Transfer them into a grinder and blend everything finely.
- Let it go through a sieve to get rid of any stubborn pieces. Last, add 1 tsp of ginger powder. Stir to mix and set it aside.
- By now, the stock should be ready. Take the beef out. Remove the bones and shred the meat.
- Add in the peanuts, shredded beef, diced scallion, diced garlic, minced ginger into the beef stock. Turn the heat to low, continue to cook.
- Stretch the gluten and rip it into small little pieces then put it in the broth.
- Continue by adding the rehydrated day lily, kelp, wood ear fungus, and sweet potato starch noodles.
- Season the soup with salt, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and the spice powder by taste.
- Take out the starch water. Stir to mix. Use it to thicken up the soup.
- Top it with some diced cilantro. If you like it to be spicier you can drizzle in a little hot chili oil. This soup is commonly accompanied by deep-fried dough sticks. You can cut them into bite-sized pieces and soak them into the soup. In Henan province, local people will eat this as breakfast like every day. To me, it is definitely a winter warmer - better than a goose down jacket because every time I eat it, I can just feel the heat building up all over my body.