Walk down any street in Kunming and you’ll see shops packed with people slurping down warm, nourishing soups for breakfast or lunch. This recipe comes from a small storefront in Jiexiao Alley in the centre of the city. According to cooks in Yunnan, it should always be made one bowl at a time.
Serves: 1, with leftover pickles and chilli oil
Takes: 30 mins, plus 1 week pickling
For the pork broth
900g bone-in pork ribs or a mix of pork meat and
4 spring onions, white and light-green parts only
1 black cardamom pod
7cm piece of ginger, crushed with the side of
1 tbsp light soy sauce
For the pickled mustard greens
1.8kg mature Chinese mustard greens (gai choy), heads cut in half, cores removed and leaves
cut into thin strips
75g salt, plus extra for the jar
3 tbsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp cooked rice
For the chilli oil
80ml neutral-flavoured oil, such
as vegetable or groundnut
80g dried chilli flakes
pinch ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
For the soup
180g minced or finely
960ml pork broth (see ingredients above)
200g Chinese cabbage, sliced diagonally
10 tbsp pickled mustard greens (see above)
2 large handfuls of cooked wheat or rice noodles
4 tbsp chopped garlic chives
1 tsp chilli oil (see above)
Zhenjiang vinegar and more chilli oil, to serve
1 To make the broth, put the pork into a large pot filled with 2.4l water and add the trimmed spring onions, cardamom pod and crushed ginger. Bring to the boil, skim off any foam, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hrs. Stir in the soy and 2 tsp salt. Cool, then strain to remove the solids.
2 To make the pickled mustard greens, put all the ingredients into a large bowl and knead forcefully for 3-4 mins, until the volume has reduced by half. Put into a large sterilised jar, and press down with a sterilised spoon. Sprinkle a little salt on top, then top with a pickling weight. Leave to ferment at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for a week, then transfer to the fridge until ready to use.
3 To make the chilli oil, place the oil, chillies and peppercorns (if using) in a cold wok and heat on high until the chilli flakes start to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, for 2 mins. Remove from the heat and continue to stir for 2 mins, until cool. Add a pinch of salt, then store in a jar at room temperature.
4 Fill a medium pot with water and bring to the boil. Blanch the minced pork for 5-10 secs, breaking it up with chopsticks, then drain and set it aside. Pour the pork broth into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Add the pork, cabbage and 6 tbsp pickled greens. Bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 mins, until the cabbage stems have softened. Add the noodles and cook until soft. Stir in 1 tsp salt, then top the soup with the chives, chilli oil and remaining 4 tbsp pickled greens. Cook for another 30 secs, remove from the heat, and serve with the vinegar and more chilli oil on the side.
Read our interview Georgia here.
As featured in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.