Paomo (泡馍) – Chinese Medicinal Lamb Soup

It’s cold and flu season now and it seems like everyone around me is getting sick. My throat feels like it’s tightening up but that might just all be in my head. Anyways, it’s better safe than sorry so I’m going to give my immune system the boost it needs with some soup!

Soups are a really important part of food culture. In older times, soups were known as “restoratives” and that’s actually the root of the word “restaurant”. Keeping true to that restorative nature, today I’ll be prepared a popular Chinese soup, with my own little twist.

The soup I’ll be making today is called Paomo (泡馍). I actually heard about this soup a few years ago from a small-time food vlogger living in Xi’an, China (Street Food). I seriously cannot recommend this guy enough if you’re interesting in Chinese street food and tourism.

Anyways, back on track! Pao Mo is literally translated as “soaked mo”; mo being the steamed wheat bread. The bread is best used when stale, as is any good soup crouton (think french onion soup!). The broth is traditionally a mutton broth. The reason being is that this dish is actually from the Muslim Quarters of Xi’an and pork (the staple meat of Chinese cuisine) is forbidden in Islamic law! So while walking through this part of the city, you’ll find a lot of places selling lamb and mutton.

The true inspiration for today’s dish comes from my grandmother. She’s always been very well versed in traditional Chinese medicine, and through her cooking, I think I’ve learned the basics of Chinese medicinal cooking. So with this in mind, today i’ll be preparing (what I’m calling) THE FLU CHASER/COLD CRUSHER PAO MO.

So like any good soup, we start off with our mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery). Then add the lamb meat and bones and cover with water.
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As you can clearly see, I did two things I hope all of you reading this are never going to do, so please listen carefully:

1. Use a big pot! I’m a broke starving college student and I can’t afford a stockpot, so I’m using the only saucepan I own. My ingredients barely fit, and I had to maneuver them during cooking to get them submerged under the liquid. Huge struggle, 0/10 experience.

2. Do you see that lamb? That’s rack of lamb and lamb loin. NEVER USE THESE CUTS FOR SOUP, OHHHHHHH MAN. These are really expensive cuts of meat, and the only reason I’m using them is because I got them for free from school, they’ve been sitting in my freezer for months, and I’m too broke to go buy any new lamb meat. So…*sigh*…I guess I’m using these.

So you’re going to simmer this for a long as you have the patience to wait for. My attention span is low, so I only simmered it for two hours, but feel free to go all day if that’s what your heart desires.

After you’ve waited long enough, strain it and you should have something that looks this this:

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Skim the fat off the top, and put it back into your pot. Here we’re going to infuse our medicinal herbs into the stock.

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So I just want to point out that when I say “medicinal” I don’t mean “medicinal” in the modern sense. If you have a cold, I would still highly recommend using cold medication instead of listening to some blog by a 22 year old hippy culinary student teaching you his grandma’s recipes. I’m saying it COULD help, not it WILL help.

The “medicine” I used for my soup are mostly to help fight off cold, flu, and sinus infection.

Star anise: Basically used to make the soup taste nice. There’s some mumbo jumbo on the internet on how it’s used to make some sort of flu vaccine, but there’s only like 2 in here, so I doubt it’s doing anything.

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Ginger: My mom used to give me flat ginger ale when I had stomach aches. It’s supposed to help with nausea.

Garlic: There’s this huge fad nowadays of people pureeing this stuff and drinking it as a shot. It’s got some antibacterial properties.

Goji Berries: Huge fad right now. Not really sure what it’s supposed to do but I know my grandmother always put these into her medicinal soups so I’m basically only using them because she did.

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Black Cardamom: Again, mostly there for flavor, but it does have some anti-microbial properties.

Glehnia Root: Alright this is a weird one you might not have heard of. Glehnia is actually part of the carrot family and is prized in Chinese medicine for it’s ability to deal with coughs and lung issues. It has a slightly earthy, sweet flavor but nowhere near as sweet as a carrot.

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I let the herbs and spices steep in the simmering broth for about 30 minutes before removing them and straining it again.

The broth was further concentrated, smelled amazing and developed a beautiful color.

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Alright, now to garnish the soup we have our lamb that we used for the stock, vermicelli noodles, spinach and two of my grandmother’s favorite ingredients:

Winter melon
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and Black Fungus

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Winter melon is kind of a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini. It takes well to broth as it has a sort of neutral flavor.

Black fungus is one of my personal favorites. It’s not quite a mushroom, and it doesn’t really taste like anything but it does have a nice slimy crispiness to it. Some people love it, many hate it.

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The garnish takes like a minute to cook. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE MELON. It turns to mush if you do!

AND BAM!
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As a homage to my grandmother, I added no salt or pepper to this recipe. Reason being is that my grandma has some stomach issues that don’t allow her to digest pepper. As a result, none of her cooking ever has any black pepper in it. If you really wanted to, you could DISHONOR MY LOVELY GRANDMOTHER AND ADD BLACK PEPPERCORNS, but I wouldn’t.

I also omit salt in this recipe because my grandmother chooses to not add salt to her soups as high blood pressure runs in my family. It could honestly use a pinch, but it tastes pretty good without it.

The resulting concauction is a earthy, warm, sweet soup with a slight gameiness from the lamb. Very mild, very comforting. Feels like a big hug in a bowl.

Oh wait, aren’t we forgetting something?

We have PAO but we need the MO!

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Get a nice STALE bun and rip it up! ITS RIPPING TIME!

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STIR THAT BAD BOY UP AND FEEL THE HEALING POWER OF 1000 HIPPY DOCTORS COURSING THROUGH YOUR VEINS.

STILL COUGHING? …sorry, you should probably go see a doctor but at least you have some nice soup to get you through the day.

Feel better!

-Matt

Here’s the recipe for my soup, but please take it as a guideline only. I mostly eyeball my ingredients, and I taste throughout my cooking process to adjust my seasonings. I encourage you to do the same! Cook with heart, not recipes!

Matt’s Flu Chaster, Cold Crusher Paomo

Equipment: Stockpot, Fine Mesh Strainer, Ladle, Stove, Knives

Ingredients

2 pounds Bone in Lamb (Shoulder or Leg works the best)

1 carrot

1/2 White or Yellow Onion

1 Stalk of Celery

4L cold Water

2 Star Anise

120g Glehnia Root

1 Black Cardamom Pod

20g Ginger Root

1 Garlic Clove

20g Goji Berries

50g Black Fungus

50g Winter Melon

20g Spinach

30g Mung Bean Starch Noodles

1 Chinese Steamed Bread

Preparation

  1. Cut carrots, celery and onion into large dice. Add to pot with lamb and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minimum of 1.5 hours.
  2. Strain stock. Skim and reboil with star anise, glehnia root, cardamom, garlic, ginger, and goji berries for 30 minutes.
  3. Strain one last time and add noodles, fungus, melon, and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Tear up one piece of bread and mix with soup.

 

 

 

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