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Ancient Chinese Secret? Chicken Broth

Perilagu Khan Aug 26, 2013 10:32 AM

I'm a devotee of chicken broth and stock. Love it in virtually all its forms. The best chicken broths/stocks, however, seem to reside in Chinese-American restaurants. Any clue as to why they're so delicious? I've heard that the Chinese use ginger in their broth/stock, but is that really all there is to it?

  1. b
    barryg Aug 26, 2013 10:37 AM

    Soup base with MSG, or MSG-like ingredients that dont need to be labeled as such. Very few if any of these restaurants are making broth from scratch.

    6 Replies
    1. re: barryg
      joonjoon Aug 26, 2013 01:47 PM

      This is the correct answer.

      1. re: barryg
        Lmrbest Aug 27, 2013 10:52 AM

        Do you know of a brand of soup base to use when making a chinese chicken stock? I love the ultra-flavorful broth from chinese restaurants, and have not been able to duplicate it. I get sort of close, but it's not as rich as I want. I have access to a store with a huge amount of asian products, not just Chinese. Thanks!

        1. re: Lmrbest
          joonjoon Aug 27, 2013 11:32 AM

          Give this one a try: http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Kum-Kee-Chi...

          They have it at most asian markets. There's other chicken powders as well, they're all pretty much the same. Knorr seems to be popular.

          1. re: Lmrbest
            barryg Aug 27, 2013 11:58 AM

            At home I use Better Than Boullion in almost every soup and sauce I make, it's a great flavor enhancer. If you make plain, strong stock with it, I think it come pretty close to Chinese restaurant broth -- but not as clear. The other recs may be better for plain soup.

            1. re: barryg
              joonjoon Aug 27, 2013 01:48 PM

              BTB recently scored 2nd place on Cook's Illustrated's chicken stock test - the only one that scored better was Swanson's chicken stock (not any of their broths). It's great stuff!

              1. re: barryg
                Violatp Aug 27, 2013 01:57 PM

                Love BTB. I have jars of the low (er) sodium beef and chicken at all times. I wish the mushroom kind could be low (er) sodium but, after emailing the company, I was told it didn't work with less salt. Bummer.

          2. v
            Violatp Aug 26, 2013 10:39 AM

            I was at a local market and there was someone there from the Chinese place across the street buying up all the chicken feet the store had.

            Chicken feet are fabulous for a good stock/broth.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Violatp
              c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:35 PM

              I use chicken feet as well as necks and backs.

            2. eclecticsynergy Aug 26, 2013 12:25 PM

              Yep, I think Viola has it right- it's the chicken feet. They're loaded with keratin and add not just good rich flavor but also a slight smooth silkiness to the texture.

              The best wonton soup I ever had was at a little place in Montreal; their broth was noticeably and deliciously infused with fresh ginger, and the wontons had enough toasted sesame oil in them that it would burst upon the palate with each new bite. Little taste explosions. That was over fifteen years ago and my mouth still waters at the memory.

              As an aside, there's one local Chinese place here in Albany with wonderfully tasty chicken broth in their soups, yet it always seemed to vary a bit with each visit. I finally realized that they were reheating it in their woks and it was picking up tiny traces of previous stir-fries. Now when I bring home Chinese soup, I usually add a drop of sesame oil and sometimes a bit of oyster sauce.

              1. coll Aug 26, 2013 12:29 PM

                Chicken feet, and ginger, and lots of garlic, and star anise.

                2 Replies
                1. re: coll
                  opinionatedchef Sep 13, 2013 08:55 PM

                  coll, that's exACTly what i was thinking- star anise.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                    coll Sep 14, 2013 03:24 AM

                    Star anise is subtle but makes a big difference.

                2. Perilagu Khan Aug 26, 2013 12:58 PM

                  Are chicken feet readily available? Never seen a Chicken Feet R Us down on the corner.

                  27 Replies
                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                    Violatp Aug 26, 2013 01:02 PM

                    I guess it depends on where you live. I'm in Chicago so I have access to pretty much anything. Of course, the standard markets still don't carry them. The market I mentioned carries quite an international range of foods and supplies.

                    Do you have access to an Asian market?

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                      coll Aug 26, 2013 01:31 PM

                      I can get them at any of the smaller supermarket chains here. Those that cater to Hispanics especially. Those feet are creepy looking but oh so good!

                      1. re: coll
                        Perilagu Khan Aug 26, 2013 02:36 PM

                        I'm not sure I could bring myself to buy 'em!

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                          coll Aug 26, 2013 02:55 PM

                          After the first (or second) time it gets easier.

                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                            monavano Aug 26, 2013 03:11 PM

                            Yes, it's alarming at first!

                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                              Violatp Aug 26, 2013 03:24 PM

                              The toenails still squick me out a little!

                              1. re: Violatp
                                Perilagu Khan Aug 26, 2013 03:28 PM

                                Bloody hell.

                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                  Violatp Aug 26, 2013 03:31 PM

                                  Sorry. :-/

                                2. re: Violatp
                                  coll Aug 26, 2013 03:34 PM

                                  Yeah it's the toenails that put it over the top. Wish they could trim them first!

                                3. re: Perilagu Khan
                                  c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:37 PM

                                  I've been eating chicken feet at dim sum places for a few years now and kick myself that I waited so long. They're delish. Truly.

                                  1. re: c oliver
                                    Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 12:44 PM

                                    Which kind do you eat? The white ones or the brown/reddish ones?



                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:51 PM

                                      Definitely the brown. May have had the best ever last Sunday in Seattle's ID

                                4. re: coll
                                  tastesgoodwhatisit Aug 26, 2013 10:26 PM

                                  When I buy a whole chicken in Taiwan, it comes with the feet on. They'll trim the toenails if you want, though.

                                  You can buy packs of feet (or hearts, or testicles, or gibblets) as well.

                                  I do use the Chinese method for stock. Bring water to the boil, toss in your raw chicken piicesand cook for about 5 minutes Drain the chicken into a collander, wash the pot, rinse the pieces, and start with fresh cold water, heating it slowly.

                                  The initial blanching gets rid of the blood and stuff that makes the broth cloudy and scummy. The result is a nice clear stock without having to skim or clarify.

                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                    hala Aug 27, 2013 04:04 AM

                                    I agree that the secret is in the blanching. Makes the broth clear and gets rid of impurities.

                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                      monavano Aug 27, 2013 05:35 AM

                                      Hmm.. thanks for the blanching tip. I'm definitely going to give that a try.
                                      Fortunately, I can get all sort of chicken bits and bobs from ethnic markets and I'd love to get a clearer result in my stock.

                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                        Puffin3 Aug 27, 2013 05:36 AM

                                        That's where 'Tampopo' was filmed.

                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                          c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:37 PM

                                          I do that with cows feet when making pho broth.

                                        2. re: coll
                                          sedimental Aug 26, 2013 10:52 PM

                                          Feet add texture in terms of cartilage, but no notable flavor.

                                          Super "chickeny" and very yellow colored stock from Chinese american restaurants is from MSG. They don't use feet, they use a plastic tub :)

                                          1. re: sedimental
                                            C. Hamster Aug 26, 2013 11:30 PM


                                            Feet don't add flavor

                                            1. re: sedimental
                                              c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:38 PM

                                              As I mentioned upthread, I use feet and necks and backs.

                                          2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                            Tripeler Aug 27, 2013 07:00 AM

                                            Gimme a Chicken Foot and a Bottle of Tsing-Tao

                                            1. re: Tripeler
                                              c oliver Aug 27, 2013 12:38 PM

                                              Give me several of them and the beer.

                                              1. re: Tripeler
                                                opinionatedchef Sep 13, 2013 08:58 PM

                                                Take me for a monkey ride?

                                              2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                John E. Aug 27, 2013 04:59 PM

                                                I've purchased chicken feet at Asian grocery stores but was mildly surprised when I saw them at the local grocery store (owned by SuperValu). We have a lot of frozen chicken stock in the freezer so I didn't buy them. (I make a lot of stock in the winter time and never make it in the summer time. We had another day with the heat index at about 110 degrees, in Minnesota.)

                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                  LMAshton Aug 31, 2013 04:59 AM

                                                  The chicken and ducks that I buy whole here in Singapore come complete with feet. And their entire head.

                                                  1. re: LMAshton
                                                    coll Sep 1, 2013 08:21 AM

                                                    OK the head would give me pause. Majorly!

                                                    1. re: coll
                                                      LMAshton Sep 1, 2013 05:06 PM

                                                      I think I've lived in Asia too long. I didn't even bat an eye. The toenails on the feet, though - that grosses me out. Can't even explain why. The husband freaked out over the beak, though. :D

                                                2. monavano Aug 26, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                  When I make "Asian" chicken or beef stock, I roast the ginger, garlic and onion first, and heat the spices in a pan to toast them.
                                                  Deepens flavor.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: monavano
                                                    Perilagu Khan Aug 26, 2013 03:28 PM

                                                    A capital idea.

                                                    1. re: monavano
                                                      klyeoh Aug 27, 2013 12:14 AM

                                                      Roasting the aromatics first - a very Vietnamese approach. That's how they get so much flavours into their pho broth.

                                                      1. re: klyeoh
                                                        monavano Aug 27, 2013 05:36 AM

                                                        Yes, I did this for the first time when I made Pho and I was pleasantly pleased with myself that I got such a tasty broth!

                                                        1. re: klyeoh
                                                          opinionatedchef Sep 13, 2013 09:00 PM

                                                          very Indian, very French, very Mexican. Prob everybody!

                                                      2. PBSF Aug 26, 2013 11:10 PM

                                                        Chinese restaurants that actually make their own stock/broth add a variety of things depending on what they have in hand: bones from their deboning of chicken parta, chicken feet, pork bones, chicken and pork scraps pork, certain vegetable scraps. They let it simmer continuously and add to it through the day. They also use it to poach chicken which add an extra richness. Ginger is often use to get rid of what many Chinese perceive as 'gaminess' in meat and poultry. Many inexpensive Chinese restaurant just use a chicken flavor bouillon or add it to fortify a very weak chicken broth/stock. As for buying a lot of chicken feet for stock, only high-end restaurants can afford that. Chicken feet is a delicacy, very popular as a dim sum item.

                                                        21 Replies
                                                        1. re: PBSF
                                                          JMF Aug 26, 2013 11:37 PM

                                                          At the Asian stores in my area chicken feet are dirt cheap. Less than $1 lb. retail, and a lb. is a lot of feet.

                                                          1. re: JMF
                                                            joonjoon Aug 27, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                            Not to be a party pooper but I don't think 1$/lb can be considered cheap for chicken feet when you can buy whole chickens for 1$....

                                                            1. re: joonjoon
                                                              c oliver Aug 27, 2013 01:52 PM

                                                              I see what you're saying. However that $1/# chicken likely didn't arrive in the store 'wearing' feet so it's kinda apples and oranges.

                                                              1. re: joonjoon
                                                                Violatp Aug 27, 2013 01:58 PM

                                                                If you consider just how many chickens it takes to make a pound of feet - that's pretty cheap! Or, rather, cheep. Heh.

                                                                1. re: Violatp
                                                                  joonjoon Aug 27, 2013 02:47 PM

                                                                  I guess I didn't think of it that way...I guess I'm saying for the money you'd be better off buying whole chickens or chicken thighs or something like that (for stock making purposes).

                                                                  1. re: joonjoon
                                                                    c oliver Aug 27, 2013 02:49 PM

                                                                    But in my experience, which isn't vast, the feet give me the collagen effect and the necks and backs give me the chicken flavor. So I really don't want to lose either of those.

                                                                2. re: joonjoon
                                                                  JMF Aug 27, 2013 04:10 PM

                                                                  I said "less than $1 lb." I can't remember exactly, but very inexpensive.

                                                                3. re: JMF
                                                                  PBSF Aug 27, 2013 02:52 PM

                                                                  Restaurants can buy chicken bones for 20 cents a pound. Even if they can get chicken feet for 70 cents pound wholesale, it is expensive for them.

                                                                  1. re: PBSF
                                                                    coll Aug 27, 2013 03:12 PM

                                                                    Maybe 20 years ago?

                                                                    1. re: coll
                                                                      PBSF Aug 27, 2013 09:12 PM

                                                                      I know someone who runs a Chinese restaurant. They buy 50 lb box frozen for around $10.00

                                                                      1. re: PBSF
                                                                        coll Aug 28, 2013 02:03 AM

                                                                        I'm out of the business awhile now, thanks for the update!

                                                                    2. re: PBSF
                                                                      KaimukiMan Aug 28, 2013 04:46 PM

                                                                      Don't forget that Chicken Feet are served as a delicacy in many Chinese Restaurants, not just used for soup.

                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                        scoopG Aug 28, 2013 04:55 PM

                                                                        Yes, always a hot dim sum item!

                                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                                          Chemicalkinetics Aug 28, 2013 05:26 PM

                                                                          Not always hot, sometime cold.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                            scoopG Aug 29, 2013 03:24 AM

                                                                            "Hot" as in popular.


                                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 05:37 AM

                                                                              In which case, it won't be a single hot dim sum item - in singular. Chicken feet are made into multiple different items.

                                                                              Multiple popular dishes. Just to be clear.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                scoopG Aug 29, 2013 06:51 AM

                                                                                Yes, it is a hot dim sum item with many people.

                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 06:58 AM

                                                                                  Which one do you like better? The brown/red ones or the white ones?

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                    JMF Aug 29, 2013 07:52 AM

                                                                                    The dark long cooked in sauce ones. It doesn't matter which sauce...

                                                                  2. re: PBSF
                                                                    coll Aug 27, 2013 03:59 AM

                                                                    When I and some co-workers visited the Tyson factory many moons ago, one thing that stuck in all our minds was their story of "chicken paws" (as they call them down there). They told us how they all get shipped to China and are the most profitable part of the chicken. Then one of my co-workers told me that in Chile, where she was from, they also were a popular appetizer, served fried. If not for those stories, I might have been afraid to try them!

                                                                    1. re: PBSF
                                                                      opinionatedchef Sep 13, 2013 09:03 PM

                                                                      yes, i have read in a number of cookbooks that to make a very robust chicken stock, add a whole chicken(or equivalent) to a pot of stock and keep going.

                                                                    2. Chemicalkinetics Aug 26, 2013 11:45 PM

                                                                      There are many forms of Chinese chicken broth. One of the most highly prized is the clear broth or supreme broth. However, if you are talking about everyday chicken broth from Chinese restaurants, then Violatp is not far off. Chicken feet are often used to make broth. They are inexpensive, and they are loaded with gelatin. To be more exact, many Chinese restaurants use assorted pieces of chicken to make the broth -- chicken feet, necks, wings.. You can see that in their "free soup".

                                                                      Again, there are more than just chicken. Many of them will use ginger for sure and ham and pork as well as some veggies. Every restaurants do it a bit different, but always an assort of materials.

                                                                      <The best chicken broths/stocks,>

                                                                      Can you specify in what form you got your Chinese chicken broths/stocks? Maybe then I can get a better guess for you. Are you talking about the free soup you get from the restaurant in the beginning of the meal? Are you talking about the broth which is part of your wonton noodle soup? Are you talking about the broth used in your rice congee?

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                        Violatp Aug 27, 2013 12:48 AM

                                                                        Good points. I don't know what sort of stock the place was making. (Jess Cafe on Belmont in Chicago, to be specific).

                                                                        I know I like using them myself for the body, the mouthfeel.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                          Perilagu Khan Aug 27, 2013 09:15 AM

                                                                          I'm talking about the broth in wonton soup. Never encountered free soup before. And honestly, it's not the mouth feel that blows me away, but the taste. I sense very little fat in the broth, so I'm not sure the cartilage is the key here.

                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                            Violatp Aug 27, 2013 09:24 AM

                                                                            Try some MSG, too, unless you have a thing against it.

                                                                            Personally, I love MSG! Viva la MSG!

                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 10:31 AM

                                                                              Oh I see. Thanks a lot about the information. Wonton Soup is a distinctive different soup by itself. It is considered to be one of the Chinese clear broths and not cloudy broth. The soup base for wonton soup should be transparent (clear), whereas some other noodle soups should be cloudy milky (opaque).


                                                                              If I remember right, wonton soup is based off the Chinese supreme soup with the additional of dried fish. If it is the mouth feel, then it is the cartilage for sure.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                Perilagu Khan Aug 27, 2013 12:03 PM

                                                                                Yes, the broth is invariably clear.

                                                                              2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                fourunder Aug 29, 2013 09:19 PM

                                                                                The secret is actually the addition of Soy Sauce.

                                                                            2. k
                                                                              klyeoh Aug 27, 2013 01:51 AM

                                                                              In my family, we add dried scallops or 'conpoy' (江瑤柱), and sometimes 'Jinhua' ham (金華火腿) when preparing chicken stock or soups.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                Puffin3 Aug 27, 2013 05:20 AM

                                                                                Watch 'Tampopo'.
                                                                                The young woman wants to have the best 'noodle house' in the area.
                                                                                Watch how she makes chicken broth to serve with the noodles. She adds raw whole chicken and raw pork bones and scallions. NEVER boils the water.
                                                                                Well worth watching this movie for any 'foodie'. English subtitles. Easy 'torrent'.

                                                                                1. re: Puffin3
                                                                                  aqn Sep 13, 2013 08:36 PM

                                                                                  Erm... Tampopo is Japanese.

                                                                              2. Karl S Aug 27, 2013 06:55 AM

                                                                                My impression is that the Chinese happily use pork bones and scraps in their broths, including what on its face would appear to chicken broth.

                                                                                One of the secrets of Italian nonnas is that they often temper chicken with some beef in their broths or bouillons; chicken alone actually can be rather sharp, but blended with some beef it can be more mellow and balanced. I suspect the Chinese achieve this same result with pork (beef being a much more dear thing in Chinese traditional cooking).

                                                                                1. raytamsgv Aug 27, 2013 10:20 AM

                                                                                  In our restaurant, we simply put the leftover chicken carcasses in a huge pot and let it simmer for days. We never purchased pre-cut chicken parts. We'd simply order a lot of whole chickens and remove the meat ourselves.

                                                                                  Periodically, we'd replace some of the older, cooked chicken carcasses with new ones and/or add more a little more water. In essence, we were simmering chicken bones for weeks to make the broth.

                                                                                  51 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Aug 27, 2013 10:27 AM

                                                                                    Interesting. A typical chicken broth for basic American (or Jewish) chicken noodle soup will simmer for only two to three hours. I suppose the much longer cooking process would account for the heightened intensity of the Chinese broth.

                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 10:38 AM

                                                                                      Again, it depends on the type of soups. Some Chinese soups are simmered for about 12+ hours. Some are only for 1-2 hour to give a lighter clearer feel. The thing is that the carcasses for the 1-2 hour simmered are than used again for a different batch. They are known as (translated) as supreme broth and second broth, respectively.

                                                                                      This is a photo for supreme broth. It should be absolutely transparent.



                                                                                      There was a discussion about Chinese broths in a different thread if you are interested.


                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                        scoopG Aug 27, 2013 10:49 AM

                                                                                        I think what raytamsgv (and myself at least) are talking about is the general stock used as the base for all the stir-fry dishes, house hot and sour soup, house egg drop soup etc.

                                                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 10:57 AM

                                                                                          My understanding is that Perilagu Khan (original poster) was asking about the broth for wonton soup. So I think it is informative to point out that there are many so called Chinese stocks. The soup base for wonton is not the 12+ hours one, which was what I tried to gently point out.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                            raytamsgv Aug 27, 2013 03:08 PM

                                                                                            Soup for wontons is definitely different. I wouldn't use the general stock for that.

                                                                                            1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Aug 27, 2013 03:12 PM

                                                                                              What would you use?

                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                raytamsgv Aug 27, 2013 03:16 PM

                                                                                                I'm not really sure because I don't really like wonton soup. But the stock I mentioned doesn't have the right flavor for the wonton soup. I don't quite know how to explain it. Sorry.

                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 03:49 PM

                                                                                                  It slightly depends who you talk to, but you definitely use one of the clear broths. Poorer quality restaurants may indeed use some chicken powder to make it.

                                                                                                  There are two basic recipes which I know. One is based on the Chinese supreme stock (or known as clear broth) and add dried flatfish on top of it. The supreme soup was mentioned before. The other recipe is solely based on dried flatfish and pork bones. In other word, no chicken at all. Either recipes requires low flame. You can have an initial boil, but it has to be quickly reduced.

                                                                                                  Since I have explained the classic supreme stock above, I will expand on the dried flatfish and pork bones recipe. As you can see in the following two recipes, they are essentially pointing to the same thing.


                                                                                                  Traditional wonton noodle supreme soup is based on pork bone, dried flatfish, shrimp shell and a few other ingredients, and simmer for a few hours.



                                                                                                  Let's first discuss about flatfish soup based. Although the main ingredients cannot be without dried flatfish and pork bones, it is also important to keep the soup clear and favorful, and more importantly use a low flame to simmer the soup.



                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                    Violatp Aug 27, 2013 04:00 PM

                                                                                                    Wow. There is so much more to Chinese food than most people, myself included, know about.

                                                                                                    Is this kind of thing common knowledge to people in China? Or like here, where such finesse is reserved for finer dining or really, really good cooks?

                                                                                                    1. re: Violatp
                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 04:29 PM

                                                                                                      < There is so much more to Chinese food than most people, myself included, know about.>

                                                                                                      I am guessing that this is true for most other national cuisines as well. Chinese cuisine is a bit more complicated because it is a large country and there are many regional cuisines. The regional differences can be very significant.

                                                                                                      <Is this kind of thing common knowledge to people in China? >

                                                                                                      I am certain that most Chinese in Asia know there is a thing called "supreme stock" and most also know that the soup base for wonton noodle is different that for hand drawn noodle...etc



                                                                                                      However, I also think most Chinese do not know how to make these soups/stocks, and most may not know which soup goes with what meal.

                                                                                                      <Or like here, where such finesse is reserved for finer dining or really, really good cooks?>

                                                                                                      I won't say it is about fine dining. It is just too detailed for most people. You can think of it like good old Southern pork barbecue. It is not fine dining by any mean. Most Americans have some level of understanding for barbecue, but most do not really know all the details.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                        Violatp Aug 27, 2013 04:34 PM

                                                                                                        Ah, that makes sense. Like, I know what a demi glace is and how great it is, but I"m not about to go making any myself.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                          scoopG Aug 27, 2013 05:37 PM

                                                                                                          I agree. In particular, the cuisines of Canton, Fujian and Shandong pay particularly close attention to soups and broths. A fine banquet in Fujian might find 4-5 different soups served.

                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                            tastesgoodwhatisit Aug 27, 2013 06:07 PM

                                                                                                            I think the BBQ is a good analogy - it's not fine dining, it's something people would be familiar with, but it's also something you probably wouldn't make at home on a regular basis.

                                                                                                            I get awed looks from my Taiwanese friends when I tell them I make my own zhong zi (a pyramid shaped leaf wrapped sticky rice dumpling traditional for the dragon boat festival). They're ubiquitous during the season, but no-one my generation or lower actually makes them at home, although their mothers might.

                                                                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 06:58 PM

                                                                                                              Thanks. I also picked barbecue because it is a dish where many restaurants/joints dedicate solely in it. Good barbecue are usually found in low to med price range specialized BBQ joints, not from high end restaurants.

                                                                                                              In my experience, very good wontons can be found from specialized restaurants. Same as Japanese ramen too. You don't want to go super cheap, but you certainly do not need to save up a week worth of salary for a good bowl of wonton soup.

                                                                                                              :) Good to know. I actually have not made my zhong zi (粽子) and would love to find time to make them. I think I can do it if I want because I have had made my own "lotus leaf with chicken" (Lo Mai Gai 糯米雞) many times before. Many of the basic skills are similar between the two.

                                                                                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                                                                Pookipichu Aug 27, 2013 09:24 PM

                                                                                                                I love zhong zi, but how do you find the time to make them? I'm happy buying them from the Taiwanese grannies that have all day to churn them out :)

                                                                                                                1. re: Pookipichu
                                                                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Aug 28, 2013 07:20 AM

                                                                                                                  In my experience for Lo Mai Gai (not Zong Zi), I makes 20+ of them in one sitting, which will last me for months.

                                                                                                            2. re: Violatp
                                                                                                              raytamsgv Aug 27, 2013 05:06 PM

                                                                                                              As Chemicalkinetics pointed out, there are many regional cuisines with their own specific ingredients and cooking styles. For example, Cantonese cooks usually don't have a good understanding of how to use hot peppers like cooks from Sichuan or Hunan.

                                                                                                              1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                                                Violatp Aug 27, 2013 05:07 PM

                                                                                                                True. I ridiculously oversimplified.

                                                                                                            3. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Aug 28, 2013 07:45 AM

                                                                                                              Interesting. Could you hazard a guess as to roughly what percentage of American-Chinese restaurants actually go through the trouble of adding dried fish, pork bones and shrimp shell to their wonton broth? Hence, the first respondent to this thread claimed most broths are nothing more than soup base kicked up with MSG.

                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                Chemicalkinetics Aug 28, 2013 08:05 AM

                                                                                                                This is my guess, and kind of like the barbecue examples. If you go to a specialized barbecue joint, then they almost always do it the right away. It is when you go to restaurants which does not specialize barbecue, then they may use liquid smoke or some other short cut. This is because these non-specialized restaurants do not sell barbecue in large volume and it is not profitable for them to go through 6+ hours of smoking just to make one small batch of barbecue. Therefore, non-specialized restaurants either do it the "quick and cheap" way or they source their barbecue from barbecue joints. I was once in a modern pub/fish restaurant, and saw a barbecue dish, and I asked "How do you do your barbecue?". The waitress replied "We actually get our barbecue from a trusted barbecue restaurant, and they smoked it........etc...etc"

                                                                                                                If you go to a wonton stand, then you are very likely going to get the more complex and traditional stock -- with dried fish and shrimp shell...etc. Wonton restaurants sell these in high volume, so it really does not cost them much more to do it correctly. This is not to say that they won't also add small amount of MSG. MSG is useful, but simply adding MSG to chicken broth is still lacking.

                                                                                                                My guess is that about 30% or so of the total Chinese restaurants in America is doing this traditional and complex way. However, if you go to restaurant which sell high volume of wonton and wonton noodle...etc, then you will get to very close to 100%.

                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                  raytamsgv Aug 28, 2013 10:49 AM

                                                                                                                  There's no real way to gauge the percentage. If you go to a restaurant that serves a lot of wonton noodles, they'll probably have better quality broth and ingredients.

                                                                                                                  But what really matters is that you like it. If you like the broth in a place, why not ask them how it's made? It can't hurt to try.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                    scoopG Aug 28, 2013 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                    Very few. According to Chinese Restaurant News, there are approximately 46,000 Chinese restaurants in North America.

                                                                                                                    Most are serving American-Chinese fare: General Tso's, Sweet and Sour Pork, Chicken or Shrimp, Crab Rangoon, Beef with Brocoli, Fried Rice etc.

                                                                                                                    1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                      c oliver Aug 28, 2013 12:19 PM

                                                                                                                      For those of us who have even limited access to the 'other kind' I think we tend to forget that most of the country probably doesn't.

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                        JMF Aug 28, 2013 12:23 PM

                                                                                                                        So true. I've been on several road trips this summer through middle America and it was a good reminder how varied the available foods are across the country. Both in stores and restaurants.

                                                                                                                      2. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Aug 28, 2013 02:20 PM

                                                                                                                        Is American-Chinese fare exclusive of the sort of sophisticated clear broths Chemicalkinetics describes?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                          scoopG Aug 28, 2013 02:38 PM

                                                                                                                          American-Chinese restaurants catering to the Egg Foo Yung crowd do not need to make sophisticated broths and stocks that Fuchsia Dunlop calls "banquet stocks." A basic stock from chicken bones will suffice.

                                                                                                                          1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                            Perilagu Khan Aug 28, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                                                            Perhaps not. But that doesn't mean that some don't. And most American-Chinese restaurants are a bit more interesting than just egg foo yung.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Aug 28, 2013 05:24 PM

                                                                                                                              Great Khan,

                                                                                                                              You are correct.

                                                                                                                              By the way, all these conversations got me interested, so I visited one of my two favorite small Chinese restaurants tonight. The kind of Chinese restaurants which sell a lot of wonton noodle soup, and Chinese BBQ...etc. Not high end Chinese restaurants, but good quality common Chinese foods. You probably have seen them. They look kind of like these from the outside:


                                                                                                                              I ordered a bowl of wonton soup (with wontons). Afterward, I chatted with them and asked if it is alright for them to tell me the soup base for the wontons. He thought of it a bit and then said "Sure". He started to recount. Nothing special he said, chicken, pork, dried flounder fish.... At that point, I stopped him and said that I just wanted to verify to see if they use a traditional recipe instead of the "water + chicken powder + MSG". He said, "Of course not, we make a big batch of the stock everyday from scratch" Based on his hand motion, it seems like a >20 quarts stock pot.

                                                                                                                              Anyway, there you have it. At least, these Chinese restaurants in US use the traditional recipe, and his included chicken.

                                                                                                                              I bought a bag of the dried flounder fish and took a photo for you -- just in case you want to know what they look like.

                                                                                                                              By the way, where do you live?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                scoopG Aug 29, 2013 06:59 AM

                                                                                                                                And how did their broth or soup taste? What did it look like? Is the name of this place a secret or can other hounds visit?

                                                                                                                                Food Sing 88, one of 6-7 Fujian-run hand-pulled noodle joints in Manhattan's Chinatown makes a superior stock from beef and chicken bones, onions, star anise and a little bit of Chinese angelica (當歸 Dāngguī or Angelica sinensis.) It’s also known as Radix Angelicae Sinensis and is available at any Chinese herb store.

                                                                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 07:08 AM

                                                                                                                                  No, it looks different.

                                                                                                                                  You know supreme broth (上湯), right? Standard wonton soup is based on supreme broth. The broth should be transparent, or at least very close to transparent. Thus, they have very similar look. It looks more like this:


                                                                                                                                  Your soup looks different. It is based on supreme stock as you have pointed out, and therefore is different.

                                                                                                                                  The place I went to last night was Ting Wong:


                                                                                                                                  But one can go to almost any wonton (not dumpling) shops and see these soups.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                    scoopG Aug 29, 2013 01:55 PM

                                                                                                                                    Right! The soup photo I posted is the Fuzhou wonton soup with clear broth. Fujjian wontons are tiny, often ten per order. I've attached Food Sing 88's hand-pulled beef noodle soup which is of course darker.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 02:15 PM

                                                                                                                                      <Food Sing 88's hand-pulled beef noodle soup which is of course darker.>

                                                                                                                                      Maybe it is Fujian-run, but I think you also said that it is hand-drawn noodle which would be Nanzhou or possibly Shandong. Is it Fujian-run and Fujan style restaurant or Fujian-run and Nanzhou style restaurant? I mean we have tons of Taiwanese-run Japanese sushi restaurants if you know what I mean.

                                                                                                                                      Hand pull or hand drawn noodle uses a completely different stock than the supreme stock (上湯). For example, the most traditional hand pull noodle soup is either beef or sometime lamb stock based, not pork based, and no dried fish or ham or shrimps...etc. Instead, these darker beef stock sometime has ginger, and cardamon, Szechuan peppercorns. They are very different stocks. The origin of hand drawn noodle is from Muslims, and Muslims would never use pork.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                        scoopG Aug 30, 2013 07:46 AM

                                                                                                                                        The 6-7 hand-pulled noodle spots in Manhattan's Chinatown (and even the one on Race Street in Philadelphia) are all run by Fujian immigrants and most try to lay claim to the Lanzhou tradition. I think it is just a marketing ploy. Just like using the words "New York style pizza" or "Philadelphia Cheese steak" - which may or may not denote the real McCoy. I was in Qingdao in 2010 and saw "Taiwanese Hot Dogs" being sold on the street.


                                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics Aug 30, 2013 08:08 AM

                                                                                                                                          <are all run by Fujian immigrants and most try to lay claim to the Lanzhou tradition. I think it is just a marketing ploy. >

                                                                                                                                          It may not be perfectly Lanzhou, but it should be more like Lanzhou than Fujian. As such, I don't think they would use pork -- that is just unlikely. Just imagine going to a Afghan restaurant and see a pork dish? That is very unlikely -- I don't care if the owner is Afghan or not.

                                                                                                                                          Moreover, my understanding is that many of these Fujian-Lanzhou hand pull noodle spots are owned by Fujian immigrants, but the chefs are from Lanzhou. As long as the chefs are from Lanzhou, the food should be authentic enough.

                                                                                                                                          <even the one on Race Street in Philadelphia>

                                                                                                                                          I think the chef(s) are from Lanzhou -- unless they have changed the chefs.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                            scoopG Aug 30, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                                                                            In NYC - they are all Fujuanese through and through. These hand-pulled noodle joints are not chef-driven restaurants. Most feature no more three dozen menu items and they do serve pork: Pork Bone Hand-Pulled Noodles, Pig Blood Rice Noodles, Pork Bone Rice Noodles etc.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                              scoopG Aug 30, 2013 05:25 PM

                                                                                                                                              Nan Zhou on Race Street in Philadelphia also serves pork.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                                Chemicalkinetics Aug 30, 2013 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                It must be new then. It wasn't doing that. I know it has expanded the menu. I have visited it once after it moved and expanded the menu. Am I correct that it only serve pork in the fried noodle, not the hand pulled noodle soup. That is ok. I will check tomorrow. I will stop by tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                                  scoopG Aug 30, 2013 05:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I was last there in 2011 or so and don't have their menu handy. Yelp reviews all point to pork being on their menu though.


                                                                                                                                                  (There is one Chinese Halal restaurant in NYC and they are from Tianjin).

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                                    Chemicalkinetics Aug 30, 2013 05:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Looks like the pork is in the new menu in the fried noodles and shaved noodles and what not. That is probably ok. One can probably justify this because the fried noodle itself is not Nanzhou cuisine anyway. I think it will be really odd if the soup noodle has pork and especially so in the soup stock.

                                                                                                                                                    Last time when I was there, I only focus on the hand pulled soup noodle section of the menu.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                            aqn Sep 13, 2013 08:43 PM

                                                                                                                                            "Taiwanese Hot Dog": I have a sneaking suspicion that "dog" here might not mean "sausage". :)

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Aug 29, 2013 08:15 AM

                                                                                                                                    You've really gone the extra mile, Ck. A real labor of love, I suppose. At any rate, I appreciate it.

                                                                                                                                    And I live in Lubbock, Texas. It is hardly a Chinese food Xanadu, but there are a few good take-out joints and one decent sit-down place.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                      Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 08:22 AM

                                                                                                                                      Yeah, just want to confirm. I mean, I kind of expect them to use these ingredients, and I have visited this restaurants for 3+ years, but I never asked. So last night, I decided to ask, and it confirmed, which is a good thing.

                                                                                                                                      <At any rate, I appreciate it.>

                                                                                                                                      No problem I asked the question as much for myself as for you.

                                                                                                                                      <And I live in Lubbock, Texas.>

                                                                                                                                      I asked because I wasn't sure if your initial post was curiousty or that you want to buy these ingredients to reproduce the soup. If you cannot find these ingredients, we can arrange something so that I can send them to you. At the very least, these photos may be helpful for you to locate your items. Just print them out and go to local Asian supermarkets.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                                        Perilagu Khan Aug 29, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                                                                                                        There are a few Asian markets nearby. I don't think finding the necessary ingredients will be a problem if I decide to give this a whirl. But I shudder at the thought of attempting to make the wontons!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                          c oliver Aug 29, 2013 08:33 AM

                                                                                                                                          Asian dumplings are so much easier than I ever would have thought. Your local library, like mine, is unlikely to have Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings, but if you care to spend the money it will really open your eyes. Sure did mine anyway.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                            Perilagu Khan Aug 29, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                                                                                                            That's certainly a thought. The main problem I foresee with making wontons would be rolling the dough to the necessary thinness without it rupturing. Nobody wants thick, doughy wontons.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 12:35 PM

                                                                                                                                              Yeah. But I am sure you can buy your wontons. You can either buy them from the supermarket (cheaper) or you can buy them directly from the Chinese restaurant you like. Just tell them that you want to buy a bag of their wontons. 90% of the time they will sell them to you.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                                                c oliver Aug 29, 2013 05:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                As Andrea and others suggested, including Sam F, I use a tortilla press and then, if necessary, roll a little thinner with a small dowel.

                                                                                                                        2. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                                                          scoopG Aug 27, 2013 05:31 PM

                                                                                                                          CH's own Charles Yu in his search for the best Canntonese wonton soup in Hongkong described the attributes about six years ago:

                                                                                                                          "...the ultimate won-ton noodle should comprise of perfection in the following four components: The broth, the noodle, the won-ton and finally the condiments."

                                                                                                                          The broth should be made from prawn shells, chicken and pork bones, dried tile fish, shrimp eggs and dried buddha fruit.

                                                                                                                          The noodle strand should be as thin as a thread and cooked just below 'al-dente'. The won-ton should comprised of crunchy fresh prawns wrapped in paper thin wrapping skin.

                                                                                                                          The cooked noodle, before being placed in the bowl, should be dressed and drizzled with a few drops of lard. Finally, the end product should be sprinkled with finely chopped yellow chives and shrimp eggs.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                    Pookipichu Aug 27, 2013 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                    The best Chinese soups have an immense amount of preparation and time spent in making them.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                                                      Perilagu Khan Aug 27, 2013 12:18 PM

                                                                                                                      Thanks, Ck. The top picture in the top link looks exactly like what I have in mind.

                                                                                                                  3. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                                                    scoopG Aug 27, 2013 10:47 AM

                                                                                                                    That's my experience with Chinese restaurants as well. Although we would change the bines out after 3-4 days with new ones.

                                                                                                                  4. ipsedixit Aug 27, 2013 03:52 PM

                                                                                                                    The best chicken broths/stocks, however, seem to reside in Chinese-American restaurants.

                                                                                                                    They do? "Chinese-American restaurants"?

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                      sedimental Aug 27, 2013 07:32 PM

                                                                                                                      Yeah... "Ancient Chinese secret" and "Chinese American restaurant broth" are not often found in the same sentence :)

                                                                                                                    2. Tripeler Aug 28, 2013 08:26 PM

                                                                                                                      To me, the expression "Ancient Chinese Secret" just sounds awful. It should be written in fortune cookie font.

                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler
                                                                                                                        Wahooty Aug 28, 2013 09:00 PM


                                                                                                                        1. re: Wahooty
                                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Aug 29, 2013 08:17 AM

                                                                                                                          Bingo! lol

                                                                                                                        2. re: Tripeler
                                                                                                                          raytamsgv Aug 29, 2013 09:28 AM

                                                                                                                          I think the OP used that phrase in order to get the attention of NSA. :-)

                                                                                                                          1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                                                            Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 10:50 AM

                                                                                                                            Then, he should just use the word "Chinese secret" and not "ancient Chinese secret" :D

                                                                                                                            1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Aug 29, 2013 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                              Your friendly neighborhood drone will be round shortly to vaporize your subversive wontons.

                                                                                                                          2. p
                                                                                                                            pandamom425 Sep 6, 2013 05:49 PM

                                                                                                                            I use leftover chicken carcasses from my roast chicken, plus ginger, garlic, green onion and sherry. Delicious! If you don't have a roast chicken, you can use an entire chicken. Remove the chicken after an hour of gentle simmering, remove the meat for casseroles, salads, etc. & return the bones, skin to the pot. When serving, I add a touch of soy sauce, a dash of white pepper & a touch of sesame oil.

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