Potato leek soup with a twist.
Potato leek soup with a twist.
Image: Yang Zhao

I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like. Roasted, baked, crisped, mashed; as a gratin, as slap chips, as “pomme purée” on a fine-dining table, hash brown for breakfast, or just simply shredded and stir-fried with soy and vinegar. The versatility of the potato is simply undeniable.

Since it travelled several centuries ago, across the oceans from South America into the kitchens and dining tables of millions globally, its reputation as one of the world’s top four staple crops is unmatched. There are more than 4,000 types of potatoes in the world, mostly from the Andes mountain range. I dream to meet them all in my lifetime.

The quietly confident potato effortlessly steps into a role of being the star of a dish, or happily and deliciously slots in as a subtly complementary side dish. Its texture is malleable to the chef’s preference: crunchy, soft or crispy on the outside but melt-in-your-mouth on the inside. It is a great gravy soaker and thickener, and a must-add in curries and stews. And potato is unbelievably tasty in a samoosa, or as Sichuan-style street-side pancake.

Potato in soups is another wonder. Forget the warm and starchy comfort it brings, like a hug in a bowl, and consider that it  carries the flavours of spices that are warming and beneficial to the body. This is especially true for post-partum mothers, who can benefit from its regenerative qualities, and it’s great for lactation, too.

I prefer my soups clear and light, but cannot say no to a thick and creamy potato leek soup. Perhaps it’s because potato and leek combined creates a flavour profile my palate is familiar with. As I read up on potato and leek soup and its historiography, it’s no surprise that there are recipes from all over the world. To some extent it’s true that we all eat the same.

I’ve created my version of potato and leek soup. It’s not puréed and has no cream. Rather, it’s a chunky, clear soup, or light stew. I used smoked pork belly instead of ham to add a smoky flavour to the soup. Lastly, I used a homemade five-spice beef broth instead of a stock cube and water. There’s a bonus recipe for the broth below, you can make a batch and store in your freezer for other kitchen adventures.

For the soup 

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped and diced
  • 2 leeks (white part), chopped and diced
  • 400g potatoes, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 100 smoked pork belly, cut into 2cm cubes (I got my smoked pork belly from Impala meats)



  • 1.5l of beef broth (though you can use stock cubes too, if you prefer chicken stock instead, go for it)

Method:

  1. Add 3 Tbs of oil to soup pot, add chopped oil, cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until soft
  2. Add carrot, celery and leek, cook for 10 minutes until the ingredients are aromatic
  3. Add smoked pork belly cubes, cook for three minutes
  4. Add potatoes and broth, bring to boil, then lower to medium heat, continue cooking for another 40 minutes.
  5. Use a masher to roughly mash up the ingredients. I don’t use the hand-held blender as I like the soup to remain slightly textured
  6. I’d serve with some short grained steamed rice, like a light stew; Or on a bed of thin rice noodles; or traditionally with a slice of good bread.

Potato leek soup with a twist.
Potato leek soup with a twist.

 

Five-spice broth (makes 2l)

Ingredients:


  • 2.5l of water
  • 800g beef chuck, bone-in
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 12 cloves of garlic
  • 3 spring onions
  • ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
  • 2 Tbs Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 star anise
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup spicy bean paste (see previous article on Zha Jiang Mian about the variety of bean sauces)
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ cup light soy
  • 1 Tbs sugar

Method:

  1. In a large soup pot, add water. Bring to boil and add beef chuck, ginger, spring onion and Shaoxing wine, bring to the boil again, lower the heat and let it simmer for eight minutes
  2. Heat oil in another soup pot on medium heat, add Sichuan pepper corns, garlic cloves, onion, star anise and bay leaves. Cook until onion softens, and then add spicy bean paste, followed by tomatoes, and cook for five minutes. Lastly, stir in the sugar and soy. Turn off the heat.
  3. Add the beef, spring onion and ginger from step 1 to the pot in step 2. Use a fine mesh so you can get a ultra clear broth. After the transfer, bring to boil, then lower to a simmer, for 90 minutes.
  4. Decant into jars, refrigerate after cooling down, and you have yourself a spicy beef broth!
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