First published on 5 Feb 2013. Updated on 7 Feb 2013.
Comfort food. Almost everyone who’s not a born-and-bred Beijinger seeks it out when they want a trip down memory lane. The Brits miss their Sunday roasts. The Texans their barbecue. The Sichuanese mapo doufu
. Ask any Cantonese and homemade soup is very likely high on their list. This is exactly what Willy Chu had in mind when he opened My Soup, hoping to bring quality Cantonese soup to the capital.
Chu, who hails from Hong Kong via Vancouver, has lit up the shop with Roland Fischer art on the walls, fresh flowers and mason jars of condiments. Holding to the adage that high-quality ingredients are the foundation of good cooking, Chu has stocked an open refrigerator by the front counter with ingredients meticulously sourced from Hong Kong. The small set- up, though, is awkward: we had to squeeze onto our bar seats, and the cold rush of air every time the doors opened and closed made us tempted to wear our jackets throughout the meal.
Despite the restaurant’s name, there are,surprisingly,only three pure soup items to choose from. Chicken soup aficionados can opt for the chicken bouillon soup (huajiao lao jitang,88RMB), which is savoury and deeply satisfying, while those struck low by a winter cold should turn to the herbal ginseng chicken (huaqi shen lao jitang, 88RMB), a TCM classic that comes with tinges of bitterness. The attention that goes into boiling these soups is noteworthy.Brews use Nongfu Spring water and are double-boiled to seal nutrients and flavours. Recipes call for old sanhuangji [yellow-skinned] hens. Like a good mum, My Soup even filters the oil,clarifying the stock to make its soups clear and flavourful.
Their fillers are equally good. Made to order, the claypot rice’s 20-minute cooking time is worth the wait. Claypot rice is the sort of dish that may seem simple to make, but all too often winds up wrong. The rice has to be cooked just right to get a thin, crispy rice bottom, while trapping in the smoky flavours of other ingredients. Under Chu’s training, the all-female kitchen team cooks up a winning salty fish claypot rice (xianyurou baozai fan, 70RMB), using minced water chestnut and pork with a rich slice of salted fish. The lap cheong sausage from the claypot rice dish (yuanyang chang baozai fan, 50RMB) is an impressive 70 percent lean meat.
Noodle soup choices range from a simple yet delicious beef brisket noodle soup (yuanzhi niunan mian, 40RMB) to an indulgent Kagoshima wagyuoption (luerdao heniu tangmian, 280RMB). Diners with a Northern Chinese palate can opt for homemade dumplings with pork and cabbage (dabaicai churou shuijiao, 30RMB) or vegetarian (su shuijiao, 40RMB) fillings.
We may have seen similar dishes in Hong Kong-style rooms, but nobody is cooking quite like this in the city. What My Soup lacks in seating capacity (it can realistically fit 10 diners comfortably), it makes up for in authentic Hong Kong-style soups and filler mains that turn their backs on all the MSG-laden cooking typically found in Beijing.