To a Filipino, that sounds like tinola, doesn’t it? It almost is. But this ginger beef soup has chayote instead of green papaya which is traditional in tinola. And, in lieu of chili leaves, there’s spinach.
Why all the substitutions? Why not just cook tinola? The first reason is that we are so into beef short plate these days. We cook it into stew, mostly, but I wanted to find out if the cut can be cooked into a soup too.
The second reason is ginger. A neighbor gave us two huge pieces — each larger than my hand. Ginger has so many uses, in food and as a drink, but one of my favorites is using ginger as a base for soup.
The third and last reason is that there was a large chayote and half a bag of spinach in the fridge that were begging to be cooked. So, why not tinola-style ginger beef soup?
I cut the beef short plate into cubes, brushed a wide pan with oil and spread the beef cubes in the hot oil. I gave them a few stirs and added slices of ginger. As the beef cubes browned, they started soaking up the flavors of the ginger. To the aromatic mix of meat and ginger, I added onion slices and cooked them all together, tossing often, until the onion slices were starting to turn translucent.
Fish sauce was poured in and the beef was left to soak it up. When the mixture was quite dry, I poured in water. I normally use broth when cooking boneless meat into a soup or stew. But beef short plate has enough fat to ensure that the broth would turn our rich and flavorful.
The beef simmered for almost two hours. During simmering, I checked the amount of liquid a few times and added more water so that the beef cubes were submerged in liquid all throughout. After each addition of water, I tasted the broth and added fish sauce, whenever needed.
When the beef was tender, I dropped in chayote wedges and drizzled in more fish sauce. The simmering resumed until the chayote wedges were tender. To test, I pierced the largest piece at its thickest part. When the thin pointy knife went all the way through without resistance, I added spinach. Five minutes of simmering and my ginger beef soup was ready to be served.
Ginger beef soup
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 500 grams beef short plate wiped dry and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
- 1 two-inch knob ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce you may need more
- 1 large chayote peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 bunch spinach (stems and leaves) cut into two-inch lengths
- Brush the bottom of a wide thick-bottomed pan with oil and heat.
- Spread the beef cubes in the hot oil and leave for a minute to allow the undersides to start browning.
- Stir the beef, add the ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned.
- Add the onion slices and cook, stirring, until the onion slices are soft and starting to appear translucent.
- Pour in the fish sauce and leave until the meat has absorbed it.
- Pour in enough water to cover the beef by at least two inches.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pan tightly and simmer the beef until tender.
- Drop in the chayote wedges and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Continue simmering until the chayote is tender.
- Stir in the spinach and simmer for another five minutes.