It is officially winter here in Australia and what's more comforting than a delicious bowl of soup!? This Chinese pork bone soup (bone broth) is aromatic, easy, nutritious (hello vitamins, minerals and collagen!) and super good for you (both body and soul).
Naturally delicately sweet (from corn and carrots) with an umami-rich flavour profile, this Chinese bone broth recipe is both appetising and comforting.
The key to bone broths is long and slow. Also like something quick and easy? Try my 15-minute Chicken and corn egg drop soup!
What to serve with Chinese pork bone soup
Unlike Western-style soups, Chinese soups and broths are generally quite light and are served as sides to a meal rather than a meal on its own. Of course, if noodles are added to the soup (such as my wonton noodle soup) then it's a proper meal by itself.
Typically, this soup is served with dinner as a side (to be eaten at any time during the meal). I personally love starting my dinner with this nutritious soup before digging into the main dishes.
You can serve this soup with practically any dinner you like. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Any type of dumplings - eg pork and chive dumplings or pan-fried pork and cabbage dumplings (potstickers).
- Dishes to be served with rice - eg 15-minute tomato and egg stir fry and mapo tofu or a hearty red braised pork belly.
- Any noodle dishes - eg 15-minute pan-fried soy sauce noodles, aka chow mein or beef noodle stir fry.
- Pork bones for soup (bone broth) - you can get these from your local butcher. They're usually very budget-friendly.
- White radish (aka daikon) - can be found at fruit and vegetable shops, many Asian grocers sell these too. To my Australian readers, some Coles and Woolies stock these too!
- Dried shiitake mushrooms - I almost always prefer dehydrated shiitake mushrooms over fresh shiitake mushrooms. They're way more fragrant and aromatic than the fresh ones.
- Shaoxing wine - adds depth and subtle complexity. Substitute: dry sherry. Can leave out if you don't have either - the difference will be subtle and not a deal-breaker.
The great thing about making this Chinese pork bone soup is that it's very simple and foolproof. Although this soup requires minimal hands-on cooking, there are just a couple of rules one must follow.
The secret to a clear broth
Below are two very important must-do steps when making a clear bone broth:
- Remove impurities (a MUST!) - this is traditional technique is used for not just bone soups, but also for braises too (like my Taiwanese braised pork rice and red braised pork belly). Skipping this step will result in a cloudy, almost murky, unappetising-looking soup or braise.
- Simmer long and slow - on the lowest heat and let time work its magic. The longer the soup is simmered, the better and more flavourful the soup will taste.
Remove impurities then simmer
Simply add enough cold water to cover the pork bones in a stock pot or a large pot enough to fit roughly 5.5 litres (or 6 quartz). Bring up to a boil then discard the water, wash the bones under tap water and clean the pot.
The 'impurities' refers to the white foam/scum you see in the image marked #1 below which is just denatured protein. It's harmless to consume however it is just unappealing as you can see in image #2 below.
Now you can start simmering the soup. Add cleaned pork bones into the cleaned pot along with ~3 litres (3 quartz) of cold water and ginger slices. Bring up to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
Simmer on the lowest heat possible with the lid on for 3 hours (minimum 2 hours).
Prepare the vegetables
Meanwhile, wash, peel and cut carrots and white radish. Roughly chop them into ~4cm (1.5 inches) pieces.
Peel the husks of corn off and then cut them into chunks just like the image above.
Add vegetables and finish off
Once the bones have been simmered for at least 2 hours, add dried shiitake mushrooms, white radish, carrots, shaoxing wine and salt. Bring up to a boil then reduce to the lowest heat. Simmer with the lid on for a further 40 ~ 45 minutes.
Lastly, add corn pieces and simmer for a final 20 to 60 minutes. Of course, the longer you simmer the soup, the more flavourful it becomes.
Depending on the pork bone pieces you get from the butcher, sometimes you may get a fatty piece (see a floating fat in the above image marked #8). If that's the case, the soup may have more fat floating on the top than you'd like. Simply skim excess fat off if you wish.
Note, fat and gelatine from the pork bones can give the soup a milky appearance so if you want the soup to come out clearer, don't add the fatty piece in.
Give the soup a taste and it should be umami-rich and sweet from the corn and carrots. If desired, add a little more salt to taste.
Straining the soup is optional
Pork bones used for soups generally have little meat on them. By the time the soup is done, the bones should fall apart very easily and the meat melt-in-mouth tender soft.
Picking and eating the meat off the bones with a pair of chopsticks is one of my favourite parts of this Chinese pork bone soup! If it's not your jam, simply scoop out the shiitake mushrooms, corn, carrots and white radish then strain the broth. Discard the bones and ginger then return the vegetables into the soup and serve.
Useful tips and tricks
- Simmer the soup using the smallest cooktop burner (on the lowest heat) - low heat is key to clear and flavourful bone broth!
- Ask your butcher not to give your fatty bones pieces - the fat will break apart into tiny pieces after a few hours of simmering and will make the soup look less appetising. It's no big deal however, if that happens, simply skim it off.
- For more soup/liquid, roughly double the pork bones and water - nothing needs to be precise with this recipe, if you like more corn, add more corn. Just make sure you season sufficiently (salt), it makes a huge difference!
Good to know (FAQs)
Aside from the fact that it tastes super delicious, Chinese pork bone soups are full of good vitamins, minerals and collage (from the protein) which are good for bone health, gut health and many other benefits!
You can add lotus roots or use them instead of the white radish (daikon). Another healthy and delicious option is dried seaweed (not the ones in sushi! Ask an Asian supermarket staff, they'll show you the right type of seaweed for soup). You can also add a small handful of goji berries into the soup (more commonly added into chicken soups).
Unless you're cooking for a whole family, chances are, you'll have leftover soup. Great news! This soup tastes even better the next day (like many slow cooked dishes). Soup for days? I'm down.
You'll find the soup will turn gelatinous and all jiggly once it's been in the fridge. This is a sign that the bone broth was made successfully - all the good stuff from the pork bones is in the soup!
Store in airtight containers for up to 7 days in the fridge and up to 12 months in the freezer.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Chinese Pork Bone Soup (Bone Broth)
- 1 kg / 2 pound pork bones ask your butcher (note 1)
- 500 g /1 pound white radish (daikon) cut into ~4cm/1.5 inches cubes
- 2 corn cut into ~4cm/1.5 inches pieces
- 2 carrots cut into ~4cm/1.5 inches pieces
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 thumb-sized ginger thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon shaoxing wine substitute: dry sherry
- ½ tablespoon salt
- In a large pot with a lid (one that can fit at least 5.5 litres or 6 quarts), add pork bones and enough cold water to cover the bones.
- Bring the pot up to a boil over high heat. Will take about 10 minutes. There will be plenty of impurities/scum floating to the top. Discard the water, rinse the pork bones under the tap and wash the pot. (note 2)
Make the bone broth
- Return the pork bones into the pot with ~3 litres (3 quarts) of water. Add ginger slices. Bring up to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to the lowest heat possible to a simmer (note 3). Simmer with the lid on for 3 hours or longer (the longer the more flavourful the soup), minimum 2 hours.
- Add carrots, white radishes, dried shiitake mushrooms, shaoxing wine and salt. Bring up to a boil over high heat then reduce to the lowest heat. Simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes.
- Add corn kernels and simmer with the lid on for a final 20 - 60 minutes (20 minutes is the minimum).
- Taste the soup and add more salt to taste if desired.