Making The Best Asian Stocks

| 1 Likes

Having a good stock or broth is important in producing the best soups, stews, sauces and other dishes. It’s the foundation, or base layer, where you can begin to build flavour and umami. Obviously making your own is time consuming, but a quality homemade stock far surpasses a store bought one.

The Bones

With the exception of vegetable stock, all stocks are made by simmering bones in water with aromatics, vegetables, herbs and/or spices. The key component in bones which gives a stock its viscosity is cartilage, a connective tissue around the joints, where muscles are attached. Cartilage is high in collagen, which breaks down into gelatine when simmered. This is what gives stock its body and turns it jelly-like when cooled.

When making chicken and other poultry stocks, you would typically use a whole carcass. This means you don’t really need to worry about what type of bones to use. Although, chicken wings and tips are particularly high in collagen, which make for a rich, full-bodied stock.

Brown vs White Stocks

Brown stock is generally made from beef or veal bones that are roasted prior to cooking. Pork or chicken bones can be treated in this manner also, however the flavour which they develop is much milder. Extra colour can also be obtained by adding some sort of tomato product (e.g. tomato paste), roasted or darker coloured vegetables (e.g. onion skins or leek tops). After roasting, the darkened bones are transferred to a stockpot, covered with cold water and simmered for hours along with chosen vegetables. 

White stock is made from bones and vegetables which are not roasted. Often, the bones are blanched and washed before simmering to remove any excess scum, which can cause bitter flavours and cloudy appearance to develop.

The goal of simmering (not boiling) is to extract the collagen from any available connective tissue in the bones. This takes longer with beef, lamb and veal than it does with poultry bones, which is why chicken stock is comparatively quicker to make. Chicken and pork stock should only take 2-3 hours to produce a delicious, golden liquid. However, beef, lamb and veal can take anywhere from 6-12 hours of simmering to extract maximum flavour.

Vegetable & Fish Stock

Fish stock, which is made from fish bones, requires the least amount of simmering. Only 20-30 minutes to be exact. Delicate herbs and vegetables can be used such as dill, fennel and chervil to compliment the delicate flavours in the seafood. We recommend avoiding oily fish types such as salmon or mackerel bones, as they are too heavy and fatty for stock making.

Even without meat, the liquid produced from just simmering vegetables and a few aromatics can be extremely flavourful. Vegetable broth is easy and quick to make and is far preferable to water when making soups, stews and sauces. 30 minutes- 1 hour of gentle simmering will make for a great vegetable stock.

Asian Stocks

To categorise all Asian stock varieties and techniques into a few paragraphs is rather a complex feat. However, here are some points to think about when making an Asian style stock, which are generally different to traditional, European methods.

Vegetables, aromatics and spices will differ greatly when making an Asian stock. The use of vegetables such as daikon (Japanese radish), wombok (Chinese cabbage) and spring onions can add a subtle sweetness to a broth. Aromatics such as ginger, garlic, lemongrass and even galangal or kaffir lime can be added to produce intense flavours and aroma. For savoury notes, dried seafood, shiitake mushrooms or seaweed kelp can be used in the process. Japanese dashi stock is a great example of this. Spices are important too. The use of whole spices such as cassia bark, clove, cardamom, star anise and coriander are what give Vietnamese pho it’s iconic taste.

For the bones, they are generally cleaned thoroughly prior to making Asian stocks. This can be done by rinsing and scrubbing with salt, blanching for a few minutes in boiling water (followed by washing), or soaking in water overnight to remove any impurities. The blanching process can be done directly into boiling water, or from a cold-water start. The cold-water start takes a little longer but produces a cleaner broth.

Tips

Start With Cold Water

Some of the proteins in collagen are soluble in cold water and some in hot. For the richest stock, it's important to start the bones in cold water and bring them to a simmer, very slowly. Never let your stock boil as it makes the liquid unpleasant and cloudy. Cooking your stock for its recommended time, ensures the ingredients don’t start to disintegrate or turn bitter either. Suggested cooking times are mentioned earlier in this article.

Don't Stir

It might be tempting to give the pot a stir as it simmers, but you should try to resist the temptation. Agitating the stock will more than likely cause it to turn out opaque and dull. However, do skim off any of the scum that rises to the surface. Foam and bubbles will naturally float to the top throughout the cooking duration, continue to remove them to keep the stock clean. This is especially important in the first hour or so, when the bulk of impurities are being drawn out.

Don't Season

In general, it's not a great idea to season your stock with salt. In most cases, that stock will be used to prepare another recipe, whether it's a sauce, soup or stew. Whatever that dish is, your stock will most likely reduce to some extent, making the salt concentrated. It means you’ll have less control over the seasoning in the final product. 

Convenience

If you do not have the time to make your own, here are some ready-made stock brands available in Australia that get our tick of approval. Basically, you want something that’s not too high in sodium and free from any artificial colours or flavour enhancers. The more ‘natural’ the better!

  • Moredough
  • Maggie Beer
  • The Stock Merchant
  • Simon Johnson
  • Campbells ‘Real Stock’
Making The Best Asian Stocks

Learning