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Xinjiang-Style Venison Shank Soup

venison shank soup

This recipe, influenced by Uyghur cooking in the Xinjiang region of western China, is a great way to use venison shanks. Lamb shanks or beef short ribs would make a good replacement if you are unable to acquire venison. The recipe has a lot of steps, but don’t be alarmed, they are all pretty straightforward. Feel free to sub in thick store bought noodles like soba, tagliatelle, or egg noodles if you don’t want to make your own. All of the spices in this work together to make a wonderful flavour, but if you have a hard time finding them, try to at least use cumin and chili flakes. Give yourself 5 hours to cook the shanks, and another hour to do everything else. 

  • Prep Time1 hr
  • Cook Time5 hr
  • Total Time6 hr
  • Yield4 Servings
  • Energy160 cal

Ingredients

For the Shanks

  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 boneless venison shanks
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 scallion/green onion, trimmed but left whole
  • 5 cups (1250mL) venison stock (or beef stock)

For the Soup

  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons (10mL) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mL) white peppercorn
  • Braised shank meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mL) Sichuan (or other) chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) MSG (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22mL) soy sauce
  • 2 scallions/green onions, sliced for garnish
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
  • Lan Gao Ma Chili Crisp (or other chili oil) for garnish

For the Noodles

  • 2 cups (500mL) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250mL) water

Preparation

For the Shanks

1

Preheat oven to 275°F (140°C, gas mark 1).

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat on stovetop.

Generously season shanks with salt and pepper, then add them to the hot oil.

Sear on all sides until well-browned.

2

Add spices, garlic cloves, scallion and the venison stock. 

Bring to a boil and scrape up any bits that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Once it has come to a boil, put on the lid and put the pot in the oven.

3

Cook for 5 hours. Check once or twice after the 3 hour mark to make sure there is still liquid in the pot. If not, add a little water. 

For the Soup

1

Take the shanks out of the pot and set aside to let cool.

Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids.

Wash out the Dutch oven, then add the liquid back to it. 

2

Add enough water to the braising liquid to bring it up to about 8 cups total. 

Add the fish sauce (if using) and taste the liquid. You want it to be flavourful, but slightly under-seasoned. Add a touch of salt if you feel that it is quite bland. 

Set the pot aside for the time being. 

3

Heat up the 2 tablespoons (30mL) of oil over medium heat in a frying pan.

Add the sliced onions and cook them until they begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, Sichuan and white pepper, and cook another 1 minute.

Dump everything in the pan into a large bowl. 

 

4

Use your fingers to shred the shanks into large bite-size chunks and add the meat to the bowl.

Add the chili flakes, MSG (if using), and soy sauce to the bowl then gently mix everything together, until the meat is completely coated in the sauce and spices. Set this aside for the time being.

5

Slice the scallions and pick the cilantro leaves and set them aside. 

For the Noodles

1

Add the flour to a large bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup (125mL) of the water and mix everything together with a spoon. 

Continue adding water in small splashes while stirring until everything comes together to form a dough. You may not need to use all of the water. 

2

Using your hands, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. This can be done right in the bowl, but if that feels awkward, you can turn it out onto a lightly floured surface* and do it there. 

After 5 minutes, the dough should be very smooth. If it’s sticking to everything, add flour in small amounts until it becomes smooth. 

3

Cover the dough, or the bowl that it’s in, with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

4

Set a large pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt.

Lightly flour a working surface if you haven’t already done so and turn the dough out onto it. 

Cut the dough in half, and put one half back under the towel or plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. 

Using a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) roll out the dough until somewhere around 1/8″ (3mm) thick. Keep dusting both sides of  the dough with flour during this so that it doesn’t stick. 

5

Now gently roll the dough (like a jellyroll), then slice it into 1/2″ (12mm) thick slices. Unroll these slices and you’ve got noodles!

home made noodles

Repeat with the other piece of dough.

6

Once the noodles are made, add them to the pot of boiling water and cook them for about 3 minutes, or until they rise to the top of the water. 

Drain in a colander. 

7

Bring the venison broth back to a boil while you add a handful of noodles to each bowl (to serve).

Add a scoop of the meat mixture to each bowl as well. 

bowl of noodles and meat

8

Once the broth is boiling, pour over the meat and noodles in each bowl, then garnish with the scallions, cilantro, and a spoonful of chili crisp or chili oil. Serve immediately. Enjoy! 

*To “lightly flour” a surface, take a big pinch of flour in between your thumb and first two fingers and shake it across the surface like you’re throwing dice. 

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