This is the first time I have ever cooked Kansi, that Ilonggo soup redolent with beefy broth that is soured with mashed batuan, a fruit that is a cousin of mangosteen. Everyone in the house thought this was excellent. We are not Kansi experts by any measure, but as a flavorful, satisfying, substantial, heart-warming and memorable dish… this wins a prize in our books. Many thanks to comments of readers on this previous post, I was able to tweak my approach to the dish before embarking on this Kansi adventure. By the way, can Ilonggos explain why it’s called Kansi to begin with?
To start, I hit the grocery. Purchased nearly 2.3 kilos of beef shank, imported from New Zealand. Why the foreign sourced beef? Amazingly, because it looked better AND was 10% CHEAPER than the locally branded beef, that probably also brought theirs in from abroad, or at least used cattle that started off elsewhere… I wanted to add a kilo or more of beef brisket, but they didn’t have any in stock, so I purchased some short ribs instead. Total amount of beef was 3.3 kilos, total price was roughly PHP820.
At 630am this morning, I put all of the beef into a large stockpot and covered the meat with cold water. Stuck this on the strongest burner on the stove and turned the gas up to maximum. After about 20-25 minutes, the water started to boil and I lowered the heat a bit and let it simmer for 10 minutes and lots of scum floated to the surface. I then drained the whole pot, very quickly washed each piece of beef and set them in a colander. This step is a bit unusual for most cooks, but trust me, it gets rid of a lot of the impurities and you will have a nice clear broth. Most recipes just say to go on boiling until the meat is tender.
Next, we dried each piece of meat on paper towels, removing as much water and moisture as possible, so the pieces would brown nicely.
In a large heavy enameled casserole or dutch oven, add some vegetable oil and about 8 smashed cloves of garlic and saute until a very light golden brown.
Add several of the “dried” beef shanks and short ribs and brown them on all sides, roughly 5-7 minutes worth per batch of meat cooked. I needed to fry in two batches. Remove the garlic before it burns and turns your dish bitter. I wanted to brown the meat (unlike most recipes for kansi again) because of the inherent flavor created by the caramelized parts of the meat. This also serves to partially de-fat the meat.
Take your meat out of the casserole and put it in a strainer to remove any excess fat. Meanwhile, throw out most of the fat in the casserole you just browned the beef in and return it to the stove top. Put the browned beef back in the casserole over a low heat.
For the volume of meat described above, I had to add 16-17 cups of water to just barely cover all the meat and bones. I also added two medium sized yellow or spanish onions, chopped, and about 10 wonderful bright red ripe organically grown tomatoes sliced in half, from Enya/Solraya (both readers of this blog who sell their produce on weekends). I put the flame on the lowest level, covered the pot and left the kitchen for half an hour.
By the time I returned, the soup was just starting to “gurgle,” letting off a bubble every couple of seconds or so. I moved the dutch oven to a smaller burner, and had a low flame so that the soup would continue to just barely “gurgle” for another 2-2.5 hours. This part is absolutely critical. Do it on low heat and as slow as possible. You will not regret it. Bringing the beef to a rolling boil will simply cause it to seize up and remain tough. Low and slow. And I know, many will use a pressure cooker for this, but I don’t own one. And frankly, I suspect the pressure cooker does not result in as flavorful a broth, though the plus is in the pressurized and softened meat in a shorter timeframe. I would love to do this recipe in a large palayok some time. Meanwhile have your lemongrass, unripe langka or jackfruit and batuan washed and ready…
This is what the soup looked like after approximately 2 hours of cooking. We cooked the soup for some 3+ hours and since that was only around 10am, I turned off the heat and left it on the stove for an hour, coming back to it at 11am to do the finishing touches and serve it piping hot and promptly at 12noon.
At 11:15am or so, I turned the heat back on, and cut up roughly 700 grams (cleaned weight) of unripe langka in kind of big chunks. I added this to the soup. I also added three healthy stalks of lemongrass, lightly bruised, to the broth and brought it back up to a simmer. It should take about 15 minutes or more to soften the langka and for the lemongrass to infuse its distinctive flavor into the broth. Taste your broth at this point. If you want it beefier, you could have removed the meat and boiled it down for another 30 minutes to concentrate the flavor. But if you must have it beefier still, consider adding just one beef bouillon cube to the soup. I did. I don’t typically encourage the use of cubes, but it was useful in this case. :)
Once the langka was soft and cooked, I added roughly 800 grams of fresh batuan (I suppose if you live abroad and have access to bottled batuan pulp, that would be an acceptable substitute) and after just 10-12 minutes, they seemed to get nice and soft.
We fished out all the batuan and mashed them with a potato masher and returned the pulp to the pot. If you want more sourness, consider upping the amount of batuan to 1 kilo’s worth. The increased amount would also thicken the broth further. I also added 6 siling mahaba (finger chilies), with one of them chopped up to help it release a gentle spiciness to the broth.
I read somewhere that if you put the batuan before the langka is cooked, it will interfere with the cooking process, so I did as I read. At this point, and only at this point, taste for seasoning. It will be a bit bland, so you will have to salt liberally. I used close to 3/4 of a tablespoon of kosher salt, and several twists of a large peppermill worth of freshly ground pepper. I had misgivings about the final step, the addition of achuete oil, which I gather is totally traditional and correct, but for which I wondered if it brought anything to the table other than a nuclear color and nearly no added flavor. My hunch was right. I am not fond of the bright orange color in what would naturally have been an already robust and flavorful broth. I agree with the use of achuete in chicken inasal (click on the link to one of the most visited recipes on this blog over the years), but when I do this soup again, I would use a lot less than the two tablespoons I added here. In fact, I might eliminate it altogether.
The results were amazing. The beef was totally falling off the bone. In fact, all the meat fell off their bones while still in the pot. The soup was flavorful, meaty and subtly sour, not as strong as say raw sampalok (tamarind) in other sinigang type preparations. The broth had verve and was slightly thickened by the mashed batuan. The seeds were a bit of a distraction, not sure if they are edible, but I wondered if we should have removed them before returning the mashed batuan to the broth. I nibbled on a chili as I hungrily consumed a bowl of soup.
Both Mrs. MM and I had a bowl just like this one above, my diet be damned. :) Actually, I was celebrating as I had already lost all the weight I had hoped to lose in one month in just 25 days. So I have 6 days to work off this totally “out of bounds” lunch. But I still didn’t have any rice with it, if you can imagine that from someone who can easily eat a “mountain” of rice on a good day. This was a slam dunk dish for everyone who tasted it. Total cost, not counting labor and gas, was roughly PHP1,000 for an enormous pot of soup that would easily have fed 12 people, or just PHP83 per serving, New Zealand shanks and all. Superb. I highly recommend it. many thanks to all the folks who left comments on this previous post asking for Kansi tips. :)
P.S. Notes for the next time. A little ginger might have been nice. Brisket instead of short ribs, definitely. And while no other recipes I have seen include cabbage or some kind of leafy vegetable, I think that would be nice as well.
Other dishes with Batuan: