West Lake Beef Soup is a classic Chinese soup with beef, cilantro, mushrooms, and wispy egg whites in a thick broth. My version happens to be paleo, gluten-free, and Whole30-friendly, too!
What is West Lake Soup?
West Lake Soup is a traditional Chinese soup with minced beef, soft tofu, mushrooms, and eggs in a thick and clear broth. It’s named after the scenic West Lake in Hangzhou, China, and it’s a soothing and nourishing dish. The soup is thickened with starch, which gives it a silky texture and helps keep the ingredients suspended in the broth.
I’m sharing my paleo and Whole30 spin on this tasty soup from our first cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans, because it’s one of my childhood favorites. With bright green flecks of cilantro and cloudlike wisps of egg, this soup is both gorgeous and satisfying. And don’t leave out the cilantro—it adds a fresh and bright touch to the soup.
Mindy Kaling approved soup!
But don’t just take my word for it—Mindy Kaling, one of the coolest and funniest people on TV and the big screen, recently showed folks how to make my West Lake Beef Soup on her Instagram Stories and she told everyone how she loved both of my cookbooks. Is this real life? (She was nice enough to write a blurb for the back cover of our latest cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!, too!)
Mindy did have a few questions about my recipe in her IG Stories, so I’ve answered them and a few others below:
Frequently asked questions
Traditionally, this recipe is made with flank steak that is hand-chopped with a giant Chinese cleaver until it’s finely cut up. To make it easier to chop, I normally freeze the steak for about 30 minutes and then hack it up with my chef’s knife. If you don’t want to chop it by hand, you can use a food processor or buy lean ground beef.
Yes, you can substitute minced chicken thighs, pork, or dark meat turkey in place of the beef. It won’t taste the same, but the soup will still be delicious.
West Lake Beef Soup is a fancier version of Simple Egg Drop Soup, but it’s made with only whisked egg whites. I often use the leftover yolks to make one of my favorite desserts, Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme. If you’d rather use the yolks, too, no problem: just add whisked whole eggs to the soup.
West Lake Beef Soup is a cilantro-forward soup, but you can definitely leave it out if you are genetically predisposed to hate cilantro!
- Flank steak, finely minced: Yes, please take the time to chop up your own flank steak. You can use ground beef in a pinch but it’s not quite the same.
- Instant Pot bone broth or chicken broth
- Fresh shiitake mushrooms: If you can’t find shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced button mushrooms also work.
- Arrowroot powder: To keep this recipe grain-free and paleo, I use an arrowroot powder slurry as a thickener in place of cornstarch.
- Egg whites
- Minced fresh cilantro: Please don’t leave out the cilantro! It really is the main flavor component of the soup (besides the minced beef and ground white pepper).
- Green onions
- Rice vinegar
- Red Boat fish sauce
- Toasted sesame oil
- Ground white pepper: If you can’t find it at your neighborhood grocery store, head to your local Asian market to find it!
- Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt
How to make West Lake Soup
Combine the beef, salt, vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, and ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
Bring the broth and mushrooms to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup arrowroot powder with ¼ cup water to make a slurry.
Stir the arrowroot slurry into the simmering broth to thicken it.
Once the soup thickens, add the marinated meat and stir well. As soon as the meat is cooked through, turn off the heat. Taste the soup and season with salt and white pepper if needed.
In a slow, steady stream, pour in the beaten eggs whites from high above the pot, stirring as the whites hit the liquid.
The whites will cook upon contact with the hot soup, forming ribbon-like tendrils.
Mix in the cilantro and scallions…
…and stir well.
Ladle the West Lake Beef Soup into bowls and serve immediately.
How do I store leftovers?
Leftover soup can be kept in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, but it does taste best when it’s freshly made. Sometimes, the soup thins out upon reheating, but it doesn’t bother me. If you want to re-thicken the soup, you can add more arrowroot slurry when you heat it up.
More Chinese soup recipes
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
West Lake Beef Soup
- ½ pound flank steak finely minced or ground beef
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 6 cups Instant Pot bone broth or chicken stock
- ¼ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms stemmed and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup arrowroot powder
- 3 large egg whites lightly beaten
- 1 cup fresh cilantro finely minced
- 3 scallions thinly sliced
- Combine the beef, salt, vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, and ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
- Bring the broth and mushrooms to a boil over high heat in a large saucepan. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
- In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup arrowroot powder with ¼ cup water to make a slurry.
- Stir the arrowroot slurry into the simmering broth to thicken it.
- Once the soup thickens, add the marinated meat and stir well. As soon as the meat is cooked through, turn off the heat. Taste the soup and season with salt and white pepper if needed.
- In a slow, steady stream, pour in the beaten eggs whites from high above the pot, stirring as the whites hit the liquid. The whites will cook upon contact with the hot soup, forming ribbon-like tendrils.
- Mix in the cilantro and scallions and stir well. Ladle the West Lake Beef Soup into bowls and serve immediately.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.