Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Soup to Beat the Heat

It may sound like a broken record, but here it is again: Chinese soups were an important part of meals in my family.

In fact, my 4th aunt spent so much money on the soup ingredients that the pork sellers thought she was cooking for the army, instead of her 8-member family! The preparation of the soup would start early in the morning with military precision. One of the children would get the cooking corner ready -- earthen stove, charcoal, starter. A huge aluminium pot would be cleaned and made ready for use.

The dried ingredients would be retrieved from the fridge, scrubbed, and soaked in water. Some ingredients, such as dried octopus or dried sole fish, would even be grilled before use in the soup. Some Chinese herbs needed to be soaked the night before. The rest of the ingredients would be bought fresh from the market -- meat, vegetable, and sometimes, even fruits.

The sequence in which the ingredients were placed in the pot, and the boiling times, would be carefully observed. The temperature of the charcoal would be controlled, and approximately 4 to 6 hours later, the soup would be ready for dinner.

This was one of my favourites from my 4th aunt’s repertoire: dried mustard green soup. Dried mustard green is believed to be an effective agent in “cooling” the body during the hot summer season. It also provides high fibrous content to help cleanse the bowel system. However, extra fresh mustard green is added during cooking for extra flavor. Pork trotter is added for beauty-enhancing collagen, and for taste. That probably explains where the good complexion of my family members came from!

Dried Mustard Green Soup with Pork Trotter

Dried mustard green   100 g, soaked and squeezed dry
Bai choy                       100 g
Chinese almonds         20 g
Dried red dates            10 g, soaked for 30 minutes
Dried fig                       20 g, soaked for 30 minutes
Pork trotter                  500 g
Chicken feet                300 g
Water                           5 litres
Salt                               ½ tbsp
Soy sauce                    2 tsp

  1. Blanch pork trotter and chicken feet for 5 minutes in 2 liters of water. Drain and keep the water. Sieve all impurities from the water and add in another 3 liters of water.
  2. Add dried mustard green to the water and boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to boil for another 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. The liquid would be reduced to about 3 litres. Do not add any water during simmering. If need be, add only boiled water.
  4. Season it with salt and a dash of soy sauce.