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Tradition of Soup, A
by: Teresa Chen
North Atlantic Books 2009, $27.95, Paperback
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2009 Issue: 16(4) page(s): 24 and 25
Subtitled: Flavors from China's Pearl River Delta, this volume is a fascinating narrative about Southern Chinese immigrants who came to the United States in large numbers, and the soups they use to heal and nourish themselves here and used before getting o the USA. They are in one terrific volume, and those who love soups need to own it.
There are recipes to gain or lose weight, to heal acne, to prevent wrinkles, and so much more. All are mixed with interviews of Cantonese immigrants in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin delta regions as told to the daughter of a family of food connoisseurs, herself raised in Nanjing in China.
After reading Martin Yan and Esther Yip Chan's Forewords, dig in to the first part, an overview, of traditional Chinese medicine, soup traditions, lots of information about soup basics, and fifty-eight fantastic pages of ingredient information. It is the best in the business. Every food item is named in Cantonese and Mandarin, has its Chinese ideographs, a color photograph, and much detail about its use, looks, and so much more. Among them are sixty-one common medicinal herbs; these alone are a gold mine of information.
Learn how to eat with the seasons, cook with common and less common ingredients, and provide variations for ever so many recipes. After them, check out the four pages of bibliography, six-pages with Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciation, and the five fine folk who did the interviewing, also the photographers, fifteen soup contributors, and the author. Wonder where something is, check out the three-column seventeen-page cross-referenced index.
The information and the recipes are first rate; and if you love soups, the recipes are a treasure trove. There is even one for Chinese-style Borscht, an item often asked about but never had an inkling that it existed in China. The book has classic cultural gems and great genuine valuable and usable information. Do not know how we managed without it. Do know that we can recommend it without hesitation. Hope Teresa Chen tackles another meal component; bakery products is our recommendation; so little is known about those ancient goodies, too.
|Mom's Chinese Style Borscht|
2 and 1/2 pounds beef shank
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, halved and sliced crosswise
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 head of cabbage, cut into large pieces
2 golden beets, sliced (optional)
salt, to taste
1. Put meat into two quarts of boiling water and boil it for ten minutes, drain, and rinse with sold water.
2. Heat wok or large pot, add vegetable oil, and saute onions until soft.
3. In a large pot (or a thermal cooker if you have one), put beef shank, sauteed onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, and beets (if using them). Cover with two and a half cups water and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer on very low heat for four to six hours.
4. Remove beef shank, let cool, then thinly slice. Salt to taste, then ladle vegetables and soup into a soup bowl or tureen, garnish with the sliced beef, and serve.