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Soup and the Chinese Cuisine

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Soups and Congees

Spring Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(1) pages: 27 to 30


In China, no meal is complete without a soup, though in the Fujian Province, at least two soups are part of every main meal. Frequently mentioned in articles about soup or about this province, they can be thick or thin and if more than one both kinds are at every main meal. They show the versatility of this cuisine and their cooks. Hearty ones, that is thick savory and satisfying soups can also come more than once during a main meal in various locations. This article includes a spectrum of Chinese soups, some Sichuan, some Fujianese, some from other parts of China. All are delicious, most are modest, and readers should try them as is, then vary them as desired, and always enjoy them.


There are soups the Chinese consider medicinal and some local comfort foods. Some are basic and ordinary, some are refined, some reviving. Some add peanuts, ginger, soy, cilantro, star anise, dried tangerine peel, and/or wonton or other dumplings. Whether they do or not, a cook can always add some or all of these ingredients, for taste or texture.

We suggest readers try them one at a time to see how they improve the taste or texture of a soup, how they make you feel, and how you do enjoy taste or texture, or both. One can always add left over dipping sauce, extra meat, fish, seafood, seeds, and bones. We let nothing go to waste and believe all extras, large or small, can be added to a soup before serving it. That or add them when making a broth or a soup that will please you. We suggest you make soups with all leftovers, enjoy them often, and serve them to family, friends, and other guests, and do so often. You and they will benefit when you do so and you will enjoy them. The more you make and consume them, the more you will learn to love them; and love them you will!

So try them and try using leftovers to enhance soups you made or will make. Be imaginative and do enjoy adding leftovers often. Cut them small, add them to your soups, your stews, too, and learn what leftovers work best, and where.

Beef Noodle Soup
Ingredients:

2 pounds beef brisket, cut in one-inch cubes
10 to 12 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
3 whole star anise
½ teaspoon ground black peppercorns
½ teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces mung bean noodles, soaked until soft, then cut into two-inch pieces
½ pound spinach leaves, rinsed, its stems minced
3 scallions, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

1. Blanch the beef cubes for five minutes in the chicken stock in a large pot. Remove the meat and strain the liquid discarding fat and scum, then returning the beef and the strained liquid to the pot.
2. Add the rice wine, both soy sauces, the sugar, star anise, peppercorns, and salt to the pot, cover it, and simmer for an hour or two until the meat is as tender as desired, then discard the star anise.
3. While this cooks, soak the mung bean noodles until soft, then drain them, and when the beef is done, add them, skim again if needed, and add them to the pot and add the minced spinach stems. And simmer uncovered for ten minutes.
4. Now, add the spinach leaves and the chopped scallions, and simmer two minutes more, then ladle into a large soup tureen or individual soup bowls, and serve.

Oxtail Soup with Wontons
Ingredients:

5 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced chili pepper, with no seeds
1 Tablespoon minced cilantro
4 to 5 pounds of oxtails, cut into segments
10 quarts of stock or water
5 scallions
1 onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, cut in half, cross-wise
1 three-inch piece fresh ginger
smashed peel of one tangerine
3 star anise
2 teaspoons coarse salt
20 peanuts, peeled and chopped, shelled, their paper exteriors discarded
1/4 pound minced pork
2 shiitake mushrooms, minced
1 egg, beaten until light in color
3 scallions, green parts only
20 wonton skins

Preparation:

1. Mix soy sauce, ginger, and chili pepper and set aside.
2. In a large stock pot, add two to three gallons water or chicken stock, the scallions tied in knots, the onion, garlic, ginger, tangerine peel, star anise, salt, and the peanuts, cover the pot, and simmer for three hours, then remove the oxtails and remove the meat from their bones.
3. Remove the paper skins from the peanuts and set them aside. Discard the star anise and the garlic head pieces, and skim or strain the liquid, rinse out the pot, and return the liquid and the ox-tail mea and onion to the pot and the strained liquid, as well.
4. Mix pork, minced mushrooms, peanuts, and the scallion pieces and put one tablespoon of this mixture into each wonton skins, wet their edges, pleat them shut, and set them aside for fifteen or twenty minutes.
5. Reheat the stock and oxtail mixture, keep it at a simmer add one or more dumplings, and simmer them for eight minutes. Then put two or more in everyone’s bowl or dish, add the oxtail meat, the liquid, peanuts, and serve.

Night-Blooming Cereus Soup
Ingredients:

3 night-blooming cereus flowers, cut in a few places
1 pound pork shin, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons regular almonds, paper-thin peels removed, each cut in quarters or eighths
1 teaspoon bitter almond, peels removed and chopped

Preparation:

1. Soak night-blooming cereus flower pieces, then squeeze out any excess water.
2. Put pork shin in three quart pot, and blanch for five minutes, rinse and drain, then add the salt, two quarts of boiling water, both almond pieces, and simmer covered for two hours.
3. Add cereus flower pieces during the last ten minutes, then serve in pre-heated soup bowls or a large tureen.

Winter Melon Soup
Ingredients:

½ pound piece winter melon, peeled and cut in half-inch pieces
1/4 pound cooked half-inch pieces chicken breast
1 cooked half boneless duck breast, diced
8 cups chicken stock
1 thin slice Smithfield quarter-inch diced ham pieces
1 ounce crab meat. Cartilage and bone discarded, coarsely chopped
2 ounces peeled baby shrimp, veins discarded
5 canned baby corn, each cut in five pieces
10 straw mushrooms, each quartered
3 Tablespoons frozen peas, defrosted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
dash of ground white pepper

Preparation:

1. Simmer winter melon and chicken pieces in a three quart covered with the stock for fifteen minutes, and strain, if necessary, discarding any scum.
2. Add the ham, and simmer covered for an hour, and strain again, if needed.
3. Add all the other ingredients, and simmer uncovered for ten more minutes, then serve in pre-heated soup bowls or a big soup tureen.

Sichuan Soup
Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
½ pound minced pork
5 shiitake mushrooms, stems and caps minced
3 scallions, minced
1 pound thin egg noodles
5 cups chicken stock
5 Tablespoons sesame sauce
5 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon chili oil

Preparation:

1. Make a sauce heating the oil in a wok, and stir-frying the ginger, garlic and the pork for two minutes, then adding the mushrooms and the scallions for two more minutes, then set this aside.
2. Boil two quarts of water and cook the noodles for two minutes, then drain them, and put them into five or six individual soup bowls.
3. Heat the chicken stock, have diners add some of the sauce to their bowls over their noodles, then some of the stock, and serve themselves this spicy soup.

Bamboo Fungus Soup
Ingredients:

5 pieces of dried bamboo fungus
5 cups chicken stock or water
½ pound soft doufu, cut in half-inch squares
1 small carrot, peel discarded, carrot chopped
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 or three kale stems, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon coarse salt

Preparation:

1. Soak bamboo fungus until soft, then squeeze out its water and coarsely chop it.
2. Bring stock or water to the simmer, add the bamboo fungus, doufu cubes, carrot pieces and the cornstarch and mix well, then add the cornstarch, soy sauce, kale pieces, sesame oil, and the salt, and simmer for ten minutes.
3. Serve in pre-heated individual soup bowls or a soup tureen.

Pumpkin Soup
Ingredients:

6 cups chicken stock
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 Tablespoon preserved Sichuan vegetables
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 baby bok cai, minced
½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

1. Boil the stock in a three quart pot with the chicken and duck cubes and the pumpkin for ten minutes; mash the pumpkin. if desired.
2. Mince, then add the preserved vegetables, the ground pepper, bok cai, and the salt, and simmer three to five minutes more, then serve in pre-heated soup bowl or a large soup tureen.

Squash and Shrimp Soup
Ingredients:

½ pound shrimp, peeled, veins and shells discarded, each one cut in quarters
1 loofah squash, cut in quarters the long way, then angle cut, then blanched for one minute
8 cups chicken stock
5 canned water chestnuts, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with same amount of stock
1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
dash of ground white pepper
½ small chili pepper, minced finely

Preparation:

1. Blanch and drain cut up shrimp and loofah and set them aside.
2. Heat soup in a large saucepan.
3. Add water chestnuts to the stock and bring it to the boil, then stir in the cornstarch mixture, shrimp, and loofah pieces, and the soy sauce, sesame oil, ground white pepper, and the chili pepper pieces, and return to the boil, then serve in preheated soup bowls or from a large soup tureen.

Herb Soup
Ingredients:

1 pound pork ribs
1/4 cup angelica root pieces
1 star anise
5 whole cloves
3 Tablespoons goji berries
2 Tablespoons lovage (as dried rhizome or granules)
1 head garlic, cloves peeled, each clove smashed
1 one-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon coarse sat
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup rice, cooked with two cups of water until almost soft (optional)

Preparation:

1. Cook pork ribs in ten cups of water for half an hour, skin as needed.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for an hour or more.
3. Remove pork, cut their meat from the bones into half-inch pieces, discard the bones, and return the meat to the pot, then serve in small cups.
4. Serve with cooked rice, if desired.

                                                                                                                                                       
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