Ying's ideas of easy Chinese home-cooking

Autumn soup – Pumpkin Soup in Chinese soup style

秋日南瓜湯 - 廣式靚湯

Being a half Cantonese and half Hakka, I grew up drinking Cantonese soups. Don’t know why but most independent grown-up Cantonese will naturally know how to make soup. I guess that’s because when one leaves home, lives alone, travels abroad, has their own family, he or she would spontaneously look for the most familiar taste and smell of his or her life. And soup, must be in the gene, the blood of every Cantonese.

Mum used to blame me not making serious Cantonese soup. Elder generation may consider the typical Cantonese soups are usually ‘herbal soup’, which is believed to be with high nutritional value, or even be able to cure disease. I have kept in freezer some expensive soup ingredients, such as dry deer’s penis, which my late grandma gave me years ago and hoped me gain physical strength. Well I do make soup often but usually the quick ones, which are made of seasoning vegetables and meat being cooked in about an hour.

This pumpkin soup I am writing is one of those I like, according to my soup principles – seasonal, nutritious, simple, and tasty. Pumpkin, or squash is one of the most common vegetable that can be obtained all year round. But autumn is exactly the right season for having best quality pumpkin. There is a large variety of pumpkin or squash worldwide. For this recipe, I use the starchy and sweet type with hard skin. And when making Cantonese soup, I will keep the skin, which also contains lots of nutrition. Don’t worry, it will turn very soft after simmering.

Cooking tips – something you should know before making Chinese soup, Cantonese soup particularly
1. Blanching the meat. The ingredients are cooked in hot water or cold water till at least cooked on the surface or half-cooked. When making soup, Chinese like to blanch the meat before simmering for longer time, especially meat with bones or fat, such as pork ribs, pork bones, chicken, etc. This is a ‘cleaning’ process, to boil off the dirt, blood or extra fat. With this blanching step, the soup will be clear;

2. Traditionally, Chinese, especially Cantonese, would like to simmer the soup for more than 2 hours. They believed, in this way, all those good stuffs, such as nutrition, or medical effects from the ingredients, especially Chinese herbs, could be fully released, and the soup tasted much better. However, modern Cantonese realize the longer the meat is cooked, the more purine would be produced. So nowadays, we tend to cook soups within 2 hours or even in shorter time.

Some Cantonese, even in my family, would only drink the soup liquid, and won’t be willing to eat the cooked ingredients. Most cooked lean pork or chicken would be in my Beary’s tummy. (Don’t worry, Cantonese soup hardly put any salt or salty seasoning in the soup.) However, it’s known to all that no mater how long the soups are simmered, a larger percentage of nutrition still remain in the cooked solid ingredients, not in the soup liquid. Thus, drink the soup and finish all eatable ingredients are the best way to have Chinese soup;

3. When making soup, Cantonese prefer to keep the true taste of the ingredients. So most soups are unlikely to be seasoned. A nip of salt is acceptable.

Ingredients –
Pumpkin, 500g;
Lean pork ribs, 500g;
Sweet corn, 1;
Green radish, 150g;
Carrot, 150g;
Dry red date, 4;
Dry fig, 2, optional.

How to do –
1. Pumpkin seeded but keep the skin, chopped to big chunks; carrots peeled and also chopped to chunks; sweetcorn and pork ribs also;

2. Bring a pot of water to boil, put in the pork ribs till the water turn boiling again, drain and rinse;

3. Put all ingredients into a big soup pot, pour in plenty of water till covered, lid on. High heat and bring to boil, then simmer in medium low heat for 1 hour;

4. Serve with steamed rice or noodles. A little light soy sauce and sesame oil for the pork ribs.

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