I am introducing a simple soup today. Every Chinese home cook, especially those from the older generation, knows how to cook a good pot of soup. But I am going ahead anyway as I feel this culture of soup cooking should be preserved. Please excuse me if you find this post too mundane for your palate. I was hoping perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to impart something to those who are in the dark about boiling a good bowl of soup.
The Chinese has a penchant for boiling soup. A typical traditional Chinese meal would include three dishes of vegetables or meat and one type of soup. That is how important soup is in the Chinese culture. The Chinese believe that there are a lot of goodness in soup. This old cucumber soup, for example, has "cooling" and anti-aging properties from its nutrient-rich (Vitamin A, E and calcium to name a few) ingredients. With so much goodness, it is no wonder our culture emphasises on drinking soup.
Soup cooked a la Chinese are normally clear, not unlike a consomme. Seldom is it creamy like our western counterparts. The idea is to slowly cook the soup in very low heat. This is the basis for all good soups. Slow cooking would ensure your soup is clear and at the same time, not destroy the nutrients that are in it. There are many ways you could cook a good pot of soup such as double-boiling, using a slow cooker or just slowly simmering it. The soup would become more flavourful the longer you cook it as flavours from different ingredients blends into the soup.
Old Cucumber Soup 老黄瓜汤
750 g spareribs
500 g old cucumber, washed and cut
10 red dates
5-7 g dried cuttlefish
2 dried scallops
1.5 litre water
1/2 tbsp salt
1. Cut old cucumber lengthwise into half. Remove the seeds. Cut horizontally into pieces. Wash all other ingredients and put into a pot with 1.5 litre of water and bring to boil.
2. Meanwhile, boil another pot of water. Once water is boiled, blanch spareribs to remove odour and impurities. Drain and put into soup pot. Bring soup to boil and add salt for flavour.
3. Once boiled, you could either simmer, slow-cook or double boil the soup. For simplicity sake, I just put the soup to simmer in very slow fire for 2-3 hours. Skim off top layer of fats. Serve hot.
It is not necessary to peel the old cucumber. I did so because my mom doesn't like the skin. Peeling the skin would cause the old cucumber to break easily after boiling.