With the changing seasons, I’ve been feeling the edge of sick creeping in this week. Naturally, a pot of soup like the kind my mom used to make was needed. I decided to make a chinese radish carrot pork soup that always makes me feel better (or at least I feel much better drinking it). This particular soup picks up the rich flavour from the pork while being sweetened from the carrots and figs. As a bonus, this soup is also very easy to make. Once you have the ingredients, it practically makes itself.
Ingredients: (serves 5-6, two bowls each)
300 to 400 grams of pork neck, shoulder, or ribs
1 large carrot, chopped or sliced
1 medium sized Chinese green radish, chopped or sliced
4 dried dates
10 cups of water
salt to taste
Boil water in the pot you’ll be making the soup in. When it’s boiling, place the pork into the pot. Let the meat boil for 2-3 minutes. The pork meat should light brown in colour. The meat does not need to be cooked through at this point. The water will have bubbles start to form on the surface and even become a little foamy (picture on the left).
Pour out the boiled water and rinse your meat. The water at this point will likely be very frothy (picture on the right). These first two steps are important as it’s a cleansing and detoxifying step for the meat – and is also effective in removing fat from your soup.
Fill your pot again with 10 cups of water with the pork still in the pot. Bring the water up to a boil.
Add the chopped radish, carrot, and dates. If you’re using a regular pot, turn the heat down to low and let your soup simmer at least 2 hours. I use a thermal pot for all of my soups – for me, it’s the benefits of a pressure cooker and slow cooker in one. If you’re using a thermal pot, bring the water to a boil and place your pot into the thermal pot and let it sit and cook for at least 2 hours.
As the days get shorter and nights longer, nothing combats the changing of seasons like a homemade winter melon soup. Winter melon is believed to have cooling properties by the Chinese. It is understood to remove the excessive heat from the body that can lead to ailments and illness. Whether you are believer of Chinese medicine or not, winter melon is loaded with nutrients in a water-rich melon. It has vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin C, and is also a fantastic source of calcium and potassium.
The other great aspect to winter melon soup is that it’s very easy to make.
This weekend, while on a historical tour around Mennonite country in southern Ontario with our family, I came across dried alphabet noodles at a Mennonite General Store. Up to this point, I have never seen dried pasta in the shape of alphabets before. They lived only in the much-loved cans of Campbell’s alphabet or Heinz’s Alphagetti soups – both of which were considered an occasional treat in our household. Especially the Alphagetti, because of its perceived lower nutritional value.
In any case, I quickly scooped up a bag. For less than $3 for a reasonable-sized bag of homemade nostalgia, I didn’t need to think twice.
First thing I made when we returned to Toronto: my own homemade alphabet (and numbers, since it turned out the bag also contained numbers) vegetable soup. In a word, delicious.
As a tip, if you like adding rice or pasta to your soup, make the soup first and then cook the rice or pasta separately when the soup is ready for serving. Spoon in the pasta or rice into your serving bowls first, and pour in the soup over top. This keeps the pasta or rice from overcooking and falling apart.
Most of you will have a fabulous vegetable soup recipe already. However, in case you’re interested, I’ve included my uber-simple vegetable soup recipe below. You can really use any vegetables you happen to have in your fridge. Corn is fantastic to include for the sweetness it adds to any soup base.
Nothing shouts SUMMER like a fabulous chilled bowl (or cup) of gazpacho. Gazpacho is a chilled raw tomato-based soup that hails from Spain and Portugal – although some say that before that, it likely had Arabic roots. In any case, it’s a delicious, refreshing soup that fares well as a mid-afternoon snack, cocktail hors d’oeuvres, or appetizer. Even better, it’s incredibly simple to make. That said, note that this soup does need to chill for at least 2 hours, so if you’re crunched for time to serve something right away, it may not be the best soup to make.
14 large tomatoes
1 green capsicum pepper
1 red capsicum pepper
1 red chili pepper, deseeded (unless you want your soup quite spicy)
1 garlic clove
3 large basil leaves, fresh
1 lime, fully squeezed
2 slices of bread (wheat-based is best, but really, you can use any kind), toasted
As the weather transitions from the rainy spring into a warmer summer (and it has certainly taken its time this year), I always start craving a soup that is lighter in both flavour and consistency. My favourite: Chinese fish maw egg drop soup.
It’s worth noting that many restaurants will offer this soup with crab meat in it – which you can also add. Just be sure to use real crab meat rather than the fake crab meat that’s available in most grocery stores, as the chunky texture won’t be a good match for this soup.
Whenever I make soup, I tend to make a large pot that will serve four to five people comfortably. If you need more or less, adjust the below ingredient proportions accordingly.
From an early age, my brother, sister, and I have shared an insatiable fondness for hot and sour soup. Every Sunday, we would eagerly wait to see if mom and dad would be treating us to a lunch out that week. If we were so lucky, we knew we would likely be going to one of our favorite local Szechuan restaurants. Upon our arrival, our parents would ask us what we wanted to have – even though they already knew the answer. It was always the same: “Hot and sour soup!”
To this day, hot and sour remains one of my favorite feel-great, classic Chinese soups. The amazing part is that although it may not look it, hot and sour soup is actually quite simple to make. The hard part is finding the ingredients, which vary depending on regional differences.
Here is my variation on this old classic (serves a family of 4-6… for 2 days):
12 cups (or 3L) of homemade chicken or vegetable stock (If you don’t have stock, you can also use 500mL-1L of chicken or vegetable stock in combination with 8-10 cups of water)
1 pork tenderloin (this is usually around 15 oz., or 0.45 kg), minced
1 to 3 pieces of wood ear fungus depending on the size of the pieces (they may also come under the name black fungus or cloud ear fungus)
I consider my mother the goddess of all things soup – especially Chinese soups. When I moved out many years ago, this was one of the things I missed the most: her delicious, nutritious homemade soups.
One of the things she has taught me over the years is that every good soup starts out with a good soup base. And by “good”, we mean fresh, homemade, and healthy. It may take a little more time, but in the end, it’s worth it. Your soups will taste better, and your body will thank you for it too. So you don’t need to buy those artificially preserved broths – you can make your own!
As an aside, of course sometimes the reality is that when you have no time, you just have no time. If you’re in a crunch and need a quick soup stock solution, we always recommend the Campbell’s broths in the carton over any of the canned varieties. Most of the canned soups, including Campbell’s, have MSG in them, whereas the cartons are MSG-free.
Ultimately, all soup stocks are the same. They are made by adding ingredients like meat, bone, and/or vegetables to water and simmering them to extract the flavour and nutrients from them. Continue reading →