Starfish? WHAT? Yah… starfish. I knew that the Chinese used starfish in soups, but I had never actually seen where I could buy starfish, nor tried soups with starfish before. I happened to venture to Lamma Island in Hong Kong one day and ta-da(!) I found some dried starfish! What was even more special was that the lady who sold them was so warm and welcoming that she talked and walked me through the whole process and which ingredients that could potentially go into the soup.
In short, starfish soups are designed to remove internal heat, so supplemental ingredients should compliment this. Big learning from me on this soup – while it’s nice to show all the ingredients in my photos, I wouldn’t necessarily scoop any starfish for the kids to see. I actually served only the broth to the family and everyone drank it. See, this is what my Mom did to me when I was a kid and now I’m doing it to mine! My rebuttal is basically – it’s good for you! Don’t mind what’s inside!
To start, soak the dried starfish, tangerine peel and scallops in cool water for about 15 minutes. This will soften the starfish and peel so that you can remove “stuff” from them. From the tangerine peel, you can scrape off the “peel” or darker side, which is quite bitter and will make your soup bitter. You can do this with a knife. The same actually goes for the starfish. Once its softened, scrape off the bottom-side of the “scales”. These are the little bumps that you can find on the underside. Once it’s scraped, it should look clean like the photo below. Cut the starfish into pieces that actually fit into your pot!
Next, in a separate pot of boiling water, add sliced ginger (save 1 to 2 slices for the soup) and the starfish together and boil for 5 minutes. This will blanch the starfish from impurities, but also will help remove some of the “fishiness”. Some people also pan fry with ginger to remove “fishiness” – this is particularly useful on fish. Remove and set aside.
Drain the water and boil a small pot to blanch the pork shank. Another necessary step to remove the impurities, although pork shank doesn’t have as much gunk as pork bones or even pork marrow. This step does help remove some of the fat as well. You can begin to boil your soup water at this time.
You can also prepare your vegetables by chopping them up into large bite-sized pieces. For the Chinese Yam, WEAR GLOVES! If you read my post on preparation of Chinese Yam, this is called out. The skin of the Chinese Yam will make your hands very itchy if you come into contact with it, so be sure to wear gloves. When the soup water boils, throw everything in together (including the 2 pieces of ginger hanging around).
Boil on high for 30 minutes and then reduce to a medium boil for another 2 hours. This will really bring out the healing, heat-removal properties of the starfish. The ginger isn’t to counter the heat-removal, that’s why you add a tiny amount – it’s to reduce the “fishiness” of the soup. Once boiled, taste and salt as needed. Then serve and enjoy!
Soak in cool water, the dried starfish, dried scallops and dried tangerine peel for 15 minutes 2. Begin to prepare the corn by quartering it and the Chinese Yam, by peeling and cutting 1-inch long pieces (be sure to wear gloves) 3. Using a sharp knife edge, scrape off the top-side (darker side) of the tangerine peel in running water (to remove more of the bitterness) 4. Using a sharp knife edge, scrape off the underside of the starfish until all the little rivets are gone 5. Cut the starfish into suitable sized pieces for your soup 6. Thinly Slice your fresh ginger 7. In a separate pot, boil enough water to cover the starfish and once it’s boiling, throw in the ginger (saving 1-2 pieces for the soup) and blanch the starfish on high heat for 5 minutes 8. Remove the starfish and set aside 9. In the same pot, boil enough water to cover your pork shank and blanch that on high heat for 5 minutes 10. Remove the pork shank and set aside 11. Boil your soup water 12. Once the water boils, add all the ingredients together (including the remaining ginger). Boil on high heat for 30 minutes and reduce to a medium heat for 2 hours. 13. Taste and salt as necessary 14. Serve and enjoy!
Soup Name: Sweet Potato, Corn and Chinese Yam in Fish Soup
Traditional Chinese Name: 蕃薯玉米魚湯 (gān shǔ yù mǐ yú tāng)
This simple and slightly sweet soup is really ideal for kids and children. I originally made this as a base for a lunch (consisting of fish balls and macaroni) and the kids loved it! Soups are so diverse in that you can use it as a base for stews, congee, noodles and other Chinese dishes. Keeping it simple will allow you to diversify your “final” dish and get really creative!
Soup Name: Chinese Yam with Apples and Corn in Chicken Broth (with Ginger)
Traditional Chinese Name: 蘋果玉米淮山雞湯 (píng guǒ yù mǐ huái shān jī tāng)
A simple, clean chicken broth with just a hint of sweetness and a tang of spice (from the ginger). Depending on who your consumer is, add less or more ginger. For confinement, don’t be scared to throw it all in! This soup is easy to make, it’s got basic neutral ingredients and is great for the whole family!
What Ingredients are required?
1 fresh whole chicken, quartered 4-5 whole apples, cored and quartered 2 fresh corn, quartered 2 fresh pieces of Chinese Yam about 1 foot in length, peeling is optional, quartered 150 g of sliced fresh ginger (for confinement purposes) 2 L of water salt to taste How do I prepare it?
Clean, prepare and blanch chicken in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes
Set aside to cool
Wash, prepare apples, corn and Chinese Yam
Slice ginger thinly
Boil your soup water, when it boils, add all the ingredients together
Boil on high for about 30 minutes and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour
Serve and enjoy!
With ginger, it’s a slightly warm soup, but without it, it’s neutral
Pregnancy, confinement and child friendly
Sweet and fresh to the taste
Excellent source of Vitamins and hearty to eat
For children, go easy on the ginger because that can really spice up the soup!
Be sure to clean, peel Chinese Yam with gloves as the outer skin of the Chinese Yam can make your fingers itchy (if you opt to peel the skin)
Soup Name: Coconut, Chinese Yam and Fresh Conch in Chicken Broth
Traditional Chinese Name: 椰子螺雞湯 (yē zi luó jī tāng)
This soup (because of the fresh conch) cost me a whopping $500 HKD. For starters, it’s a really delicious soup and it’s naturally sweet, but you can pretty much achieve similar results with probably cheaper ingredients. The vendor has suggested NOT to use the coconut water because that is pretty fattening, but other than that, it’s truly a perfect winter soup.
What ingredients are required?
1 fresh chicken, quartered 2 large fresh conch 1 fresh whole coconut, sliced into thin pieces 2 feet of fresh Chinese Yam, largely sliced 2 L of water
How do I prepare it?
Prepare chicken & conch (read each ingredient on instructions on preparation)
In a pot of boiling water, blanch chicken and conch
Prepare Chinese Yam by washing, peeling and cutting into large edible cubes (wear gloves while doing this)
Prepare fresh coconut by cutting it with the inner brown skin into long thin pieces
When your water boils, add all the ingredients in and boil on high for 30 minutes. Reduce to a medium boil for another hour.
Serve and enjoy!
This is a great winter soup as it is warming to the body (but not overly heaty)
Naturally sweet, so no salt is needed
This Chinese soup is rich in proteins and fiber
The coconut isn’t the easiest thing to cut into thin strips, so if it’s too difficult, use larger chunks
Be sure to thoroughly clean the conch (ie: with either salt, cornstarch or a toothbrush)
The coconut meat is high in saturated fat and is high in cholesterol, so consume with caution
Use an oil scooper to remove the fattiness of the chicken meat in the soup
This is the dried version of the Fresh Chinese Yam, which is a white long root with a brown outer skin. When dried, the Chinese Yam is usually proceed into 1-2 inches in length, flat, and very chalky white. It is tasteless, produces no colour in the soup, and is one of the common Chinese Soup pantry ingredients. It’s used in soups, stews, and sometimes even desserts! There are a few variety of these types of Chinese Yams, including a fresh Japanese variant, which is just as yummy in soups.
How do I prepare it?
Soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes. This is to remove any of the chemicals used during processing and to allow it to soften and expand
It’s used as it directly in soups. There’s no need to cut it any further.
Where can I buy it and cost?
You can purchase dried Chinese Yam from most Asian supermarkets prepackaged
These are also available either prepackaged or “pick your volume” in Chinese Herbal Stores
You can also purchase this in bulk from specialty stores (online herbal shops)
What is the cost?
A package costs around $3-5 CAD
It is often used in combination with meats and other Chinese herbs to help digestion and regulate sugar levels
Traditionally it is used to relieve stomach pains and diarrhea
When boiled with chicken and a variety of other Chinese herbs, it is an ideal confinement soup as it helps control inflammation of the uterus
It is considered a neutral ingredient
Be sure to consult with your doctor first if you have any questions regarding this herb
Excess consumption is known to cause frequent urination and perspiration