Soup Name: Wintermelon with Lotus Leaf and Corn in Pork Broth
Traditional Chinese Name: 冬瓜湯 (dōng guā tāng)
There is one particular day in the summer where the Chinese call it the “hottest day of the month”. This is the soup for that day. When I went to the wet market that morning and wanted to make another soup, my veggie vendor told me to make this soup – without a doubt. It’s a cooling, heat-reducing soup for those really stuffy, hot days in the summer. You can use either pork or chicken (or both) and it may need a bit of salt because all the ingredients are mildly flavored, but it still tastes slightly sweet and natural without the salt.
Putting fruit into Chinese soups adds a wonderful sweetness and texture. Papaya is commonly used in either fish or pork-based soups. This is a simple papaya pork soup that is quick and simple to make and great for children. My own kids love to eat the soft and warm papaya fruit directly from the soup so this has become a common, nutritious soup we can make quickly and know they will enjoy.
The Chinese use ALL parts of the pig and the feet are no exception. They can be used in stews, soups and various Chinese dishes – but is most commonly used with the use of black vinegar and ginger (usually prepared for Chinese confinement).
This is literally, the foot of the pig, hair and all! You buy them from the wet mart as you see them and it’s quite a sight the first time you see or buy them.
This cut of the pork tends to be bony and low in fat and is an amazing source of collagen.
This part of the pork contains large bones and a thick skin (sometimes with hair). They also do sometimes come with the hooves of the pig, which you can chop off (similar to the nails of the whole chicken).
Where can you buy pig’s feet?
All wet marts in Hong Kong will sell them (sometimes you may have to pre-order them because of limited quantities). They come more “raw” and you’ll need more work preparing them. One leg costs around $50 HKD, but will vary by weight and size.
In Canada, I find them in Chinese supermarkets. They will cut them for you and usually package them as well.
How to prepare pig’s feet:
Make sure the legs are chopped into 2 inch pieces, it’s much easier to manage
To start, I remove as much hair from the skin as possible. The first way is to torch it off if you have a cooking torch or a gas stove. You can just lightly burn off as much as you can.
Then you can use a sharp knife and scrape any remaining hair or loose skin from the feet.
At this point, I will scrub the legs in running cold, while preparing a pot of slightly salted hot water to blanch the meat in.
Once the water boils, throw in your pig’s feet and flash boil for 5 minutes. Enough so that the extra blood, bones, and debris all bubble away, but not to fully cook it
To create a more fragrant flavour in the pork, you can either bake them or pan-fry them with some oil and ginger (to remove the raw taste). This will allow the skin to crisp and become more flavourful in your dish.
Why do the Chinese love pig’s feet?
I think it’s definitely an acquired taste, but once you do get the hang of it, it’s delicious. You can make this with the popular black vinegar sauce, but also in soy sauce.
This protein does take awhile to soften, so stews and soups are the best to allow the skin and meat to become loose. You’ll also notice that the sauce is sits in become a bit thick because of the collagen dissolved into it.
A warm and healing soup, it’s often recommended for cold winter days or confinement. The turtle meat is said to be a nourishing meat (similar to chicken) and should be avoided if you are sick. From our experience, even when properly cleaned, soft-shelled turtle meat may have a taste of the “sea” and may require ginger to counter the taste.
For more information on what confinement is and the Chinese ingredients associated with confinement, please see our Confinement Soups page.
This is the first time that I have bought and tried soft shell turtle (to my knowledge). These types of turtles are actually bred for consumption and considered a prize delicacy in East Asia (ie: China). They are also harvested in the US (with set limits) for breeding and consumption as well (especially common to have Turtle soup in New Orleans). Ever since coming to Asia, I have developed an open mind to the types of food that is culturally different from my upbringing. The turtle definitely falls into this category. It is so commonplace that you can find soft shell turtles at your local wet marts.
To prepare soft-shell turtle, my vendor (and mom) told me to pan-fry them with ginger. This will help eliminate any fishiness in flavours and create a fragrant base for your soup.