Mussels (Dried)

Ingredient Name: Baby Mussels (dried)

Traditional Chinese Name: 青口幹 (qīng kǒu gàn)

What is this?

  • A dried and processed type of salt of fresh water shellfish of the clam family with elongated shells
  • The shells are often black, brown, beige in color and are found without the shells when they are used in soups
  • The mussels used in these soups are smaller in size
  • Dried and prepared mussels are more commonly used in Chinese soups than fresh mussels (which are not common at all)
  • Dried mussels are also used in various Chinese dishes along with black moss
  • They are often tougher in texture than their relative clams and to some are an acquired taste

How do I prepare it?

  • Soak in water for 10-15 minutes and rinse before usage

Where can I buy this?

  • You can buy dried mussels at supermarkets, wet marts or Chinese herbalists
  • Canned, processed mussels can also be used for soups – which are available at supermarkets

What is the cost

  • The prices vary depending on size, breed, availability and whether they are imported or organic

Any benefits?

  • Mussels are an excellent source of B12, Selenium, Zinc, Iron and folate
  • They are also an excellent source of protein
  • Compared to meats, they have less fat
  • They are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (which help reduce heart disease)

Any precautions?

  • Be sure to buy from a reputable source
  • Dried and processed mussels should have a salty, fragrant smell to them so be sure to take a good whiff before purchasing (this is more common to the bulk buys available in Asian markets)

Additional Information

  • Dried mussels can be kept frozen for up to 6 months (and taken out when needed for soups)
  • Dried mussels can also be kept in the fridge for up to 2 months in a sealed container
  • Keep mussels in a dry environment

 

 

Clams (Fresh)

Ingredient Name: Clams, fresh clams

Chinese Name: 蛤 (há)

Clams are not commonly found in the Chinese repertoire for soups, but it is commonly found in Chinese dishes.  Most immediately, I can think of clams fried in black bean sauce, which is delicious!   Regardless, clams are used in other Asian type soups and is versatile, easy to cook (just not necessarily the easiest to keep alive) and great for kids to play with before they are cooked.  Call is Science exploration at home.

What is this?
  • A type of fresh water mussel that has two hard shells to keep it protected
  • The usually range from different sizes depending on the type and breed of clam
  • Inside the clam meat is beige/white in color and soft
  • The outer shell of the clam almost looks like rocks with various shades from white, yellow, brown to gray
  • Most clam species are edible, however smaller ones and some species are considered inedible

How do I prepare it?

  • When purchased fresh from your wet mart or supermarket, be sure to store in a cool place while taking them home (avoid direct sunlight without having the clams in water)
  • When you get home, immediately put them in cool fresh water (and they can keep like this for 1-2 days) – although clams are highly perishable and should be eaten as soon as possible
  • To cook, start boiling water, once the water boils – add the clams in and in time they will open
  • Once they open, remove from the boiling water immediately and set aside
  • Discard unopened clams (as they are dead) – I wouldn’t recommended eating the dead ones

Where can I buy this?

  • Available in fresh marts in Hong Kong
  • Also available in supermarkets

What is the cost?

  • I bought 20 clams (picture above) for $13 HKD
  • They vary in price depending on season, availability, type, breed and size

Any benefits?

  • Low in fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Excellent source of phosphorous (for bones and teeth)
  • High protein value (as compared to red meat) with less calories
  • Clams are also an excellent source of potassium and iron

Any precautions?

  • Discard any unopened clams and avoid consumption
  • It is not recommended to eat clams raw (as they sometimes contain a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus (which can lead to serious illness in people with underlying medical problems)
  • Consume in moderation as they do contain cholesterol

Any substitutes?

  • For soups, fresh mussels can also suffice (smaller ones)
  • Canned clams are also ideal if fresh clams aren’t available

Opened cooked clams, ready for soups

Snakehead Fish

Ingredient Name: Snakehead fish, “raw” fish

Chinese Name: 生魚 (shēng yú)

The word sounds like “raw” fish in Cantonese and that’s the idea I had while getting this recipe from my veggie vendor.  This readily available fish at most wet marts in Hong Kong comes LIVE – flipping and flopping for your viewing pleasure and is not expensive.  I have never eaten this fish before and glad that someone introduced it to me – definitely another breed to my limited repertoire of the huge fish variety in Hong Kong.

What is this?
  • A type of predatory fish with a head that resembles that of a snake
  • They have become an unwanted fish in natural environments as they eat other fish and have no known enemies in the natural environment – which is why it is a very common and readily available fish in Asia
  • Adult snakeheads can grow up to 1m in length, but in general, the wet marts carry ones that are about 30 cm in length
  • Commonly eaten in most Asian dishes (soups, fried, stews)

How do I prepare it?

  • When purchased, have your fish vendor de-scale, gut and chop your fish into a manageable size
  • Rinse with warm water prior to frying
  • With a few slices of ginger and a tsp of oil, pan fry your fish before using in soups
  • Use a soup bag when boiling in soups

Where can I buy this?

  • Available fresh in most wet marts in Hong Kong
  • Unsure of availability in North America

What is the cost?

  • A 30cm length snakehead fish cost around $13 HKD
  • It is considered a very common and accessible fish and therefore very affordable

Any benefits?

  • Excellent source of protein
  • Low in fat

Any precautions?

  • Be sure to thoroughly clean and cook your fish prior to eating
  • Buy your fish from a reputable source

Any substitutes?

  • Any other fish is a great substitute for fish soup
Sea Snail (Fresh)

Sea Snail (Fresh)

Sea Snail (Fresh)

Ingredient Name:

Sea Snail, Conch, Gastropod

Traditional Chinese Name:

螺 (luó)

This is a cooling and sweet ingredient.

 

Another one of those ingredients that you don’t really see in soups growing up as a child – unless you happen to eat it, which our family did not.  It’s actually just as common to use the dried sea snail in soups (which are said to be more flavorful).  The meat itself doesn’t have much flavor, but like pork shank or pork bones, simply dip in a bit of high quality soy sauce and it’s pretty delicious.  The one thing I discovered while on my soup making adventure is that some ingredients cost a fortune!  So while some soups can eat out of your pocket, there are many that are economical.  Yes, that’s the concept of all Chinese cuisine right?

Just like all seafood, the conch is a cooling ingredient across the Traditional Chinese Medicine spectrum.  

 

How do I prepare it?

 

    I talk about how to prepare this ingredient in the soup “Recovery Herbal Soup”.  I’ve used both dried and frozen conch here, so great references if you’re looking to use this in your own soups!
    To prepare the dried conch, simply soak in cool water until it soften, or you can drop directly into boiling soup water.
    For fresh conch, I will definitely blanch them and give them a little scrub-a-dub before using them in soups.  The opportunity here is that fresh or frozen conch also make amazing side dishes (that could parallel abalone, I’d say) when dipped with soy sauce!

Where can I buy it and cost?

      • You can buy fresh conch at most Asian supermarkets (they reside in the live tanks in Chinese supermarkets)
      • Frozen conch is definitely available in the frozen sections and cost for 1 conch is about $12 CAD
      • Fresh sea snail or conch costs around $100-120 HKD in wet marts depending on size and breed
      • Did you know that abalone is actually a type of sea snail?  These are the expensive kinds!

Any benefits?

      • Sea snails are great additions to soup as the add that little bit of salty, seafood flavour and compliment the main protein quite nicely (such as chicken and pork)
      • Great protein that is low in fat
      • You can eat them as part of the meal.  I’ll usually cook it as a whole and then remove from the soup and slice it up to be served before service.
      • According to Traditional Chinese medicine, sea snails are nourish the Yin and the kidneys and to improve eyesight

Any precautions?

      • Be sure to thoroughly clean fresh conch or sea snail before boiling them

      • If you’re buying them whole, you may need to crack the shell yourself (but the seafood vendor may also do it in Asian supermarkets and wet marts)
      • You’ll want to only keep the centre, fleshy part of the conch (not the ends or guts or stomach) as the primary portion to consume, but actually all of the conch is edible

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

Check it out in my video to learn more!

 

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Geoduck

Ingredient Name: Geoduck, mud duck, king clam, elephant trunk clam

Traditional Chinese Name: 象拔蚌 (xiàng bá bàng)

What is this?
  • A large salt water mollusk that is long in shape with a large clam shaped shell
  • The size varies depending on its age, but can be as long as 1m in length
  • It has a rough skin and can shrink or lengthen its body
  • In Chinese cuisine, it can be eaten sashimi style, in hot pot, in soups or stews or sliced and cooked with vegetables
  • The taste is sweet and texture is slightly chewy and crunchy (resembles that of abalone)
  • Pronounced as “gooey-duck” in English

How do I prepare it?

  • Using a sharp knife, slice the geoduck on both sides at the shell to disengage the shell from its body
  • Slice in half from end to end the geoduck and remove the dark, oval shaped stomach
  • In a pot of boiling water, briefly scald the geoduck and remove the external tough skin
  • Scrape with your knife any skin remnants and loose skin that may cling to the meat
  • Wash in cool water and it is ready for use

Where can I buy this?

  • Available fresh in Hong Kong wet marts
  • Can be purchased fresh also in speciality stores in North America (as these are cultivated in BC, Canada and Washington, USA most commonly)

What is the cost?

  • 1 medium-sized geoduck (as pictured above) cost around $120 HKD

Any benefits?

  • A natural soup sweetener
  • Excellent source of protein
  • Low in fat

Any precautions?

  • Be sure you’re buying from a reputable source and ensure it’s fresh (live)
  • To test whether it’s live, just poke it and it should “shrink” or shift

Additional Information

  • Dried and prepared geoduck is usually more flavorful than fresh geoduck (as it is said fresh geoduck is best eaten as sashimi style because it’s a delicacy)
  • Store live geoduck in your fridge wrapped in a wet cloth or towel and they will keep for 2-3 days

A geoduck ready for blanching in hot water