Sweet and Sour Pork with Ginger (for Confinement)

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

 

This is another one of those great recipes that are handed down through generations. I got this from an Auntie who is an amazing cook and simplified this recipe so that it’s so simple and yet, tastes so good! You can use a variety of rib cuts – I’ve made it with the traditional Chinese spare ribs cut (pictured here), but also made it using baby back ribs, too.  When I make this, I use the measurements as a base, but adjust it as it cooks. I know some people prefer it sweeter or more sour or more salty, so definitely sample your cooking as you go!

Dish Name: Sweet and Sour Pork with Ginger (for Chinese Confinement)

Traditional Chinese Name: 糖醋排骨 (Táng cù páigǔ)

Scroll down for the full printable recipe.
For this recipe, I will use a fatter cut of meat. This is because it stews for quite some time and you don’t want the pork to dry out and shrivel up into dried pork. Over time, the fat will come out and you can simply scoop it out before consumption.
Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork (fresh spare ribs)

I will also rinse the pork in warm water when I get them from the vendor (just in case). Then throw it into a stainless steel pot and follow this simple base for recipe. It’s basically 1-2-3 (tablespoons).

1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar (any type)
3 tablespoons of white vinegar

And then you proportion it out appropriately. So for the amount picture above, which is around 1 pound of spare ribs, I multiplied by 3, so I got 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and 9 tablespoons of white vinegar. If you want, you can add a quarter cup of water for good measure.  For confinement, my recommendation is to load up on ginger. This can be ginger slices, ginger cubes, the whole ginger, grated ginger, ginger juice – however spicy you can take it, do it. Optional ingredients also include whole garlic, black or white pepper and even star anise.

 

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

I know it may sound like a flaky recipe, but I do believe in that cooking is an art (and baking the science). That’s why you have to taste it as you go along (when it’s more cooked). Start with this though, trust me. It has never failed me as a base.  After about an hour on a very low simmer, you’ll notice that the liquid evaporates to leave a thick, sticky and delicious beautifully dark sweet and sour pork ribs. Scoop off the top layers of oil and serve!

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork – The Final Product

 

Sweet and Sour Pork with Ginger (for Confinement)
Recipe Type: Appetizer or Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese Food
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 dish
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of fresh spare ribs or pork ribs
  • 1 x 3 = 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 x 3 = 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 x 3 = 9 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1-inch root of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/ginger-fresh/”]fresh ginger[/url]
  • 1/4 cup of water
Instructions
  1. Rinse your spare ribs or pork ribs in warm water (to clean)
  2. Put all the ingredients into a stainless steel pot (or clay pot)
  3. Boil on high heat for 10 minutes
  4. Reduce to a low simmer for another hour, checking every 10 minutes on taste and whether it is drying out too much. If so, add another quarter cup of water.
  5. Remove oil and serve!
Zojirushi Mini Thermal Pot (Experiment)

Zojirushi Mini Thermal Pot (Experiment)

Zojirushi Mini Thermal Pot (Experiment)

A friend informed me of a new mini “food jar” or also known as “Thermal pots” that is very popular in Hong Kong these days. For starters, this jives with me because:

  • I love thermal pots and their heat saving efficiency
  • I love anything that can make soups
  • I love Japanese technology and products
  • I love to drink the soup that I make in my thermal pots
  • Go Green!

So, I bought one, or two, or three and gave some away as gifts.

And what made it so special was I also love experiments.  So this was the perfect opportunity to play with food and equipment and create something amazing!

Wait wait.. the good part is that this thing isn’t only for making soups – it can make rice, congee, soups, eggs, sauce, spaghetti, noodles, and basically whatever your good, creative imagination can come up with given the constraints of such a tiny jar.

 

I actually have no association with this product or the company, but it’s nice to share cool finds when I see them. The price ranges from $280 – $350 HKD depending on where you buy it from and it’s super cute in size, is portable and easy to clean.

Here’s what it looks like opened. Simple two-pieces. No brainer – right?

It’s made from stainless steel on the inside and uses the space efficiently. Another love of mine – efficiency.

So my first experiment was to make an egg. Apparently, to make a semi-solid egg, it takes about 30 minutes to “bake” in boiling water.

 

  1. First, rinse the pot in boiling water and let it sit covered for about 5 minutes (this is the trick to get the insides warm first so you don’t lose valuable cooking heat to the pot).
  2. Put a room temperature egg into the pot – another trick. Don’t use eggs directly from the fridge because again, the temperature difference is too significant.
  3. Cover the egg completely with boiling water – for the purpose of this experiment, I just used 98 degree Celsius water from my hot water dispense (too lazy to boil water)
  4. Put on the lid securely and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  5. And ta-da!
  6. Oops, for mine, I kind of forgot about it and came back about 45 minutes later and found this… still awesomely yummy with a bit of sea salt. 

More yummy experiments to come later. I’ve used the thermal pot to keep food warm though, like congee when my daughter was sick and it stayed toasty warm for over 6 hours! Definitely a neat find and will be trying other foods soon! YUM and YEAH for green technology!

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Winter Moisturizing Tea

Winter Moisturizing Tea

Winter Moisturizing Tea

Soup Name

Winter Moisturizing Tea

This soup or tea is completely designed for the dry, cold, dry, cold, super dry, or super cold winter conditions. It’s a vegetarian (meatless) moisturizing tea suitable for the whole family and tastes super yummy.

You can consider adding fresh snow pears or fresh apples to sweeten it further, just take caution with the amount of rock sugar you add. It’s a combination of the all the ingredients that help being moisture to the lungs, body, skin and internal organs. You can drink this to your heart’s delight!

Do note that snow pears are mildly cool ingredients, so not recommended if you’re in confinement or need to avoid cooling ingredients.

What’s involved?

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 15 mins
Serves: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 dried snow fungus, soaked and cut into quarters (removing the center, see video below)
  • 4 pieces of dried snow pear
  • 20 g of apricot kernals
  • 1 pieces of dried tangerine peel
  • 2-3 large dried dates
  • 20 g of dried lily bulbs
  • 1-inch diameter wide rock sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 L of water

Cooking Instructions

  1. Soak the dried snow fungus in warm water until it is completely covered. Let it sit for about 15 minutes until it has become soft and large. Using a pair of scissors, cut it quarters while removing the hard yellow middle.
  2. In a separate bowl, soak in warm water the dried tangerine peel for 5 minutes.
  3. Once the tangerine peel softens, using the face of a knife, scrape off the darker side of the peel (this is the bitter part) just slightly.
  4. Start to boil your tea water
  5. When the water boils, add all the dried snow pear, apricot kernals, tangerine peel, dried dates, dried lily bulbs together.
  6. Boil on medium heat for 1 hour.
  7. In the last 5 minutes, drop in the rock sugar and mix.
  8. Serve and enjoy! Ideal to drink hot in the winter time!

The ingredients are pretty common in Hong Kong or your local Asian supermarket.  And you can buy them in bulk and store them in a dry, sealed container for many months – or in the fridge for even longer.

 

Preparing the Snow Fungus (video)

For snow fungus, you’ll need to soak them in warm water for some time – pretty much until they explode into giant balls.  Normally, people don’t eat the hard middles, but you can still cut it out and put it in with the soup. The tricky thing with snow fungus is that it dissolves into the soup. This means, the soup gets thicker and stickier the longer you boil it with snow fungus (scientifically speaking is that the viscosity of the liquid increases). You can remove the snow fungus halfway through if you don’t like it so thick.

 

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Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

 

This soup is ideal for colds, flus and cough. If you’ve got a sore or scratchy throat, achy body, tiredness and/or headache – this soup is for you!  From an Eastern perspective, the Chinese don’t recommend drinking chicken soup when you’re sick, which to me, sounds off, but you can’t argue thousands years of tradition through Chinese medicine.  My herbalist recommended this relatively “neutral” soup for me and is considered 滋陰 (zī yīn), which means treating yin deficiency by reinforcing body fluid and nourishing the blood.  If you look at the herb base, it’s pretty basic and ideal for most soups – the kicker is to add sea whelk (or conch or sea snail). You don’t need to add fresh sea snail (they can get pretty expensive if you buy them live from the wet mart), but definitely add pork. This soup ended up tasting delicious and sets a great base for adding vegetables of your choice – like corn, onions, or chayotes – all neutral vegetables.

Update on Jan 8: Boy, do my readers really keep me on my toes! Someone asked why the Chinese don’t recommend chicken soup when you’re sick, so I ran to see my herbalist this morning who gave me an answer like this. Basically, the idea is that chicken bones / carcasses itself are way fatter than pork and normally people will put veggies such as carrots with chicken soup – which is a big no no. Carrots are a cough inducing and don’t help colds or coughs very much. As for the chicken, well, I could borderline say that if you’re using chicken breast or skinny (fatless) chickens, it should be OK? I’m still researching this, but will share more when I find something more concrete.

Soup Name: Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Traditional Chinese Name:  清豬骨海螺湯 (Qīng zhū gǔ hǎiluó tāng)

 

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup
Recipe Type: Chinese Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/pork-shank/”]fresh pork shank[/url]
  • 2 fresh [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/sea-snail-fresh/”]sea snails[/url], shelled and halved
  • 5 pieces of dried [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/sea-snail-fresh/”]sea snail[/url]
  • 15 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/longan-dried/”]dried longans[/url]
  • 3 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/large-dried-dates/”]dried large dates[/url]
  • 10 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/red-dates/”]dried red dates[/url]
  • 5 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/chinese-yam-dried/”]dried Chinese yam[/url]
  • 10g of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/yuzhu/”]dried yuzhu[/url]
  • 10g of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/wolfberries-dried/”]dried wolfberries[/url]
  • 3 L of water
  • salt (for taste)
Instructions
  1. In a separate pot, blanch both the sea snails and pork in a pot of boiling hot water for at least 5 minute (to remove impurities, fat and scum), remove and set aside
  2. Soak all the herbs in warm water for at least 10 minutes and rinse in warm water
  3. Boil your soup water
  4. When you soup water boils, add all the ingredients together
  5. Boil on high for 30 minute and then reduce boil to a medium boil for another 1.5 hours
  6. Serve and enjoy!

 

One of the more affordable seafood you can use for soups is dried sea snail. They come in thin, hard slices and add a sweet, sea-salt taste to the soup (similar to dried conpoys). Plus, these things are storage friendly and can be stored in your freezer or fridge for up to 6 months.

Dried Sea Snail

Dried Sea Snail

A typical neutral soup base for Chinese soups. The dried sea snails are interchangeable with dried conpoys.

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Fresh sea snails are an ideal addition to soups. Although VERY EXPENSIVE (you have to eat the meat given how much they can cost), they add a deliciously sweet flavour to the soup. Get the ladies at the wet mart to break the shell for you and they’ll give it to you like this – ready for washing and blanching in boiling hot water.

Fresh Sea Snail

Fresh Sea Snail

YUMMY soup! I literally had 4 bowls myself and the children also loved it. A great soup for the whole family.

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

Pork and Conch Herbal Soup

 

Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup

 

One of my favourite soups of all time is the Vietnamese beef broth that is made for pho noodles, or specifically, Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup.  I first truly learned it while travelling to Vietnam and took a cooking course given by locals, and my life has never been the same! After learning the original base, you can pretty much tweak it as you like.  The good thing is that I live in Asia, and all the ingredients are readily available. The challenge is that to make a good beef soup base, you need to boil it for quite some time – we’re looking at a solid 3 hours or more (like all broths).  Even if you can’t find all the ingredients, no worries – just improvise!

Soup NameVietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Traditional Chinese Name:  越南牛肉河粉 (Yuè nán niú ròu hé fěn)

If you want to skip my running commentary, just go to the bottom for the full, quick-read recipe.

First, you need FRESH ingredients. I’m talking about fresh beef bones, fresh vegetables, and fresh beef slices.  For this round, I used beef ribs. They are giant bones, so you’ll need a giant pot! I use a thermal pot to save electricity and it does the boiling for me so I can go out!  The recipe usually calls for fresh beef knuckles or leg bones (with plenty of marrow goodness) – but these tend to be more fatty in nature, so just be sure to skim off the oil (and scum) when it surfaces.

Fresh Beef Bones

Fresh Beef Bones

Start by blanching all the bones in a separate pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. This will remove impurities, scum and oil off the bones in preparation for your soup.

You can also begin to char the fresh ginger and fresh onions – usually done with an oven or on an open flame. This will bring out the wonderfully natural flavours of these ingredients.  I can already smell the onions as they broil in the oven and I’m not even on to making the soup yet!

Fresh ginger and onions for Vietnamese Pho

Fresh ginger and onions for Vietnamese Pho

Charred fresh ginger and onions

Charred fresh ginger and onions

Next are the spices. In Asian supermarkets, you can usually buy them pre-packaged as a bundle, but if not, you’ll need a handle of each for the flavouring.  Pick up some star anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, fennel, and coriander. You’ll also need a soup mesh bag to keep all the spices together because at some point, you’ll need to remove them and it’s way easier this way!

Soup mesh bag with spices for Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup

Soup mesh bag with spices for Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup

For the soup base, you’ll also need fish sauce, salt, and rock sugar. In the meantime, just throw in the blanched beef bones, charred ginger and onions, spices, salt, fish sauce and rock sugar into a large pot of boiling water and boil uncovered for at least 2 – 2.5 hours.

Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup base

Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup base

I was taught that at around this point, you should remove all the floating ingredients of the broth and taste test the soup for saltiness or flavour. You can adjust the taste by adding either more fish sauce, more salt or more sugar depending on what fits your taste.  Do this in small amounts so that you never go overboard because it’s pretty darn hard to remove dissolved salt – or at least correct without adding more water, which will then dilute the beef stock.  I personally don’t even take out the ingredients and taste it like that and serve. Whatever tickles your fancy as a chef.

Also start to soak your dried Vietnamese pho noodles.  Soak in a large pot of cool water for at least 15 minutes – or whatever the instructions of the noodles are. You can even use Thai noodles, Chinese rice noodles, or whatever noodles you like. Actually, it doesn’t really matter because you’re eating it!

At this point, I lay out the bowls – layering first the bottom with thinly sliced fresh white onion rings and bean sprouts. Or you can leave it up to your guest to lay their own, kind of like a buffet.

Fresh onions and bean sprouts ready for Vietnamese Pho

Fresh onions and bean sprouts ready for Vietnamese Pho

Put in noodles to the bowl, as much as you’ll eat.  I then blanch the fresh beef slices quickly in the broth and lay them on top as well and then ladle out that heavenly soup goodness so that it covers the beef completely.  Be sure the soup is still boiling at this time.  Top with fresh mint, cilantro, parsley, basil, more bean sprouts, chilli peppers and lime to finish it off. And ta-da! Yummy Vietnamese Pho, made from scratch!

Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup
Recipe Type: Vietnamese Pho
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 4-5 pieces of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/fresh-beef-bones/”]fresh beef bones[/url]
  • 2 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/onions-fresh/”]fresh onions[/url], halved
  • 2 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/ginger-fresh/”]fresh ginger[/url] pieces (2″ long each), halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp of coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp of fennel seeds
  • 5 whole [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/star-anise/”]star anise[/url]
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup of fish sauce
  • 1 inch chunk of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/rock-sugar/”]rock sugar[/url]
  • 1/2 tbsp of salt
  • additional salt to taste
  • 3 L of water
  • 1 pack of dried Vietnamese noodles
  • 1 pound of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/beef-slices/”]fresh beef slices[/url]
  • fresh limes
  • fresh [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/chinese-parsley-or-cilantro/”]cilantro[/url]
  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh bean sprouts
  • 2-3 fresh chilli peppers, chopped small
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beef bones to remove impurities, scum and fat
  2. Using an oven, char the halved onions and ginger in a pan until nicely browned, remove from oven and let cool
  3. Start to boil your soup water in a separate large pot
  4. Once your soup water boils, add in the beef bones, onions, ginger and spices (put into a mesh bag), fish sauce, rock sugar and salt
  5. Boil on medium heat for at least 3 hours
  6. Prepare the noodles by soaking them or following the instructions on the package
  7. Taste the soup at this point on whether you need to add more sugar, fish sauce or salt and add accordingly
  8. In a serving bowl, lay the bottom with sliced fresh onions, bean sprouts and noodles
  9. Blanch the freshly sliced beef quickly in the soup and lay on top of the noodles
  10. Ladle enough soup to cover the sliced beef and noodles
  11. Add as desired, fresh mint leaves, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, parsley, chilli peppers and lime
  12. Serve and enjoy!