Chinese Soups for Spring!

It’s almost Spring time! Can’t you feel the warm sun on your face? Can’t you feel gentle wind without that bitter, cold bite?

Spring is a unique season – well, there are only 4 – so that’s pretty unique already.  What makes Spring so different is one key thing (especially in Asia) – humidity.  You can’t run from it – especially if you happen to live on an island in Asia or even South East Asia.  And like all seasons in the Chinese circle of life, there are soups that are targeted for this season to help:

  • reduce moisture in your body
  • remove dampness
  • tone & strengthen Qi & blood
  • relieve heaviness in the head and body

For me, being a western-raised Chinese, the key is removing dampness (all the others aren’t as tangible to me).  I can feel it in my blankets, in my bedsheets, on the walls and especially on my skin.  To remove the “feeling” of dampness in my home, the humidifier is the next great thing after sliced bread in the Spring.  I have 2 of these machines that run around the clock in my house to make sure that both my bedsheets and walls don’t start molding on me – it happens – especially given that I live facing a harbor.   Spring is a great prelude to Summer, so I’m neither a hater nor a lover.  So how do you deal with the dampness that affects the body?  Drink soups – in great quantities.

Over the past 8 years living in Hong Kong, there are the same key soups that my meat, veggie and herbal vendors all tell me to make.  Even the old ladies that I knock elbows with at the market tell me the same thing, and of course, my own mother.  So it’s not coincidence that through generations of knowledge and teaching, the Chinese have narrowed down their soup recommendations for various personal and environment conditions.

There are always KEY ingredients associated with the Spring and you can mix and match the various vegetables and additives as needed for this season.  You can also use a combination of pork, chicken and fish with the proposed “Spring” ingredients for variety.

Some Spring ingredients:

old cucumber – with its diuretic effect, it helps you urinate and release the moisture in your body.

adzuki beans – another natural diuretic, this ingredient can dispel both excess body moisture and heat.  It also helps strengthen the spleen.

black eye beans – similar to adzuki beans in dispelling excess moisture from the body.

lentils – helps to also dispel moisture from the body and a great source of protein.

barley, job’s tears – another natural diuretic and used to promote urination and has mildly cooling properties.

fu ling or tuckahoe – excellent for removing damp-heat (like Spring or wet conditions).

smilax root or toe folk ling – can help remove excess phlegm and dry throat during illness when the seasons change.

watercress – helps clear heatiness, neutralizes toxins, nourishes the lung and dissolve phlegm.

hairy gourd or fuzzy melon – excellent for dispelling summer heat and excess body moisture.

Soup recommendations for the Spring:

Fuzzy Melon with Corn in Pork Bones Soup
Water Chestnuts and Pork Spring Soup
Pork Broth with Black Eye Beans and Black Moss Pork Broth with Black Eye Beans and Black Moss
Old Cucumber with Chinese Yam in Pork Broth
Vegetarian Arrowroot and Corn Soup Vegetarian Arrowroot and Corn Soup
Carrot and Sweet Corn Soup with Barley and Pork Shank
Old Cucumber Soup with Azuki Beans and Lentil
Fish Tail Soup with Lily Bulb and Carrot

Ginger and Egg Fried Rice (for Chinese Confinement)

Ginger and Egg Fried Rice (for Chinese Confinement)

This is a simple recipe part of our Confinement Series for new mothers. Designed to be heaty, healing and part of a balanced diet – actually anyone can eat this! My version uses ginger juice (as I personally find the ginger shreds too spicy for my mild taste buds), but it is recommended to use the grated ginger flesh if you’re in confinement. Load on the ginger and black or white pepper! Other variations of this include adding chicken or pork, garlic and some neutral, diced veggies like choy sum.

 

Dish Name: Ginger and Egg Fried Rice (for Chinese Confinement)

Traditional Chinese Name:  雞蛋姜炒飯 (jī dàn jiāng chǎo fàn)

 

Ginger and Egg Fried Rice (for Chinese Confinement)
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1 bowl of rice (leftover rice best for fried rice)
  • 25g of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/ginger-fresh/”]fresh ginger[/url], grated (produced 1 tablespoon of ginger juice)
  • 1 sprig of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/green-onions/”]fresh green onions[/url], diced
  • 1 egg
  • black or white pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a frying pan on medium heat, add oil and start frying the rice (re-heating it for 2 minutes)
  2. Add in fresh ginger juice or grated ginger
  3. Add in fresh green onions
  4. Fry together for 2 minutes
  5. In the middle of the pan, open a hole and crack the egg directly into it, stirring and mixing the egg until relatively cooked
  6. Stir it altogether and add pepper and salt to taste
  7. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
[b]Any benefits?[/b][br][br]This recipe contains all the greats needed to get you through confinement (Sesame oil, ginger, black or white pepper ).[br]Ginger is excellent for warming the body and expelling wind (both important things to achieve during Chinese confinement).[br]It is a nutritious and delicious course.[br]This recipe is super easy to make. I would recommend making a bowl / jar of pre-grated ginger so you can whip this up in less than 10 minutes.[br][br][b]Any precautions?[/b][br][br]This is a heaty dish and not recommended for people who can’t too heaty foods or are currently overheated.

 

Fresh grated ginger, green onions and an egg – easy!

Spinach

Fresh spinach

Ingredient Name:  Fresh Spinach

Traditional Chinese Name: 菠菜 (bō cài)

What is this?

  • A dark green, leafy vegetable that is used in all cuisines around the world
  • Spinach can be eaten cooked or raw
  • There are variants of the spinach which are available in the wet mart or your local supermarket, but in general they have large leaves and a shorter, stumpier stem (all parts are edible)
  • In Chinese cuisine, spinach is more commonly cooked as a vegetable dish versus a soup dish, but on occasions you will find spinach used in stews
  • Spinach does leave a grainier taste in your mouth (both in dishes and soups)

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse well in cool water removing all debris
  • To keep the spinach fresh and crisp, store in the fridge after rinsing (prior to use)

Where can I buy this?

  • Most supermarkets will carry this

What is the cost?

  • In Hong Kong, 1 catty costs around $15 HKD
  • The cost will vary depending on whether it’s organic, the make of spinach and how in season they are in general at the time of purchase

Any benefits?

  • Spinach is extremely high in nutritional value and is rich in iron, Calcium C and antioxidants (great for fighting free radicals who increase signs of aging)
  • This vegetable is also an excellent source of fibre
  • Spinach improves blood glucose levels, lowers the risk of cancer, lowers blood pressure, and improving bone health

Any precautions?

  • Spinach is known to increase gout, so caution should be taken with those who have gout

 

Spinach and Water Chestnuts in Chicken Broth

 

This is a variation on a restaurant-styled spinach soup I had at a Chinese restaurant. In their version, the spinach was less dense and more coarse and it was called a “gung” in Cantonese – meaning a thick stew type of soup. I wanted something lighter, healthier for the kids and lighter on the corn starch, so kind of made this up. It turned out to be delicious and the water chestnuts added a refreshing and crunchy texture that I loved! For the vegetarian version, use vegetable broth instead.

 

Soup Name: Spinach and Water Chestnuts in Chicken Broth

Traditional Chinese Name:  菠菜馬蹄雞湯 (bō cài tāng mǎ tí jī tāng)

Spinach and Water Chestnuts in Chicken Broth
Recipe Type: Chinese Soup
Cuisine: Chinese Soup
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 fresh white [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/onions-fresh/”]onion[/url], finely chopped
  • 6 bunches of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/spinach/”]fresh spinach[/url], chopped
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 10 fresh [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/water-chestnuts/”]water chestnuts[/url], peeled
Instructions
  1. Finely chop both onions and garlic
  2. In your soup pot, add a teaspoon of cooking oil and fry garlic and onions until the onions are caramelized
  3. Throw in the chopped spinach and cook for another 5 minutes while continuously stirring
  4. Add in chicken broth and water
  5. Boil on medium for another 10 minutes (or until boiling)
  6. Remove from heat and using a hand blender, blend the soup until it runs smooth
  7. In a pot of hot water, boil the peeled water chestnuts for 5 minutes
  8. When ready, remove and finely chop the water chesnuts
  9. Sprinkle the water chestnuts on top of the soup and serve!
Notes
[b]Any Benefits[/b][br]This soup is extremely high in iron, calcium and antioxidants (that help kill free radicals and slow down the sign of aging).[br]It’s suitable for the whole family.[br]It’s an easy and quick soup that you can whip up in less than half an hour.[br][br][b]Any Precautions[/b][br]Be sure to thoroughly wash the Spinach.[br]Not recommended for those with gout to take in large portions as Spinach contributes to gout.

 

Cooked garlic, onions and spinach in preparation for blending

Winter Melon and Beef and Fish Balls Soup

 

Another simple soup with a few ingredients you can pick up at your local grocery or wet mart. The winter melon is usually more readily available during the warmer months in HK, but beef and fish balls are in season all the time (yah, in the frozen section of your friendly supermarket). Use the simplest balls, that being beef and fish balls without any surprises on the inside (Taiwanese styled fish balls usually have exploding surprises, so avoid these). The flavors of the balls (mainly salt and whatever other marinades they use) will seep out and make your soup tasty, so don’t add salt unless you’ve tried it first. You can make this soup in about thirty minutes by simply throwing all the ingredients together. In this case, I separated the peel from the flesh so that the melon could soften quicker. In “old fire” wintermelon soups, I will keep the peel attached – but this is really up to personal preference.

Soup Name: Winter Melon and Beef and Fish Balls Soup

Traditional Chinese Name:  冬瓜湯 (dōng guā tāng)

 

Winter Melon and Beef and Fish Balls Soup
Recipe Type: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese Soup
Author: LadyTong
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 large slice of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/winter-melon/”]winter melon[/url], sliced with skin off (but the peel is also boiled as part of the soup)
  • 10 precooked beef balls
  • 10 precooked fish balls
  • 2 L of water
Instructions
  1. Start boiling your soup water
  2. Wash the winter melon skin and then peel the skin off the winter melon and cube the remaining winter melon flesh
  3. Rinse the beef and fish balls in warm water
  4. When the water boils, throw all the ingredients together
  5. Boil on high for 30 minutes
  6. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
[b]Any benefits?[/b][br][br]Excellent soup for children, especially during the heaty months[br]Winter melons are known to remove heatiness and helps detoxify the body[br]It is ideal in removing phelgm from the lungs[br]It is also particularly effective in regulating blood sugar levels[br][br][b]Any precautions?[/b][br][br]Like most melons, they will sour the soup the longer you keep it, so try to consume all of it in one day[br]Since it is a cooling food, it should be carefully consumed if pregnant (less than 3 months into term) or menstruating (can cause contractions)