Another soup for the damp, wet spring season! You’ll find a recurring theme within Spring soups, mainly consisting of an assortment of beans and certain vegetables that are diuretic. This is a simple soup with a pretty strong “bean” taste – so use less beans if it’s for kids. Mine found it a bit too “beany” and didn’t really like it that much. Consider adding corn to sweeten it up, but the adults lapped it up. It’s an easy to drink soup that is excellent for our health during this time of the year, especially when it’s wet and humid. You can also use chayotes, onions and fish for variation.
My herbalist recommended I make this soup given the recent change of temperature and humidity. She actually only provides the “dried goodies” – see below – in terms of herbs. She will tell you that you additionally need a pork shank and chayotes to complete the soup. This soup is targeted to help reduce wetness in the body and aid with the dampness that comes with Spring in Hong Kong. It’s slightly sweet to taste, and surprisingly, my children drank it all!
Start boiling your soup water and immediately (while the water is still cold) throw in all the dried herbs (figs, honey dates, apricot kernals, lily bulbs, lotus seeds) 2. In a separate pot, blanch the pork shank for 5 minutes, drain and set aside 3. Once the water boils, add in cubed chayotes (with the skin on so it won’t completely disintegrate in the soup) and pork shank 4. Boil on high for 30 minutes 5. Reduce to a medium boil for another 1.5 hours (or put it in a thermal pot) 6. Salt to salt 7. Serve and enjoy!
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
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.
Soup Name: Vegetables and Dried Octopus with Mung Beans Soup
Traditional Chinese Name: 雜菜綠豆章魚湯 (Zá cài lǜ dòu zhāng yú tāng)
When it rains, the Chinese like using beans to absorb moisture from the body. Mung beans, dried beans, red beans, green beans, yellow beans, big beans and little beans – any type of beans will do really! The octopus is known to be a heaty ingredient and therefore is balanced with the cooler mung beans. This combination with lotus root is a delicious Spring Chinese soup ideal for the whole family. I’ve also added a variety of vegetables to sweeten it and dilute the unique taste of the octopus that my children pick up on. On top of this, it gives you a hearty soup that you can eat as a meal or additional dishes to your meal – like the corn.
This is a simple, easy-to-make soup that doesn’t require many ingredients. It’s a heavy sweet (not a light sweet) and appropriate for spring weather. This soup is quite neutral and ideal for children and adults. The dried octopus & dried mussels do give the soup a little bit of a “fishy” taste if you put too much, but use less if you’re concerned. It’s a similar taste to dried scallops almost. A naturally delicious soup for the whole family.
This combination of octopus and chicken works amazing with many types of roots, such as arrowroot, lotus root, or fresh Chinese yam. It goes nicely with earthy tastes as it really brings out the flavours of the roots. And the amazing thing is that it eats like a meal! I will serve the roots and the chicken meat, with a small plate of soy sauce, and it’s delicious!
Prepare chicken (see chicken post) and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside
Soak dried octopus and baby mussels in water for about 30 minutes
Boil your soup water
Slice octopus in slices or quartered
Peel and cut arrowroot into large cubes
Add all the ingredients into your boiling soup water
Boil on high for thirty minutes and reduce to medium boil for another hour
Serve and enjoy!
An alternative which is often used with lotus roots is to stuff the lotus root with green or yellow (mung) beans. The beans are slightly cooling, but you can drop in a slice of ginger to balance it out. This is a very popular way of making lotus roots in southern China, particularly Guangzhou and is often served in large portions for large families.
Lotus roots can also be stuffed with sticky rice (yum!), pan fried, sliced, marinated raw in a beautiful vinaigrette, and a host of other preparation method! It’s definitely one of my favourite and most diverse roots in the Chinese menu!
A bean-filled vegetarian soup that packs a punch in proteins. With seven different types of “beans”, it is a hearty meal that is easy to make and light to drink. By adding a Japanese pumpkin, it makes it slightly sweet and refreshing. The soup itself is very clear and slightly sweet. You can also add other vegetables such as corn, carrots, and onions to make it an even heartier broth.
BEANS BEANS BEANS! They’re good for your heart… the more you eat… the more you…. <fill in the blanks>.
Beans are an amazing diuretic, in that they help dispel unwanted dampness from the body, which also helps improve blood circulation and detoxification, and are great for reducing swelling in the body.
Soak all the beans, chickpeas and Chinese mushrooms in water for at least 5 hours
Pour out the water in which the beans soak and rinse with fresh water
Boil your soup water
Wash and half Japanese pumpkin, removing seeds and inner membrane
Slice into large pieces while keeping the skin (it keeps the pumpkin meat intact while the soup boils and prevents it from disintegrating)
When you soup water boils, add all the ingredients together
Boil on high for 30 minutes and reduce to a simmer boil for another 1 hour
Serve and enjoy! Be sure to also eat the contents as its very healthy!
Why Japanese Pumpkin?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pumpkin is amazing for dispelling damp and wetness in the body and both the pumpkin flesh and seeds are sweet and warming
This ingredient targets the stomach and large intestines
The pumpkin itself is a delicious and nutritious additive to the soup and is high in zinc and vitamin A
Boil in the soup keeping the skin on so that the flesh doesn’t disintegrate into the soup and melt, although you could also use that to create a thicker cream like broth (which isn’t very common in Chinese soups)