Sago Tapioca Pearls

Raw Sago

Raw Sago

Ingredient Name:  Sago Pearls

Traditional Chinese Name: 西米 (xī mǐ)

What is this?

  • The extract of the tapioca root which are rolled into balls (hence tapioca pearls)
  • It is a form of starch which is commonly used around the world (to make noodles, bread)
  • A lot of Chinese desserts incorporate the tapioca pearls (white kinds)
  • There are the brown tapioca pearls (added sugar) which are commonly used in tea drinks (which originated from Taiwan)
  • Tapioca comes in all sizes, flavours and colours – but are primarily white and when boiled become transparent
  • When cooked and boiled as is, it becomes a chewy ball with a sticky texture

How do I prepare it?

  • For round, white sago pearls, simply boil starting with cold water for at least 15 minutes
  • You’ll know its completely cooked when the ball is completed transparent
Sago tapioca half cooked

Sago tapioca half cooked

 

Where can I buy this?

  • Most Asian supermarkets will carry the white tapioca balls (in various sizes)

What is the cost?

  • Tapioca pearls are relatively affordable
  • A small bag cost around $10 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Tapioca is primarily made of carbohydrates and contains no fat
  • It has a variety of uses and can store for quite some time (up to 6 months in a dry place)
  • They are actually really fun to eat for kids (and adults!)

Any precautions?

  • After cooking the tapioca, immediately run it through cold water to prevent the balls from sticking together
Cooked sago pearls

Cooked sago pearls

Fresh Beef Bones

Fresh Beef Bones

Fresh Beef Bones

 

Ingredient Name:  Fresh Beef Bones

Traditional Chinese Name: 牛骨 (niú gǔ)

What is this?

  • In soups, beef bones are primarily used to make beef stock
  • Not a common ingredient used in Chinese soups at all – in fact, beef is not a common ingredient for “old fire” soups traditionally compared to pork – if you consider it from a historical perspective, having a cow back in those days meant you were wealthy
  • Bones are rich in nutrients (calcium & magnesium), collagen, easy to digest and rich in flavour
  • Shown in the picture are the ribs of the cow – I used this for my pho base because it’s relatively low in fat, but you can consider using cow knuckle and leg bones as well
  • The amount of fat on the bones will vary depending on which part. The ox-tail (of beef tail) is often a fatty part of the cow, but the most commonly purchased bone part from the vendor! He usually has the tail on reserve already for clients.

How do I prepare it?

  • Make sure the pieces you buy can fit into your pot (that’s probably the first most important thing!)
  • Blanch the bones in boiling water for at least 5 minutes to boil out the impurities and fat – this will produce a brown film of “gunk” which you should just throw out

Where can I buy this?

  • Most Asian wet marts will carry beef bones at the beef vendor
  • Supermarkets may also carry beef bones, which are already cut up into manageable pieces for you to take home

What is the cost?

  • The cost will vary depending on supply, but in Hong Kong, 3 bones (as pictured above) cost me $30 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Bones (any animal) are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and silicon
  • The broth created from bones are easy to digest, are high in amino acids, collagen and gelatin
  • Bones broth is actually known to help fight colds and viruses because of these amino acids that help boost immune system and heal disorders like allergies, asthma and arthritis
  • Nothing beats real stock with real bones – store bought stock (which are primarily enhanced with flavour enhancers) has nothing over real stock

Any precautions?

  • Be careful of an over fatty cut of the bone – knuckles, ox-tail, or any other cuts that come with fat should be either cut off or boiled off and then removed from the soup
  • Consider purchasing animal products that you know are pasture-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones
  • Be sure to remove any scum that boils from the soup or blanching process

Finally on Instagram!

I’ve taken a new spin on blogging – specifically around using Instagram because writing a real soup post takes quite a bit of time and resources on my part, but instagram is just so fun, fun, fun and what do you know – it’s instant!

Instagram name: TheChineseSoupLady

It’s completely experimental and it’s basically me and my handy iPhone snapping photos of anything in liquid state – soups taking priority. I’m always on the hunt for new and tasty soups, so this opens up a completely new channel for me to explore and for new readers to explore my soups.

Happy soup day and all the best in 2015! Thank you to all my readers for your continued support – especially the immediate feedback when my site is down with a virus or something is wonky with it!

Lisa

My new found social media platform is just so much fun, fun, fun!

My new found social media platform is just so much fun, fun, fun!

Dashi (Japanese Fish Stock)

Dashi, Japanese fish stock

Ingredient Name:  Dashi (Japanese Fish Stock)

Traditional Chinese Name: 出汁, だし (dashi)

What is this?

  • The name of a common Japanese soup base or stock used in a variety of soups (such as miso soup or clear broth), noodles, stews, or various simmering liquids and sauces
  • It’s made from kelp and fermented or dried bonito fish
  • You can always add vegetables and or other types of dried fish (similar to making basic chicken stock)
  • It’s a clear, yellowish liquid and can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 month

How do I prepare it?

  • I will definitely need to “make” it from scratch another day
  • But for the purpose of my miso soups, I’m using dried and prepackaged dashi bought from the supermarket

Where can I buy this?

  • Japanese supermarkets will definitely carry this such as Jusco, AEON and Apita
  • I had trouble finding it in even Asian supermarkets

What is the cost?

  • 1 box (with 4 packs) costs $25 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Ready-to-serve and ready-to-use fish stock
  • Non-perishable and comes in these tiny packs that are great for one portion use

Any precautions?

  • These products normally contain MSG and should be consumed in moderation
  • From my personal opinion, they are high in sodium (salt / NaCl)

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

 

Miso Paste

 

Ingredient Name:  Miso Paste, Miso

Traditional Chinese Name: 味噌 (Wèizēng)

What is this?

  • A Japanese ingredients that is fermented soybeans paste (usually made with barley, rice, soy sauce, salt)
  • This paste is used for sauces, cooking, pickling and most commonly, soups (miso soup to be exact!)
  • The color of this paste will vary from a light-golden brown to a dark-soy sauce brown depending on how its made
  • It can be found in both paste and powder form (but usually paste is used for cooking)

How do I prepare it?

  • Use with a clean spoon and remove from container
  • Once opened, close and refrigerate immediately and can be stored until the expiry date

Where can I buy this?

  • Most Asian supermarkets will carry this in a container format

What is the cost?

  • The cost will vary depending on the brand, import, flavor and type of miso paste
  • I purchased a tub pictured above for around $50 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Excellent source of Vitamin B and protein

Any precautions?

  • Miso is a salty ingredient and should be used in moderation