There are various resources when it comes to old school Chinese soups. The most common avenue of research these days for people of our age and upbringing (hello technology) is the internet. With one click and a few words, you’re off in a world of soups.
But, language still bares a significant barrier to finding all soups possible. Most Chinese soups and ingredients are discussed in Chinese font on the web and that limits people who can’t read or write Chinese to finding information on ingredients or what the heck they are. So where can you go further and beyond the www to find wholesome, traditional Chinese soups (other than your mother or grandmother)?
- The meat or vegetable wet mart vendor. There are usually woman around and they are the ones who know the insides and outs of Chinese soup. I find the vegetable vendor particularly knowledgeable in her source of soups and she will immediately pick out the best ingredients for me to make this particular soup she’s telling me about. She’s so resourceful, that she will also sometimes have the herb ingredients to go with it (like fresh lily bulbs or fresh chestnuts). Do not discount these people. They sell and breathe your business in making soups.
- Your friendly neighbouring shopper. One day, when the vegetable vendor was busy with another customer, I was kind of talking to myself about what soup to make. Having run out of ideas, it can be frustrating at times when I’m racking my brain for new tastes. But you’d be surprised at how helpful a neighbouring shopper can be. My saviour happened to be a woman in her 40’s who gave me a wonderful suggestion on “Old Cucumber” soup. She actually picked out the ingredients for me and then took me to another vendor to buy “beans”. After realizing that she was talking to a foreign born Chinese, she then very slowly explained to me on how to prepare the ingredients and make the soup. It was great! Everyone wants to share their knowledge – especially on areas where they are super woman (or man).
- The herbalist. These guys will push their products. The Chinese love to use all sorts of herbs and ingredients in their soups and these are the people that sell them. Just make mention of the word “Chinese soup” and they are all over you in seconds. They can recommend soups to fix any ailment and beyond. Just be sure you are clear about the herbal benefits, disadvantages, who can and cannot drink it (some things aren’t recommended for children because they can be too strong).
Between the three of these guys, you should be able to cover MOST (if not ALL) Chinese soups out there. Granted, Chinese soups aren’t limited to certain types or categories. They types of Chinese soups originated from areas all over China and China is a huge place. You’ll have soups that pertain to specific regional areas like Shanghai soups or Canton soups, so sometimes, it really depends on what area of China your source is speaking from.
Regardless, the world of Chinese soups is a magical and healthy place to be in. I try to make one soup a day for my family from fresh ingredients. I hope that my children will one day take this knowledge and make soups for their children. However, in the meantime, we share these soups with you.