Your guide to COOLING and WARMING ingredients in Chinese Soups

Your guide to COOLING and WARMING ingredients in Chinese Soups

Your guide to COOLING and WARMING ingredients in Chinese Soups

Did your parents or grandparents ever tell you that you’re too “yeet hay” (heaty) and would make you a cooling soup or tea or drink, such as watercress soup or winter melon and then go on to explain that it was good for you and would help with your heaty body?  This was me!  And you grew up understanding this term called “yeet hay”, but it wasn’t easily translatable in English, but yet… you know.  And now it comes back in full circle, understanding the principles in Traditional Chinese medicine, why there’s this re-balance in our diets!

One guiding principle in Traditional Chinese Medicine is the yin yang theory.  In the natural world, there exists a balance between 2 opposing and co-existing forces and yet, they also exist in each other.  Our bodies, minds, and souls are designed the same way in that to be healthy, we need to be in harmony between these 2 bipolar states.  Yin is receptive and passive, calm and slow, embodying cold and damp qualities (when we are sleeping).  Yang is its exact opposite in aggressive and active, embodying heat, dryness, and movement (when we are awake).

One of our mission at The Chinese Soup Lady is to bring these principles into the foods and drinks we consume in order to support harmony.  

How to use this guide:

  • This is purely a reference guide on what to consider as your soup ingredients
  • Most Chinese soups have a combination of protein, vegetables or roots, and some simple herbs (such as dried longans or dried red dates)
  • It’s not as easy as a mix and match!  Although I wish it were.  I would really suggest doing some research on the combinations available, such as existing recipes out there or ask friends and family.
  • Do consult a physician if you’re unsure of your health and what to consume 

Tips and examples:

  • Consider the complimentary tastes of ingredients (it’s not really a mix and match at random!).  There are pairings that have worked for the TCM principles above such as balancing yin and yang.
  • For example, the Cantonese dessert of silky tofu pudding (tofu fa) is usually combined with a ginger brown syrup.  This is because the tofu is highly cooling and the ginger will offset that.
  • For example, winter melon is best combined with pork rather than chicken (although I have tried that) to maintain the cooling effects of the soup.  Winter melon is promoted as a summer soup for this very reason, so making it with warmer protein will reduce that effectiveness.
  •  The external environment also has an impact to your yin and yang balance.  In the winter, we nourish the yang more to stay warm and in the spring, we want to reduce the yin to dispel moisture from the body.
  • For example, chicken soups and especially double-boiled soups are recommended in the winter to keep us warm.  Ginger is a great add to soups, including dried longans, which are all warming.  The same applies to summer and hot weather where the Chinese lean towards watercress, gourds, and melon soups.
  • Our internal state is probably the most important in determining which soup to make and how this principle helps.
  • For example, postpartum is an important moment for women in recovering their balance for the long term.  In postpartum, the body is in need of yang nourishment due to blood and fluid loss of childbirth.  This is why all the foods, soups, and teas created for confinement are hot or warming and tend to be packed full of ginger.
  • For example, the scratchy, bumpy, and inflamed tongue is a great example of too much heat (or yang) in our bodies.  This is common when we have lack of sleep (remember how yang is active) or eat too much fried food (another source of heat into our bodies), so having cooling teas or soups will help relieve the excess yang. 

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Your guide to COOLING and WARMING ingredients in Chinese Soups

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Double-boiled Whole Winter Melon Soup

Double-boiled Whole Winter Melon Soup

Double-boiled Whole Winter Melon Soup

I’ve always been in awe with the restaurant-styled whole winter melon soups – I mean, how on earth did they do that? They must have some giant double-boiler inside and it always taste so yummy! It’s a true favourite of mine when I go to Chinese restaurants to be able to drink it – especially with all the yummy insides that go with it! So I did manage to find a baby whole winter melon – which will fit into my soup pot, so here’s the recipe for it. You can actually use this on a whole winter melon, but you’ll need to just cut off whatever amount doesn’t fit into your pot and go from there. This is a pretty labour intensive soup with many steps, but so worth it!

Soup Name:

Double-boiled Whole Winter Melon Soup

Traditional Chinese Name:

冬瓜盅 (dōng guā zhōng)

 

For soup and recipe videos, visit us on YouTube.

You’ll need: 1 whole winter melon, dried shrimp, dried conpoy, fresh shrimp, fresh pork, dried mushrooms, straw mushrooms, salt, cornstarch, oil and chicken broth.  In actuality, this is a quick boil soup first and then double-boiled within the winter melon – or at least, that’s how this recipe goes. The thicker the winter melon, the longer it will need to be double-boiled, but at least you make the soup base first.

To start, soak all your dried Chinese goodies for 10-15 minutes – this includes the mushrooms, the conpoys and the shrimp.

Cut up the mushrooms. We don’t need the mushrooms ends, so you can discard this. Cut the mushrooms into tiny cubes. The idea is to use consistency across all the soup ingredients so they are the same size.

You can start working on “emptying” the winter melon. Start by slicing the top straight across, these beautiful parts can be used in your soup (less skin). Using a sharp, thin, knife, cut about 1 inch away from the edge and completely remove all the middle. You can discard the seeds first and keep the flesh to be added back into the soup. Go deep and leave about 1-inch from the bottom, you’ll have to be careful here and just eyeball it. Try really hard not to puncture the winter melon!  Using any parts of the leftover winter melon, cube that into the same size as the mushrooms. This will be used for your soup later.

Same with your meats. Cube the raw shrimp and raw pork. After this, you can mix them together with a bit of salt, oil and corn starch, in preparation for frying.  In a pot, add a tiny bit of oil and pan fry the dried shrimp and conpoy. This makes the fragrance and all the flavours are ready to come out in the soup. In Cantonese, there’s a term called “exploding the fragrance” of the ingredients.

When cooked for about 3 minutes on medium-high heat, throw in the raw shrimp and pork and stir that around a little bit for another 5 minutes.

You will then have a beautiful and very fragrant medley of your meats for the soup. Good enough to just eat on its own – for sure! But don’t!! You need it for the soup!

Here’s where it gets tricky. I made a giant pot of soup – so much that it doesn’t fit into the winter melon, which is OK, because you can still drink the quick boil as a quick boil soup any way. I used 1 part chicken broth and 2 parts water – this is because I don’t like soup too salty, and you can always add more salt or chicken broth after.
So now, throw everything into your pot. The broth and the straw mushrooms (which are also diced) and the diced winter melon.

Let that boil on medium heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in your double-boiler, set it up so that you have a the winter melon sitting on a metal low dish (to catch any soup just in case) and add hot water to the outside double-boiler.

Once it’s set up, you can turn up the flame to a medium-high to get the water boiling. Once your other quick boil soup is read, scoop in generous amounts of the meats and “stuff” (fill about half) and then fill the rest with the soup. It won’t all fill, but tis is life sometimes!

The idea is that the heat will soften the winter melon bowl and the flavours of the soup will just seep into the flesh and make it so deliciously yummy! Boil on a medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until you see that the winter melon has softened and turned translucent. This means, it’s ready!

Finally, serve! Use a hardy soup ladle and scoop the soup meats, the soup itself and don’t forget to go for the outer winter melon flesh – that’s why it’s cooked in the double-boiler!

This was one awesome soup and I was super proud that it was a huge success on my first attempt! I’ve also had requests to try it with a larger winter melon, so that will be my next project. There are so many variations you can make on the soup though, like including Chinese preserved ham, ham, go vegetarian?, carrots, onions – whatever!

What’s involved?

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 30 mins pre-boil on soup + 2 hours in double-boiler (or until the whole outer melon softens)

Total time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Serves: 4-5 bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 small whole winter melon (that has to fit in your double-boil pot) – emptied and cube the flesh
  • 7 fresh shrimp, beheaded and peeled
  • 1/2 pound of fresh pork
  • 5 dried conpoys (or scallops)
  • 1 tablespoon of dried shrimp
  • 10 small dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 5 fresh straw mushrooms
  • salt (for taste as needed)
  • oil (for frying the ingredients first)
  • cornstarch (to thicken the soup as needed)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Soak your dried Chinese ingredients in warm water for 10-15 minutes (Chinese mushrooms, conpoys, shrimp)
  2. Empty out the middle of your winter melon – keeping in completely intact with the exception of the top. Keep to 1-inch of melon left from the edge. Throw away the seeds.
  3. Cut all your ingredients into cubes – Chinese mushrooms (removing the stems), straw mushrooms, any left over winter melon, fresh shrimp, fresh pork
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cornstarch and oil to your fresh shrimp and pork and mix
  5. In a pot, add a tiny bit of oil and fry (drain water) the dried conpoy and dried shrimp for 5 minutes on medium heat
  6. Throw in the raw shrimp and pork and fry for another 5 minutes
  7. Keep on medium heat, add in 1 part chicken broth and 2 parts boiling water
  8. Add in the remaining winter melon flesh and straw mushrooms
  9. Boil on medium for 30 minutes
  10. In your double-boiler, raise your winter melon (in a metal deep dish) and add hot water.
  11. Once your soup boils, scoop in enough stuff and soup to fill the winter melon.
  12. Boil on medium high for 30 minutes – or until the winter melon flesh is translucent.
  13. Serve all, including scooping the winter melon flesh and enjoy

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Fresh Seabed Coconut and Lily Bulbs with Chayotes in Pork Broth

Fresh Seabed Coconut and Lily Bulbs with Chayotes in Pork Broth

Fresh Seabed Coconut and Lily Bulbs with Chayotes in Pork Broth

A super duper neutral soup that is ideal for all weather, although chayotes are more appropriate for Spring. I still use chayotes in the winter – especially combined with corn and carrots, provides a hearty meal along with the soup.  Fresh seabed coconut is not easy to find, unlike the dried version. They make the soup mildly sweet along with the fresh lily bulbs (which are also not easy to find). If you do run into these at the supermarket or wet mart, I would highly recommend purchasing them for soup usage! The can be frozen for up to 6 months! This is an easy soup to make and can be made with pork or chicken. When it comes to soup, I rarely tell my kids what’s in it until after they have tasted it. To be honest, Chinese soups don’t always looks at appealing as it tastes!

Soup Name:

Fresh Seabed Coconut and Lily Bulbs with Chayotes in Pork Broth

Traditional Chinese Name:

新鮮海椰子合掌瓜豬湯 (Xīnxiān hǎidǐ yē hézhǎng guā zhū zhǎn tāng)

 

For soup videos, visit us on YouTube.

What’s involved?

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 30 mins medium high heat + 1.5 hours in thermal pot (or on low heat)

Total time: 2 hours 15 mins

Serves: 8 bowls

Ingredients

Cooking Instructions

  1. Start boiling your soup water
  2. In a separate pot of boiling water, blanch the pork shank in the hot water for 5 minutes, remove from water and rinse in warm running water (to remove the pork foam that has accumulated)
  3. Once you soup water boils, add in pork shank, largely cubed chayotes, fresh seabed coconut, fresh lily bulbs and dried dates
  4. Boil on high heat for 30 minutes and reduce to a low boil for another 1.5 hours
  5. Salt if necessary
  6. Serve and enjoy!

For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

 

 

 

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Pork Shank

Pork Shank

Pork Shank

Ingredient Name:

Pork Shank (Fresh)

Traditional Chinese Name:

豬展(zhū zhǎn)

 

The pork shank is one of the most common part of the pig that’s used in Chinese soups.  It’s a lean cut of meat that’s used widely across all long boils and double-boils soup.  The most amazing thing about this cut of meat is that after it’s boiled, it becomes super soft and strings out nicely so you can eat it as part of your meal, while dipping it in soy sauce.  You can use pork shank as is or usually with chicken in double-boil soups.

Pork is a neutral ingredient, meaning it’s neither warming nor cooling in Traditional Chinese medicine.  It pairs well with a lot of vegetables.

How do I prepare it?

  • Simply wash with cool water
  • Blanching is required when used in soups
  • Use the entire shank as one piece and it will become soft in the soup which you can eat as part of your meal with soy sauce!  So yummy!

Where can I buy it and cost?

  • You can buy this in any supermarket
  • In Asian supermarkets, you can purchase them by weight and request the size of cut you want
  • You can purchase the shank with or without the leg bone

Any benefits?

  • Pork contains many nutrients (including 6 essential vitamins)
  • It is a good source of iron, zinc, Vitamin B6 and protein
  • It is said to be a healthier red meat substitute over beef
  • This cut is lean and relatively fat free

Any precautions?

  • Pork must be cooked thoroughly before consumption as there is still a potential risk of salmonella
  • Be sure to buy pork from a reputable source to ensure it’s freshness

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Chicken (Whole) for Chinese Soups

Chicken (Whole) for Chinese Soups

Chicken (Whole) for Chinese Soups

Ingredient Name:

Chicken (whole), fowl, hen

Traditional Chinese Name:

雞 (jī)

For videos, visit us on YouTube.

 

Ah!  The chicken!  For Chinese soups, there are a few types of chicken available.  Let’s talk about chickens.

  • The standard white chicken (pictured above).  This is your normal chicken which is readily available in all supermarkets.  They come in various cut and part, or as one whole chicken (literally).  I actually prefer the whole chicken because you can prepare it any way you like.

  • The second type of chicken that’s most common in Chinese soups is the black silkie chicken (see below).  This chicken is the dark-skinned version of the two and more potent in its yang qi (or warmth).  This is the chicken of choice for healing or confinement soup recipes and usually come as a whole chicken.
  • Then you have the variations of the two in terms of size, location of birth, and how they were raised (some are free range, some are not, some are smaller fowls, some are hens, or the different types of breeds).  

How do I prepare it?

          • To use for soups, think about the size and usage of the chicken.  In most Chinese soups, the meat isn’t always eaten, but I don’t like to waste, so will quarter them and serve as part of the deal to be dipped in soy sauce.  What I’ll usually save is the breast (for another meal) and use the legs, feet, head, neck, and bones in the soup.
          • Pat dry the chicken before you cut it.  You don’t need to wash the chicken before hand, this is what blanching is for.
          • Cut off the feet first and also can remove the nails from the feet
          • Cut your chicken into pieces (I usually do quarters)
          • Some people prefer to skin the chicken and make the soup without the skin and reduce the amount of fat by trimming any fat off the chicken first
          • Put on a pot of separate boiling water and drop the chicken in for 7-9 minutes or until the water re-boils.  This will help eliminate some of the fat, bone bits, blood, and any foam to produce a clean soup later on.

Where can I buy it and cost?

      • This will definitely vary depending on where you buy it and how the chicken was raised.
      • In Canada, it can be as cheap as $12 CAD per whole white chicken and $18 CAD per silkie chicken.
      • In Hong Kong, wet marts sell them for around $80-100 HKD per chicken, depending on weight.  I don’t see live chickens much anymore in Hong Kong and the vendor will help you prepare it by chopping it and cleaning it, so you can definitely request this.
      • Worst case is to use chicken parts (I usually keep some legs lying around in the freezer just in case).

Any benefits?

      • Boiled white meat is healthier to consume than red meats
      • Using the whole chicken (bones and all) helps with providing collagen
      • Skinless and boiled chicken is a great low-fat protein. It is lower in calories, fats and saturated fats than most other meats
      • Chicken is extremely dense in nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron, phosphorous, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin
      • In TCM, the chicken is considered the warmer of the meats, replenishing yang qi and nourishing the blood.  

Any precautions?

      • Wash your hands and cutting utensils thoroughly after handling raw poultry to avoid cross-contamination like salmonella

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

This is a great starter video to build our your basic Chinese soup pantry.  A handful of these ingredients are actual amazing with one simple chicken.  It’s your basic Chicken Herbal Soup here!

 

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