Chinese Watercress Soup with Pork Ribs and Honey Dates
Chinese watercress soup with pork ribs and honey dates soup is a mildly sweet, savoury, flavourful and nutritious soup. It’s generously packed with tender, meaty pork ribs and soft-stewed watercress.
I’m updating this post on a classic Chinese soup, watercress soup with pork ribs and honey dates soup. Personally, I think this soup is reminiscent of some of the best home-cooked Chinese meals.
The importance of soup at a Chinese table
I learnt from a young age that a well planned Chinese meal should always offer a delicious spread of dishes. Each dish should compliment or pair well with every other at the table.
Soups are indelibly at the heart of a complete Chinese meal. If you grew up in a traditional Chinese household as I did, a typical Chinese meal was often considered incomplete without a soup dish.
And it wasn’t just any soup. One’s choice of soup to prepare was always made in consideration of other dishes being served at the table.
Basically, it epitomises the principle of a well-balanced meal. Typically, this entails servings of rice or noodles for carbohydrates and vegetables for fibre.
Popular sources of protein in Chinese cooking are often eggs, tofu, fish and seafood and meat. And most importantly, a wholesome and nutritious soup rounds up the meal.
How to prepare Chinese soups
Thankfully, Chinese soups, the sweet as well as the savoury, are some of the easiest, fuss-free soups you can prepare at home.
Each soup has distinct and unique flavours with a swap of just a few key ingredients. Ultimately, Chinese soups are by far very healthy and nutritious, which explains their wide appeal.
Typically, all that’s involved is just throwing together ingredients in a pot and slow-stewing or double-boiling in water, broth or stock.
The gently stewing allows the ingredients’ natural flavours and essential nutrients to diffuse into the broth, enhancing the taste of the soup and boosting its nutritiousness.
About Chinese watercress soup
Often times, you don’t even have to cook other dishes if you have a soup like watercress soup. That’s because it’s essentially a soup meal in itself. A Chinese meal of a wholesome and nutritious soup with rice is as complete as any other.
Chinese watercress soup is mildly sweet, flavourful, full-bodied and very nutritious. The soup is generously packed with tender, meaty pork ribs and chock full of soft-stewed watercress.
Watercress is particularly valued in Chinese cooking as it has ‘cool’ properties, and promotes vital fluids which help moisturize the lungs and alleviate coughs.
Watercress can be enjoyed stewed till very soft in the soup, or with a slight, fibrous crunch left to it. To enjoy it really soft, simply stew for at least half an hour to 45 minutes before the soup is done. If you prefer a nice, chewy texture, 15 to 20 minutes should do.
Personally, I think the star of the soup would have to be the honey dates! Just two to three are enough to sweeten the soup considerably, and their sweet, juicy flesh is like no other. I simply can’t get enough of them!
Have some light soy sauce with sliced bird’s eye chilli on the side to drizzle over the watercress and the tender pork meat. Oh so yum!
Using a slow cooker
Slow cookers are fantastic cookware for stewing or braising. The slow cooker takes away the trouble of having to monitor the stewing process over a stove top.
If using one, add just enough water or stock to immerse the ingredients as there will be relatively little water loss through evaporation.
Using a stock or soup pot
If using a stock or soup pot and cooking over the stove top, you’ll have to add substantially more water or stock. Typically, anywhere between 4 to 4 1/2 times the amount of soup you’ll want to be left with.
For instance, if you want to have about 2 cups (500 ml) of soup excluding the soup solids for serving, you’ll need to add 8 cups (2 litres) of water or stock to begin with.
More water can always be added during the cooking process. But just make sure to add boiling hot water so as to keep the temperature of the stewing medium consistent.
On the other hand, if you’d like your soup to have a more intense and concentrated flavour. reduced the water content by stewing longer.
Here are more Chinese soup recipes you might enjoy:
- Chinese Water Chestnut Soup- Sweet, Crunchy & Nutritious
- Old Cucumber with Pork Ribs Soup
- Lotus Root with Old Cucumber Soup
- Black Beans with Pork Soup
- Daikon Radish with Chuan Bei Soup
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
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- 300 g pork ribs
- 200 g watercress 1 bundle
- 3 dried scallops
- 3 honey dates
- 6 Chinese red dates
- 1 tbsp sweet almonds (a.k.a. sweet apricot kernels)
- 1 tsp bitter almonds (a.k.a. bitter apricot kernels)
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- ½ tbsp light soy sauce or to taste
- Some pepper to taste
- With the watercress still in a bundle, cut off the stems where the leaves begin, about 5 to 6 cm from the end, but do not discard. Wash leaves and stems separately, in several changes of water.
- In a small bowl, soak dried scallops in warm water for 10 minutes, till slightly softened.
- Meanwhile, fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Put in pork ribs and blanch for a minute or so to remove impurities. Discard the water and wash the meat clear of all scum and grit. Set aside.
- Put pork ribs, scallops (including soaking liquid), honey dates, red dates, sweet and bitter almonds, into a slow cooker. Pour in water or stock until just enough to immerse all the ingredients. Set slow cooker on Auto setting. When soup has come to a simmer, add in the watercress stems and slow cook for another two hours. (Note: If cooking in a pot over the stove top, please read Recipe Notes below).
- Remove the watercress stems and discard. Add the watercress leaves and continue to slow cook for a further 30 to 45 minutes or so, depending on how soft you’d like the watercress to be. Season with salt, light soy sauce, and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.
- The soup must be boiling or simmering before adding the stalks and leaves, or else the soup may turn bitter.
- For cooking over a stove top: Follow steps (1), (2), and (3) as above. Then, bring 2 litres of water to boil, over medium fire. Once boiling, add all the ingredients, except watercress leaves, bring back to a boil then lower heat. When meat is tender, about 2 hours later, remove watercress stems and discard. If meat is not quite as tender as desired, let soup gently simmer for longer until tender. Add more water (always add hot water) if stewing liquid has reduced considerably. When ready to add watercress leaves, increase to medium fire. Add in the leaves and cook for a further 20 to 30 minutes or so, depending on how soft you’d prefer the watercress to be. Season with salt, light soy sauce, and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.