In traditional Chinese cooking, one would not consider a Chinese meal complete when served without a soup dish. In fact, when we are often hard pressed for time as most people are with the hectic pace of life these days, a Chinese soup can often be enjoyed with nothing else but a bowl of rice. A well-prepared soup made with the freshest of ingredients becomes a healthy, nutritious meal in and of itself. It usually contains meat, eggs or seafood which is cooked by slow braising or stewing together with accompanying vegetables or fruit in a home-made stock or broth. Chinese herbs are often added to prepare tonic soups, which the Chinese believe, impart curative and healing properties.
Here is an easy-to-prepare Chinese soup using old cucumber, which is considered to have ‘cooling’ properties in traditional Chinese medicine.Old cucumber is believed to aid detoxification, and ease throat pain caused by some illnesses. It is also nutrient-rich with vitamin E, hence it’s usefulness as an anti-ageing ingredient, and vitamin B1, which is essential for our brain and nervous system.
There are many, many variations of this recipe, but I like to keep it simple and with just the key ingredients that has made this a classic among Chinese soups. These days, with a slow cooker, it is so easy and convenient to put a soup together. Just throw in all the ingredients into the pot and turn on the ‘Auto’ setting on your slow cooker, and a few hours later, you will be enjoying a wonderfully tasty, yet healthy and nutritious bowl of soup.
300 gm Pork Ribs or Meat
1 Old Cucumber, de-seeded,
sliced diagonally into thick sections with skin on
2 Carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
2 – 3 Dried Scallops
1/2 of 1 Dried Squid
12 Small Red Dates (or 4 Large Red Dates)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. Fill a saucepan or small pot with water and bring to a boil. Put in pork ribs or meat and blanch for a minute or so to remove impurities. Discard the water and wash the meat clear of all scum and grit.
2. Put all the ingredients, except seasonings, into a slow cooker. Pour in chicken stock until just enough to immerse all the ingredients. Cook on Auto or High setting for at least 4 hours. If cooking in a deep pot, bring all the ingredients in stock to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for at least 2 hours, or until meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Season to taste.
3. When serving, scoop a little of each ingredient – meat, old cucumber slices and carrot chunks – into individual serving bowls and fill with soup. Alternatively, you may scoop all the ingredients into a large soup dish and fill with soup. Serve hot.