There are always things in our lives that will forever remind you of your childhood (and of periods of your life in general). Sometimes it’s a place, sometimes it’s a book or a song. Oftentimes it’s certain foods. We all have our versions of comfort food – cheesecakes, chocolates, mummy’s dishes, rice porridge, stews. We turn to these when we are upset or sick or just generally feeling a need to be cuddled and snug.
Mine usually involves something soupy or stewy. A British friend of mine can never understand my obsession/love for soup in hot humid Singapore. He thinks it’s something best left for winter!
Nonetheless, I think many Chinese would agree that soups are a quintessential part of Chinese cooking and form part of almost every dinner. While my family, being Peranankan, is not very “traditionally Chinese” and our food is a mish-mash of a few cultures – a soup at dinner is common. Chinese soups in general are clear and relatively simple to make with a short preparation time but needs a couple of hours to simmer for a rich taste. The best ones are double-boiled in a steamer but I’m a modern chick. The slow cooker is my best pal. 15 mins prep is all that is needed. Dump and go about my day, knowing a nice warm nourishing soup is awaiting me the moment I reach home.
In my childhood, this Lotus soup (also known by its Cantonese name “Leng Gnao Tong”) was a frequent sight at our dinner table. Lotus root is consumed in other Asian countries as well, known as bhe in some parts of India and Pakistan, and renkon in Japanese. But for me, as a child, I always called it the “Pig’s Nose Soup” just because when cut cross-ways, it looked exactly like a pig’s nose to my over-imaginative kid mind!
I do this in a slow cooker but it can also be done on the stove top on a very low heat for about 3 hours.
Prep Time: 15mins
Cooking Time: 4-6 hours in a crock pot (depending on how hot your crock pot is)
TIP: If I’m going to be out the whole day, I sometimes put the pot on a plug in timer to cook for 4 hours and then programmed to switch on and off at 30-45 mins intervals for the rest of the day till my expected return. That way you don’t come back to an overcooked mush but it keeps it hot.
Chinese Lotus Root Peanut Soup with Pork Ribs
- 600-700g of Pork Ribs (I used a mixture of spare and prime ribs)
- 2 Lotus Root sections – washed, peeled and sliced into rounds cross-ways
- 1 cup Raw Peanuts
- 1 large tablespoon of Wolfberry Seeds (the little red seeds)
- 3 Dried Honey Figs
- 10 Red Dates
- 4-6 Dried scallops
- 1 Dried Cuttlefish (Optional) – Washed and cut into thin strips
1. Rub some salt into the pork ribs and let it stand for about 5 mins.
2. Blanch the pork ribs in boiling hot water twice. Let it soak in the hot water for a few minutes in-between.
This is a very important part of all Chinese soups as it takes away the “porky” smell, gets rid of some oils and minimises the “soup scum” that tends to form later when you boil down meat bones.
3. Put all the ingredients into the crock pot.
4. Add enough water to cover everything by about 1 1/2 inches (Put a bit more if cooking it on the stove top as water will evaporate faster this way).
5. Leave it on a HIGH setting for 4 hours (or LOW for 6 hours).
We had the soup for dinner with long-grained brown rice and stir-fried Shanghai Greens (recipe below) which took about 3 mins to prep and 5 mins to cook.
Stir-Fried Shanghai Greens
- Heat about 11/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a wok
- Add 4-5 slices of ginger and 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic. Saute till it browns slightly.
- Throw in the washed leaves.
- Add 2 tablespoon of Oyster Sauce, a splash of Chinese Rice Wine and a ladle of the soup as stock.
- Cover for 2 mins and turn off flame once cooked through.
In our occasional cross-cultural way:
Andre had his soup in a separate bowl with the rice on the side, in another bowl.
While I had it the “childhood way” – all in one dish!
By Chinese standards. It was perfect. Complex in taste with a rich sweet broth.
However, I forgot that Andre doesn’t like cuttlefish (which I could have left out), so while I think he thought it was nice, it wasn’t quite what he’s used to. The exclusion of the cuttlefish probably would have made a world of difference to him!