Yum! Southern China’s Soup Culture
After getting to the real Southern China (Guangdong, not Shanghai) in 2006, I never became too fond the local pension for homemade soup. I knew it was a great excuse for parents to invite their kids home for a weekend visit and I knew there were loads of health benefits too. But I personally never preferred to eat soup as a meal, except as a free side to Chinese fast food. It was only recently that I discovered how easy it was to make and enjoy. Now it has finally found its place among the other great discoveries here on AL.ME
Maybe I avoided it because it was so Cantonese and I missed the Mandarin world a little. Making soup (煲汤) and Morning Tea (早茶) are very Cantonese and have slowly found their place among my all-time favorite Chinese weekend activities. Now, or when I’m ready to move on, they will join me as I explore the rest of China (and the USA).
The one thing that worries me though, is that there are two ingredients that might not be available back home. One is fresh bamboo shoots and the other is fresh water chestnuts. Both must not come from a can… or else the whole thing is ruined, I think.
Stuff to Prepare: (see pic)
a large peeled, sliced carrot.
a fist-sized red onion, sliced.
a fist-sized potato cut into bite-sized chunks.
a full ear of corn, cut into 4 or 5 sections.
a “ham hock” or soup bone which has some meat and a lot of marrow. (Ask your butcher)
5-6 fresh water chestnuts, cut into halves or quarters depending on size.
3-4 fresh bamboo shoots, sliced in half.
1~ First prepare everything as you see in the pic above. It’s vital that everything is prepped in advance because all you have to do is throw everything in together!
2~ Take the chopped up ham hock chunks and pre-boil them for about 5 minutes. This cleans out the meat and keeps the soup free from some sneaky bugs… at least this is the typical way it is prepared in Guangdong.
3~ You’ll need a soup pot like the one in the picture, so visit an Asian market (or increasingly any Dollar Store) to buy a cheap one. They cost about $4 in China. Fill 3/4 with drinkable water.
4~ When the meat is pre-boiled, drain the gunky water out and drop the meat into the soup pot. This will become our stock and leave some tasty meat chunks to eat between mouth-fulls of veges!
5~ You can put all of the ingredients in at the same time if you want. They will boil together for about 30-45 minutes at least. Then make sure to pour in salt to taste. Don’t start with too much! (See pic)
I usually let the soup simmer after 45 minutes. It can stay simmering for hours if you want. If you want to keep the soup for later, just leave it on the stove top. You should put the leftover soup in containers and leave them in the refrigerator if you indeed to eat some the next day.
Enjoy this traditional, very easy to make soup!