We Chinese love our soups. Probably the only gadget I don’t have in my gadget-ridden kitchen is a double- boiler, which is an essential tool for hard core Chinese kitchens. Because most Asian food does not contain dairy or milk, getting richness and body into soup depends on slow boiling and patient infusing meat or vegetable elements. Which is where the double boiler comes in as it is a way of cooking the soup from the heat of the boiling water, but not directly from contact with the original source of heat. Apparently this is the way to let the soup ingredients slowly release their nutrients and flavours into the soup. The other oddity about Chinese soups is that they are supposed to be health-giving and to treat a variety of ailments. There are restaurants in Singapore that specialise in providing custom ordered soups prescribed by the Chinese sinseh (physician) according to the individual’s needs.
I grew up in a medical household where both parents, being doctors, would pooh-pooh traditional Chinese remedies and diets. As a result I am fairly ignorant about the properties of various food ingredients, about whether they are “heaty” or “cooling”. This idea of “heaty” or “cooling” food has absolutely nothing to do with thermal temperature of the food. The concept is based on the yin-yang idea of balance where the choice of food is based on the needs and disposition of the body. “Heat” is represented by “yang” foods like ginger, coriander and mutton and “Cooling” is represented by “yin” foods like melons, barley and bananas. Because I have no background in these traditional ideas, I am really vague about how to constitute heaty or cooling diets. Most of my friends know that I am a “banana” – yellow and Chinese on the outside and white and “westernized” on the inside and I’m always befuddled when patients’ mothers and grandmothers ask me for recommendations for “heaty” and “cooling” foods for their kids.
Still, one can only try. I had picked up a pack of frozen chicken collagen stock from a local butcher chain (“Mmmm” – yes that’s the name of the meat supplier!). Chicken collagen soup is also supposed to be really good for you and is actually marketed as a beauty food in Asia (who knew, right?) I was aiming for a rich chicken broth and noodles to pack for work tomorrow. As I threw the ingredients together I realized I had been brewing a “heaty” soup which probably works for me since I seem to be lethargic and perpetually living on coffee nowadays. This will be a good one and I’m looking forward to a hearty packed soup lunch for tomorrow!
Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup
- 500 ml frozen chicken collagen broth (this is made from slow boiling chicken feet, bony carcasses and leeks, and can be pre-made. Great recipe here in case you want to try to DIY.)
- 500 ml chicken stock
- 4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-1.5 inch size
- 2 bunches of Shanghai greens (large sized)
- 20g dried wood ear or black fungus
- 1 tbsp Chinese wolfberries
- 1 packet of gingko nuts (about 100g)
- 1 packet of Shirataki noodles
- Salt to taste
- Soak the wood ear fungus in 1 cup of hot boiling water for about 10 minutes, then drain and cut into smaller bite size pieces.
- Heat up the chicken collagen broth and chicken stock in a soup pot.
- Add the chinese wolfberries and wood ear fungus.
- In the meantime, using a dry saucepan, dry toast the drained and rinsed shirataki noodles, then cut into 2-3 inch lengths and set aside.
- Blanch the Shanghai greens and set them aside.
- After simmering the stock for 20 minutes, add the chicken and simmer for another 20 minutes more.
- Add the gingko nuts and shirataki noodles and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Ladle the soup into bowls carefully distributing the ingredients into 4 bowls.
- Top the bowl of soup with 4 -5 leaves of Shanghai greens. Serve hot.