Some like it hot

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 12:00am
 

When I was growing up, my grandmother often served soup during hot weather. She didn't like air-conditioning and believed making us sweat would cool us down.


The following home-style soups are easy to make. And if your air-conditioning suddenly breaks down, you might discover my grandmother was right.


Macaroni soup with pork, dried shrimp and cha choi (pictured)


Anyone who's eaten at Chinese fast food shops will know this dish. It is sometimes served with a thin slice of ham or a fried egg on top. Some places use a type of preserved vegetable other than Sichuan cha choi. Because the ingredients are salty, it can be made with plain water instead of canned chicken broth.


20 grams dried shrimp


100 grams small macaroni


1 small piece of cha choi (Sichuan preserved vegetable)


150 grams slightly fatty pork


20ml soy sauce


20ml rice wine


5ml cooking oil


? tsp sugar


Dash of ground white pepper


Sesame oil


Spring onion, minced


Soak the dried shrimp in 200ml of warm water for 15 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the macaroni and cook until tender (for this soup, you want the noodles cooked softer than al dente).


While the noodles are cooking, slice the pork against the grain into thin strips. Marinate the meat in the soy sauce, rice wine, oil, sugar and white pepper. Rinse the red coating off the cha choi and cut into thin strips.


Put the shrimp and soaking liquid into a small soup pan. Add 500ml of water to the pan and bring to the boil. Add the cha choi and simmer for a few minutes then stir in the pork and cook until it loses its pink colour. Drain the macaroni, add it to the pan and simmer briefly. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with sesame oil and top with minced spring onion.


Winter melon soup


The fancy version of winter melon soup has all the ingredients steamed in a 'bowl' made from a whole melon. This version is easier and still tastes good.


1kg winter melon


5 medium-sized dried scallops


6 dried mushrooms


60 grams Yunnan ham


6 medium shrimp, heads and shells removed


2 small chicken thighs


20ml soy sauce


30ml rice wine, divided


5ml cooking oil


? tsp sugar


1 slightly heaped tsp cornstarch


Dash of salt


1.5 litres chicken stock (if using Swanson's, use half canned broth and half water)


2 slices ginger, about 3mm thick and peeled


100 grams fresh bamboo shoots, diced


3 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and diced


70 grams frozen peas


Sesame oil


Ground white pepper


Put the dried scallops and mushrooms in a bowl and add 250ml of warm water. Let them soak for about two hours. Cut off the stems of the mushrooms and dice the caps. Use your fingers to shred the scallops into pieces. Reserve the soaking liquid.


Remove and discard the rind from the winter melon, and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut the flesh into large dice. Cut the Yunnan ham into thin slices across the grain then cut the slices into matchsticks. Chop the shrimp roughly and toss with 15ml rice wine. Remove the bones and skin from the chicken thighs. Slice the meat and mix with the soy sauce, 15ml rice wine, cooking oil, sugar, cornstarch, salt and a dash of white pepper.


Put the chicken stock into a soup pan and add the sliced ginger and scallops and mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a simmer. Add the Yunnan ham, scallops and mushrooms and simmer for about five minutes. Add the chicken meat, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and winter melon and simmer until the winter melon is tender. Add the shrimp and frozen peas and simmer for about one more minute then taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with white pepper. Serves six to eight.


Watercress and chicken soup


Watercress is believed to be cooling so it's a popular dish during summer. When my grandmother made this, she would simmer the soup for at least two hours, or until the watercress was an unpleasant khaki colour. I prefer it cooked for less time so the watercress still has texture. It's essential for the liquid to be boiling before adding the watercress; if it's not boiling, the taste is affected.


3 slices ginger, about 3mm thick and peeled


300 grams watercress


1.5 litres chicken stock (if using Swanson's use


half broth and half water)


3 chicken thighs


30ml soy sauce


20ml rice wine


? tsp sugar or less


5ml cooking oil


1 slightly heaped tsp cornstarch


? tsp salt


Dash of white pepper


Sesame oil


Spring onions, minced


Remove the bones and skin from the chicken thighs. Cut the meat into thin strips. Marinate with the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, cooking oil, cornstarch, salt and a dash of white pepper.


Rinse the watercress well and remove the ends.


Put the chicken stock into a soup pan. Bring to the boil, add the ginger and simmer for about five minutes. Bring the liquid to a full boil and add the watercress. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the sliced chicken and simmer for about five more minutes. Taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with spring onions. Serves six.


styling Rachael Macchiesi


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