Soupy rice - cooked rice heated in a light broth - is something my mother fed to my brothers and me when we were ill. It's nutritious but has a mild flavour and so is soothing on the stomach. The texture is similar to Chiu Chow congee because the grains stay whole, rather than being cooked so long they incorporate into the broth. This version - with lobster and scallops - is a lot more luxurious, but it's still comfort food.
Lobster and scallop soupy rice with rice cracklings
I like to serve this soup with rice cracklings, which add a crunchy texture and nutty flavour. Because making the cracklings is time-consuming - the cooked rice needs to be dried in the oven for about two hours - I never make less than 500 grams at a time. Store the cracklings in a sealed glass container, where they will stay crisp for a couple of weeks.
If you have the patience, garnish the soup with tiny, sweet fresh peas, taken from snap pea pods (not to be mistaken for snow peas, which are flatter). If you're impatient, use frozen petits pois.
For the rice cracklings:
About 500 grams cooked rice, chilled
Oil, for frying
For the soup:
1 lobster, about 500 grams
1 litre unsalted chicken or seafood broth, preferably home-made
3-4 thin ginger slices, peeled and julienned
8 fresh scallops
2 fresh bamboo shoots, about 450 grams each
700 grams winter melon
About 60ml Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
400 grams cooked rice
About 80 grams fresh or frozen peas
Fine sea salt and finely ground white pepper
Make the rice cracklings. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Use slightly damp hands to break up the clumps of cold rice and spread it in a thin layer on a tray that's been lined with lightly oiled aluminium foil. Bake the rice in the oven for about two hours, turning it over as needed so it dries evenly. Pour oil to the depth of about 2.5cm in a saucepan and heat it to 170 degrees. Add a handful of the rice to the hot oil - the rice will expand, so don't cook too much at once. Fry the rice until it turns golden; it's sufficiently cooked when it stops sizzling (which indicates that there's no more moisture left in it). Drain the rice on paper towels.
Prepare the lobster. Put the lobster on its back on a cutting board and insert the tip of a sharp knife into the base of the tail - a spurt of liquid will come out. Hold the lobster upright over the sink until the liquid is drained out. Lay the lobster on its back and kill it by driving a sharp, sturdy knife through the head into the brain. Scrub the lobster under cold, running water. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add enough salt so it tastes like seawater. Put the lobster in the pot and boil for a minute, then drain it and immediately put it into the ice water. When the lobster is cool, pull off the claws and tail, then detach the top shell from the lobster head. Remove and discard the sand sac and feathery gills from the head. Scoop out the tomalley from the head and put it in a bowl, and add the coral (if you're using a female crab). Crack the claws and knuckles (I use a meat mallet to do this) and pull out the flesh, then remove the meat from the lobster tail. Put all of the lobster shells (including the head) back into the pot, add the broth, one litre of water and the julienned ginger. Bring the liquid to a boil then lower the flame, put the lid on the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Use a large slotted ladle to remove the shells from the broth.
While making the broth, prepare the other ingredients. Peel away the tough fibres from the bamboo shoot until only the tender core is left. Cut the bamboo into 5mm dice. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the bamboo and simmer for five minutes, then drain. Remove the seeds and pith from the winter melon and cut away the skin. Cut the winter melon flesh into 8mm dice. Remove and discard the dark parts from the scallops. Cut the scallop coral into small pieces, and slice the adductor muscles into 5mm-thick rounds. Cut the lobster claw and tail meat into 8mm pieces.
Stir 60ml of fish sauce into the lobster broth and add some salt. Ladle 60ml of the broth into the bowl holding the tomalley (and roe, if any), then purée with an immersion blender. Stir in an additional 100ml of broth then set it aside. Bring the broth in the pot to the boil and add the bamboo and melon. Simmer for five minutes then add the cooked rice, the scallop and lobster and the peas. Bring to the boil then stir in the broth containing the tomalley. Taste the broth and season with fish sauce and salt, if needed. Ladle the ingredients into four large bowls. Serve with white pepper and the cracklings on the side, so everyone can add them to the soup as needed.
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee
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