Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
I love soup of all kinds: the long-simmered tonic soups that almost every Chinese grandmother knows how to make, chilled summer soups, light soups served as a starter before dinner, and ones that are so substantial they can be eaten as a meal. Many soups are quite forgiving to the novice, and often - using good judgment - you can make something delicious out of leftovers in the fridge. These two soups are very different: the first can be served at a casual dinner party; the second is a soup from my childhood, which I make occasionally when I want comfort food.
Crab and corn chowder (pictured)
This dish is rich, hearty and creamy, although it doesn't contain any cream. You can use frozen rather than fresh corn, as it's much easier. I use a mix of canned crab (the stuff sold in the refrigerated section of markets is of better quality than the shelf-stable product that doesn't need to be chilled) and fresh (the smaller varieties such as blue crabs and flower crabs would work - but don't use hairy crabs). When buying fresh crabs, look for lively ones that feel heavy. Ask the vendor for male crabs, which have a pointed "apron" at the base of their bottom shell instead of rounded, for females.
2 fresh crabs (the shells about 9cm across)
50 grams unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and pale green part only
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp paprika
120 grams baking potato, peeled and grated
750 grams corn kernels, thawed if frozen
400ml chicken stock, preferably home-made
280 grams canned crab
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Scrub the crabs under cold running water. Bring 600ml of water to the boil, add one crab and cook for eight to 10 minutes. Remove it from the water then cook the second crab in the same water for eight to 10 minutes.
As soon as the crabs are cool enough to handle, pull off the top shell, then remove and discard the feathery lungs (work over a bowl to catch the flavourful juices). Scrape the innards from the back shell and the body and put them in a bowl.
Pull the legs from the body, extract the meat as neatly as possible, then set it aside for the garnish. Pull all the meat from the body, then discard the shells. Put the juices into the pot used to cook the crabs, then strain the liquid through a sieve. Mash the innards with a fork.
Trim off and discard the stems from the leeks. Quarter the leeks lengthwise and slice them about 5mm thick. Put the pieces in a colander, rinse thoroughly, then drain.
Melt the butter in a soup pan, then add the leek, garlic and paprika. Season with salt then cook over a low flame, stirring often. Cook for about five minutes, or until the leek is soft. Add the potato and stir well, then add the corn, chicken stock and the water used to cook the crabs. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the corn is tender.
Ladle about a quarter of the chowder into a food processor and add the crab innards. Process until puréed, then pour this back into the pan. Add the canned crab and let it simmer over a low flame. Add pepper and seasonings to taste. If the chowder is too thick, stir in some water. Add the crab body meat and simmer for about 30 seconds. Ladle into bowls then sprinkle with minced chives and garnish with claw meat.
Straw noodles with pork and dried shrimp
This is a dish my mother made for me and my brothers when we were young. "Straw noodles" are better known as bucatini, although we didn't know this back then. We called them straw noodles because we used them as straws, sucking up the soup through the hole that runs the length of each noodle.
15 grams dried shrimp
150 grams thinly sliced pork
10ml soy sauce
5ml rice wine
A dash each of sugar, salt and ground white pepper
1 slightly heaped tsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp cooking oil, divided
1-2 ginger slices
About 500ml chicken stock, preferably home-made (if using Swanson, use half broth and half water)
100-150 grams bucatini pasta
Minced spring onions
Rinse the dried shrimp with water, then soak them for about 15 minutes in 50ml of warm water until they soften. Save the soaking water. Put the pork in a bowl and add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, white pepper, cornstarch and half a teaspoon of oil. Combine thoroughly then leave to marinate for about 15 minutes. Cook the bucatini in lightly salted boiling water then drain, rinse and drain again.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan, add the ginger and stir for a few seconds, or until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and, when it boils, stir in the dried shrimp, soaking water and the pork along with its marinade. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Add the cooked pasta and simmer for a few minutes. Divide the ingredients between two bowls. Drizzle a little sesame oil over each portion, add minced spring onion, then serve.