Grandma’s Chicken Soup

This chicken soup will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. As the soup simmers, a rich, mouth-watering aroma wafts through the air, teasing and testing your patience against the clock. Imagine supple chunks of chicken, flavorful red wolfberries (attractive and also nourishing to your body!), and black shiitake mushrooms in a clear golden broth.

Whenever the whole extended family gets together to celebrate festive occasions like Dragon Boat Festival or Winter Festival, my mother-in-law will prepare this soup with a whole chicken; a very big pot for 10-12 people! For the kids and I, Grandma’s Famous Chicken Soup is no ordinary soup but is synonymous with feeling of the love and warmth of family reunion. Here’s how to cook the delicious broth in a small kitchen using 3 big chicken thighs (with attached drumsticks).

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Ingredients:

3  chicken thighs with drumsticks

2 – 3 pieces dried scallops (soaked overnight)

2 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked overnight)

1 small piece of pork, about 30 grams, cut into smaller chunks

a handful of wolfberries (washed and drained)

10 cups of water

2 stalks of spring onion

1 small piece of fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter (25 cents coin)

 salt to taste

Method:

1.  Wash and soak the dried shiitake mushrooms overnight.   Throw away the water in which you soaked the mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms into small cubes.

2.  Wash and soak the dried scallops overnight in a cup of water.   Keep the water in which the dried scallops are soaked, it can be added to the soup.

3.   Remove the chicken skin by peeling it back over the drumstick and pulling it out at the leg bone part.  Wash and put the chicken pieces aside.

4.  Cover the pork in a bit of water and parboil it for a few minutes to get rid of the blood and scum.  Throw away the water.

5.  Put the chicken pieces into the pot with the pork.  Add all the other ingredients, 10 cups of fresh water and the water in which you soaked the dried scallops.  Cook over medium high heat for half an hour or until it becomes a rolling boil.   Reduce the heat and boil for another 1 hour.

6.  If necessary, add in 1 – 2 more cups of water towards the last half hour of the cooking period if you noticed that too much water had evaporated.

Hint:

If you had forgotten to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms or the dried scallops the night before, you can soak them in hot water (separately) at least 2 hours before cooking and it would be almost as good. Enjoy! 🙂

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Steamed Eggs

Steamed Eggs is deceptively simple to make.  Yet, it is so difficult to achieve that smooth, velvety texture that cuts cleanly when you dig in with a spoon. Like a silken tofu yet taste like a savory, custardy mouthful – so comforting and delicious to go with rice!  It is sometimes called Steamed Water Eggs because traditionally it is made with water. Some people like to add minced pork or seafood to this dish.  But I like mine made with just eggs and chicken broth.

I actually spent years trying to make the perfect Steamed Eggs – no more of that pock-marked surface or rubbery texture ….. all to no avail – until one day, my my mother-in-law told me the secret which I will tell you in this post.

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4 eggs
chicken broth or water

1. For a lower cholesterol recipe, use one egg and 3 egg whites.
2. Beat the eggs and pour into a shallow dish.
3. Stir in enough chicken broth (or water) to cover 1 cm over the level of the egg mixture that is already in the dish.
4. Use a spoon to remove as much of the froth as possible.
5. Cover the dish with a pot lid or an over-turned flat plate. This is the key to the silky smooth texture.
6. Put the covered dish into the steamer and steam it on medium heat for about 8 minutes. If your stove is on too high, it might cook faster than 8 minutes so it is a good idea to check after 6 minutes. The steamed eggs are done when the color has changed to a light opaque yellow and the center doesn’t wiggle.  (One reason why I prefer to use a glass pot lid to cover the steamed eggs is so that I can see if the center is cooked or not.)
7. If you had used water instead of chicken broth, then flavor the dish by drizzling a dash of sesame oil and light soy sauce on top. Best eaten with rice.

Long Beans and Minced Pork

Chinese long beans come in long bundles, each string is about 1 – 2 feet long.  You can also use string beans for this recipe. I like to add a small portion of “zar choi” (Cantonese pronunciation) or “zha cai” (Mandarin pronunciation) to this recipe.  Zha Cai can be bought at the Chinese market.  It is actually some sort of pressed mustard that has been salted and preserved with chili paste, hence it can be kept refrigerated for up to a year or longer.  You cut off a small piece whenever a recipe calls for it, wash off the chili paste and chop it up.  It adds a nice zing of sweet, spicy, salty or sour to your dish.

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1 bundle of long beans – cut into 2 inch pieces
4 oz or 120 g minced pork
1-2 Tbsp chopped pickled mustard “zha cai” (榨菜) – optional
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 – 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp cooking oil

Marinate for minced pork
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp water

Method
1. Marinate the minced pork with soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, corn starch, sesame oil and water for at least half an hour before cooking. Stir in the zha cai.
2. Wash and cut up the long beans into 1 inch long pieces. Discard the pieces with black spots.
3. Blanch the long beans in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. This step cuts down on the amount of oil and cooking time you would need to cook the long beans during the stir fry step.
4. Drain the long beans.
5. Heat up 2 Tbsp cooking oil in a pan. Add the minced garlic and fry for 10 seconds, then add the blanched and drained long beans. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the long beans and stir fry for about 5 minutes.
6. Add the marinated minced pork mixture to the pan and fry together with the long beans. Add 1-2 Tbsp oyster sauce. Stir fry until the pork is done. If it looks a bit dry, add a bit of water so that it doesn’t stick to the pan.
7. Dish up and serve with rice.

Steam Fish with Tofu

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This is one of my favorite dishes – simply because it is so easy to prepare! And it takes only 8 minutes to cook. I like to use either a red garouper or green garouper or a sesame garouper. A pomfret works well too. I also like to steam it together with tofu – makes for a more substantial meal and tofu goes so well with the steam fish gravy!

In Hong Kong street markets, the garouper is often sold live (swimming in a fish tank). You pick the one you like by pointing at the fish, then the fishmonger will scoop it up, weigh it and gives you the price. If you are ok with the price, he will de-scale and gut the fish for you.

1 fish
1 piece soft tofu (optional) – cut into cubes
1 small piece of ginger – about 1/4 inch thickness – cut into narrow strips
1-2 stalks spring onion – sliced into 1 inch strips
light soy sauce or Lee Kum Kee brand flavored soy sauce for seafood
1-2 Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
1. Trim off part of the tail and all the fins.
2. Wash the fish under running water for a minute or two until there are no more water bubbles.
3. Place the fish on a plate, with sliced ginger strips on the top and arrange pieces of soft tofu around it.
4. Steam the fish and tofu for 8 minutes.
5. While the fish is in the steamer, heat up 1 or 2 Tbsp of cooking oil.
6. Check the fish after 8 minutes. It might take a bit longer if your fish is big. The fish is cooked when you poke a bit of its flesh and it is white and opaque. It is important not to overcook the fish.
7. Immediately turn off the stove. Sprinkle the spring onions on top of the fish, drizzle with soy sauce and sizzling hot cooking oil.

Lotus Root and Sweet Pea

A few days ago I made Lotus Root Soup but had bought too much lotus root so tonight I decided to cook the unused lotus root together with some sweet peas.  An unusual combination but it turned out quite well – the lotus root added an interesting crunch and flavor to the dish.   This is a really simple dish to prepare.

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About 2 inches of lotus root, sliced thinly

1 packet of sweet peas, with the ends cut off and the veins along the sides stripped

1 tsp hoisin sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

salt to taste

1. Blanch the sweet peas in a pot of boiling water for a minute.

2. Heat up 1 Tbsp of oil, stir fry the lotus root with a bit of salt, about 2 minutes.

3. Add in the blanched sweet pea and stir fry together. Stir in hoisin sauce and oyster sauce.

Where it all started – my tiny Hong Kong kitchen

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To be honest, initially I didn’t think I could do much with my broom closet of a kitchen.  Can anyone really prepare a regular meal of rice, soup and stir fry on a single hob?  So, if you are like me or crave a simple Chinese meal at the end of a long day, I hope you will enjoy reading about what I managed to do on my stove and be inspired to cook too.  And I’d love to hear from you!