I’ve been on a bit of a wellness detox of late, in a bid to lighten my load (physically and mentally). Sometimes I get so bogged down with stress or tiredness, that it’s easy to reach for the crisp packet or chocolate bar as an instant fix. I also have come to realise I have a terrible addiction to carbs and sugar, and I intend to break myself of it. But dammit, did you see my last recipe? Beetroot brownies, anyone? Read more
It’s that time of year when my body is hanging on through sheer adrenalin to get to the end of term. I can feel my body getting wearier, fighting off bugs and germs from all the kids I come into contact with at school. Today I sit here and my throat is aching and swollen and I feel so drained. Summer time is not the best time for making long 3 hour soups like this one, but needs must at this point. Usually I’ve found a good soup cures most things. Read more
I love dumplings, in any shape or form. From any country. When I see them on a menu I HAVE to have them.
This Chinese summer soup is mercifully a short soup. 3 hour soups in a HK summer are just not feasible, unless you are *inserts lame pun now* cool with paying for air conditioning. We have had a strange spring, cloudy and rainy and damp for months now, but suddenly this week, summer has burst in with all the charge of an angry bull.
This soup reminds me so much of my mother, and of my childhood. The day I learned to make it, I could actually feel my heart swell and I caught my breath, thinking that NOW, finally, I was a grown up, because I could make this soup for my son.
I cannot claim credit for this recipe, it comes from my stepmother again. This stock is a popular Japanese soup base (dashi), used for noodles and is completely vegetarian and super healthy. You’ll find lots of good stuff in this, like iron, iodine, zinc and magnesium.
Don’t you just love the name?? It comes from its resemblance to the hands of Buddha in meditation. For those in the US or UK, it’s known as chayote – a weird looking vegetable, originally from Mexico. It looks like a shiny, smooth, bright green avocado, but with the texture of a firm pear inside. Like this:
The medicinal properties of Buddha Palm Squash are well-known in Chinese foodlore as being good for coughs and chest infections, as well as problems with the urinary tract. I found this which also mentioned:
“Although most people are familiar only with the fruit, which in culinary terms is a vegetable, the root, stem, seeds, and leaves are all edible. The fruit, which does not need to be peeled, can be added, raw, to salads, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, boiled or pickled. Both the fruit and the seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin C.
The tuberous part of the root is starchy and is both eaten by humans and used as cattle fodder.
The leaves and fruit have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflamatory properties, and a tea made from the leaves has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension, and to disolve kidney stones.”
Making Chinese soup is an art in itself. Restaurants are often recommended and graded on the quality of their soup. Over here in HK, soups are eaten mainly at dinner or lunch after a meal and are used as digestives. Soups are usually consomme-clear with a few vegetables in, to look aesthetically pleasing – no rough, creamy, chunky soups allowed! Bases are usually made with pork, fish, or chicken bones or with a small chunk of the meat too. If the meat is very bloody or watery, you need to blanch the meat with hot water first by bringing a small pan of water to the boil and putting the meat in for a few minutes. This removes the scum and impurities that might mar the clarity of the soup.
Buddha Palm Squash soup is one of my family favourites – I remember my mother making this often. And in our family my mother used to call it ‘Cough Soup’ – making it for us whenever we were ill. It also had the added effect of ‘spring-cleaning’ your digestive tract so is particularly good if you’ve indulged in too much junk food or cake! When I lived in the UK, one of the happiest days I had was going to the supermarket and one day finding a chayote in the exotic vegetable section! I bought it and rushed home to make soup immediately and when I drank it, I felt a deep, peaceful sense of connection to my family and HK. The flavour is mild, clean, with a tang that is almost fruity. A soft and gentle flavour that is good for little kids. J loves this soup and it’s chock-full of vitamins.
Making Chinese soup is in two ways – long or short. Long soup takes a minimum of 3 hours of gentle simmering and uses mainly root vegetables. Short soup can be done in 30 minutes and is usually made in summer when fresh greens are in season and wouldn’t stand up to the long boiling times. Buddha Palm Squash soup is a long soup, but the preparation is fast and once done, you can leave it while you get on with the housework.
BUDDHA PALM SQUASH SOUP
(makes a big pot, probably 8-10 servings)
- 3 chayotes
- 1 hand-sized piece of pork with bone attached (pork chop would do fine)
- 2 dried figs
- Optional: handful of barley first rinsed well (adds to health benefits)
- 2-3 big pinches of rock / sea salt
Blanch the pork first in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes then rinse with more boiling water. Place a big soup pot of cold water on the stove and put the pork and the figs in. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, wash and quarter the chayote, and remove the pit inside. The flesh starts to ooze a sticky sliminess, but do not rinse – this is part of the medicinal property of the soup! When the water is boiling, add the chayote and turn the heat low down to a slow rolling boil. Cover and leave for 3 hours. After 3 hours, add the salt but taste in between pinches till it suits you.