I think there are 3 things that make Chinese clear vegetable soup stands out from the soup world.
Firstly, most Chinese soups are clear. Maybe broth is a better word. Thick soups are rare unless it is rice porridge or thickened soups which make up a small part of the Chinese soup repertoire.
Secondly, the use of fresh leafy vegetables in soups is common. There are a wide variety of green leafy vegetables to choose from. Use the same basic soup recipe with different vegetables gives you endless soups to enjoy.
Thirdly, the proportion of ingredients to liquid. Chinese soups are not "crowded". Thickened soups is a different matter but most Chinese broths are not cramped full of ingredients. The flavour of Chinese vegetable soups remain light and gentle.
Chinese clear vegetable soup seems easy to make. Just throw a bunch of fresh vegetables into a soup pot and cook away. There are a few tips to take note of.
There are generally 2 ways that fresh vegetables are used in soups.
The vegetables are not cooked for long, at least not cooked till life left them. They are often eaten together with the soup, unlike simmered soup. Some vegetables have "bite" and a little bit of cooking removes the bite, making them easier to eat.
The vegetables are consumed together with the soup. I believe it is a much more comfortable way of consuming leafy vegetables compared eating them raw in salads.
Chinese vegetables suitable for quick boiling are bok choy, choy sum, Chinese lettuce, Chinese spinach, and water spinach.
These are usually pair with meat like chicken, pork, beef or fish. To make a 100% vegetable soup, the soup stock is very important. It is also good to pair leafy vegetables with starchy ones like potato or fleshy ones like tomato.
Chinese vegetables like lotus root, radish, bitter melon, shark fin squash, Chinese yam are added to simmered soups because they can withstand long cooking.
In fact, simmering brings out the sweetness and flavour of the vegetables. The main aim of the simmered clear vegetable soup is the soup. The vegetables may or may not be consumed. In short, the soup is always the star of the show, the ingredients are only side-kicks.
Simmered soups are usually made with meat like pork ribs or chicken. A pure vegetable simmered soup is rare although not impossible. Substitution with dried mushrooms is a common technique.
Looking for Chinese clear vegetable soup recipes?
I did not label my soup recipes with the #clearsoup tag. But most of those with leafy vegetables fit the bill. Here are some of them:
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