What is Chinese soup? I saw this question when I was searching for something related on Google. It sets me thinking. Hmm, how would I describe a Chinese soup to someone?
What makes a soup Chinese? Because it is made by a Chinese? Nah!
However, I am confident that nobody will mistake Chinese soup for anything else. Don't get me wrong, Chinese cuisine isn't homogeneous. There are 8 distinct cuisine types based on geographical locations.
But I think there are some common elements that make Chinese soups Chinese. Here are some of them.
Simmering is one of the most popular Chinese cooking technique. Simmered soups are full of flavour and nourishment. Ingredients are slowly cooked to softness and the soups infused with all the fragrance and goodness from the ingredients.
Coming up a near second in popularity is the quick soups. Delicious and nutritious clear soups can be whipped up in under 30 minutes using soup stocks and ultra-fresh ingredients such as green leafy vegetables, seafood and thinly sliced meats. I'm sure most Chinese mums and dads know how to put together a simple egg drop soup or a tofu soup for the family.
The use of cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot to thicken soup and sauces is uniquely Chinese. The most well-known is the hot and sour soup, and the Westlake beef soup. A newer trick is to use rice instead of cream or milk for creamy soups. Good news for the lactose-intolerant.
Porridge is defined as a soft food made by boiling a meal of grains in milk or water until thick. In Southern China, it is predominantly made with rice and in Northern China, corn.
It is perhaps the most unique "soup" and the single most important dish in Chinese cuisine. Children grew up on it. People live on it during a famine. It is all-round comfort food. Name variations include rice soup, rice pudding or congee.
I don't think I would be boasting if I said that the Chinese excel at making noodles. Chinese noodles are usually served dry or in soups. Wheat and rice are the most popular ingredients but noodles can be made with meat and legumes too.
Chinese herbs is a term used to refer to a group of organic materials that are recognized by the Chinese to have medicinal properties. These could be all parts of a plant, animal, insect, and minerals.
The addition of Chinese herbs in soups rather than medical concoction to promote general health and well-being is not unique to Chinese cuisine but is probably one of the most developed.
Drying and preserving food is a way to save them for a rainy day. Examples of dried goods include seafood such as scallops or conpoy, conch, fish maw, seaweed and mushrooms like shiitake, bamboo fungus and many more. Their flavours are concentrated and best brought out in a soup.
I hope this article What is Chinese Soup? has been an interesting read. Are there other elements that make Chinese soups unique? Let me know in the comments below.