Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Difference between Soups... Or Are There?

For the Cantonese, there is a firm difference between 10-minute soups and 4-hour soups.

10 minute soups are not encouraged but it makes it easy for harried homemakers to quickly boil a pot of soup for dinner.

That's why in terms of semantics Cantonese call it "kwen tong" = boil soup.

The 4-hour soups are real soups. Full of goodness because of the 4 hours of simmering the soup over a low fire. We call it "pow tong" = simmered soup.

There is a major difference between "kwen tong" and "pow tong". It's in the taste. Soup connoisseurs might turn their noses up at 10 minute soups but sometimes, when I am in a rush, I would not mind a bowl of boiled soup. Boiled soups are usually for vegetables where they do not need much boiling or they'll wilt completely. Simmered soups are usually for herbs where a longer simmering time allows the full extraction of their goodness.

And then there is "thun tong" or double-boiled soups. This is even better. Using a double boiler, soups are cooked in small quantities and their taste is also similar to "pow tong". Usually soups like these are for those with high-quality and expensive ingredients such as birds' nest and etc.

(However, I'd like to say here that I don't encourage the eating of birds' nest soup. If you think about it, it is basically the saliva of the swiftlets. Placed in that perspective, would YOU want a bowl of saliva? Ugh.) That said, I am not a big believer in abalone or sea cucumber either. They're bland and need countless hours of cooking and simmering to get them nice and soft for the cooking pot.
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