Friday, December 26, 2008

Beancurd Stick, Gingko & Barley Dessert

This is a new recipe I learnt from my aunt just this week. I had had this dessert twice already when I visited her. She's a wizard in the kitchen, this aunt of mine. She is a cheesecake maestro too.

For this dessert, you'll need:

Dried beancurd sticks (ask your grocer for the type that makes desserts, not the cooking type) - wash and soak in water for 20 minutes
A handful of barley (washed/rinsed)
1/2 cup peeled fresh gingko nuts (or get the ready peeled version at your local supermarket)
rock sugar to taste
1.5 liter water

In a pot, bring water to boil. Add soaked beancurd sticks ('fu chuk' in Cantonese). Boil for 20 minutes on low. Cover pot. Add gingko nuts, barley and rock sugar. Boil for another 15 minutes. The beancurd stick should have melted into the water by now. Turn off fire and serve warm.

It should look like a milky liquid with barley and gingko nuts. A great cooling dessert and of course makes your skin smooth and beautiful!

You know me, I love anything that helps make my complexion smooth and silky.

Tip: Do not put too much of barley or your dessert will be too gooey and sticky (an oat-like or porridge-like texture). A small handful will do. Barley is added for a good chewy texture to the dessert. The star of this dessert is the milky goodness of the 'fu chuk'.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

4-Star Vegetable Soup

This is a soup I made today while digging about my fridge.

I found some corn on the cob, some lotus root, a handful of soyabeans and half a carrot. I decided to make it a full vegetarian soup because I knew soya beans would provide the sweetness desired, in fact, carrot and lotus and corn already are 'sweet' vegetables.

So I put them all together in a pot of water and brought the whole thing to a boil. Put on the lid and turned down the heat so the soup was just simmering. Simmer for 2 hours and season with salt and pepper.

How did it taste?

Very light, very sweet and very clear on the palate. The type of soup that one should drink in this scorching heat. Penang is very hot in the day time and I can feel the heat so here's more reason to drink soup.

Also, when the day heats up and I don't feel like taking much food, soup comes to the rescue.

Try this soup and let me know how it goes.

For variation, you can add some chicken thighs to the soup (but do remove the chicken skin first as this makes the soup a bit too oily).

Here's to a 4-star soup!

(Super tip: If you want extra flavour in your stock, add a handful of soya beans. You don't have to soak the beans. Just put them in with your chicken/pork when you are making your stock and your stock will be ultra yummy. A tip I learnt from hawkers who use soya bean to add more oomph to their stock.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Porridge with Minced Pork Balls

I love porridge because it's so easy to cook.

All you need is a rice cooker and the porridge can happily cook itself while you go about doing other things - like updating one's blog. ;-)

Because porridge is so versatile, you can make plain porridge which goes well with fried crunchy anchovies, fried peanuts, choy poh (Chinese salted vegetables) or you can make fish porridge (basic porridge with the addition of fresh fish slices) or you can make pork porridge.

For pork porridge, you need:

1/2 cup minced pork (marinate with pepper, salt, soya sauce and 1 tsp cornflour for 10 minutes in the fridge)
1 cup rice, washed and drained (1 cup rice serves 2 people, so double up if you have more mouths to feed)

The ratio of rice to water is 1:4. The water should be at least 3 inches above the rice level when it's in the rice cooker pot.

When cooking porridge, do not close the rice cooker lid tightly. Slant it at an angle or you will have a mess of gruel to clean up after! Plus your porridge might just end up a mushy rice.

Put rice and water into your cooker and switch on the cooker. Tilt the lid so that the rice cooker isn't tightly covered. Let this bubble and boil for 30 minutes or more. Once in a while, stir the pot so you know the consistency of the porridge.

After 30 minutes, shape minced pork into tiny balls and drop into the cooking porridge. Add a teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper. Add 1 tbsp sesame seed oil and stir well.

Let it cook for another 10 minutes before switching off the heat. Let porridge stand for another 10 minutes before serving warm with good quality soya sauce.

UPDATE: A tip I learnt - if you mix your minced pork with egg and soya sauce, your minced pork ball will be smoother!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seaweed Soup from Patrica

I'm going to link you to a deliciously simple seaweed soup by Patrica because her version is absolutely yummy! And so easy to prepare.

Head on over to her blog and try it out.

Besides that, she has other equally fun and easy recipes too.

Check them all out!

I shall be back with regular blogging in the next 2 days...

In case you wanna know my versions, it's the 3-minute soup here and kelp soup here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Black & Yummy Chicken Wing Recipe

This has to be one of the simplest recipes ever (besides my grandmother's soya sauce chicken, of course).

You marinate the chicken wings overnight in the fridge and next day, pour them into a pot, add 300 ml of water and simmer until cooked, probably 20 minutes or so.

For this chicken recipe, you need:

8 chicken wings, drummets included
1 tbsp dark soya sauce
2 tbsp light soya sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sesame seed oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

Now mix the above and put into an airtight container. Leave to marinate in fridge (not freezer) overnight or 12 hours. Next day or 12 hours later, pour chicken together with marinade into a wok and pour in 300ml water. Bring to a fast boil. Cover tight and simmer 15 minutes. Simmer another 5 minutes with wok uncovered. This dish is not supposed to drown in gravy so let the water evaporate until you have a little bit gravy left. Serve hot with plain rice.

Simple, easy and tasty! This got the thumbs-up from my husband. ;-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Aloe Vera and Chicken Soup

I got this recipe from Amy Beh but I have yet to try it. I couldn't get my hands on any fresh aloe vera! Back home in Banting, I have a huge overgrown pot of aloe vera but here, I don't. I am waiting to get some from my aunt one of these days so I can try this soup.

Aloe vera helps remove heat from the liver, and relaxes the bowels. So this soup is good for those suffering from constipation.

If used externally, the aloe gel helps those with skin problems like eczema and ringworm. I often use the gel on my face and arms after a long hot day out or if I accidentally scald myself with hot water!

Aloe can be also used as a cooling drink with the aloe gel cut up into cubes. They're chewably delicious!

For this soup, you need:

3 plump aloe vera leaves
half a chicken, chopped into chunky parts
15 white peppercorns, lightly crushed
3 red dates, stones removed
1.2 liter water

Wash the aloe and peel off skin. Cut the white jelly parts into thick slices.

Boil chicken, peppercorn, red dates in the 1.2 liter water for 1.5 hours.

Add aloe vera and continue to boil for another 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve soup hot.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eggplant with Spicy Minced Pork

I love eating eggplant or brinjal but Nic is not to keen on it. He likes it in curries but not cooked plain.

When I do buy brinjal, I have a favourite way of cooking it.

With minced pork. I can get this dish ready in less than 10 minutes because it's simple and delicious. The crunchiness of deep fried brinjal with the spicy minced pork - out of this world.

For this recipe, you need:

1 medium length brinjal (about a foot long)
1/2 cup minced pork, marinated with some cornflour and soya sauce (leave aside for 5 minutes)
fresh ginger, about 2 slices, minced fine
fresh garlic, 1 clove, minced fine
2 tbsp Thai chilli sauce (from bottle, I use Mae Pranom brand)
1 tbsp dark soya sauce
some salt, pepper, sugar and soya sauce to taste
red chillies, sliced, optional - if you like to spice it up more

First, wash and cut brinjal into diagonal slices. Sprinkle some salt over to draw out water. Leave aside for a while.

Next, make a batter from self raising flour and rice flour (2:1 ratio) with a pinch of baking powder mixed with a little water. So if you use 2 tablespoons self raising flour, you need 1 tablespoon rice flour. (This is a good batter for frying fish slices so you can actually make a little more and keep it in the fridge. If you are keeping it, don't mix it with water. Just the flours in an airtight container. When you need to use it, add water.)

You should get a slightly runny batter. Dip brinjal into this batter and deep fry until golden brown. Drain and set aside on a serving plate.

Now for some wok action.

Heat up some oil in a pan and saute ginger and garlic. Add in minced pork and stirfry until almost cooked. Add all seasoning into the pork (Thai chilli sauce, soya sauce, salt etc).

Do not add water as the Thai chilli sauce contains enough liquid. Fry for another 3-5 minutes until pork is cooked through and the mixture is good and dry.

At this stage, you can add the red chillies if you want a good fiery kick to your dish (I add it when I fry the ginger and garlic to bring out extra spicyness! Don't try this if you cannot tolerate too much chillies though). Otherwise, leave it out. Mae Pranom chilli sauce is quite spicy as it is.

As you can see, I am high on spiciness. If you like chillies, I suggest you get the Vietnamese birds eye chillies.

Spoon over deepfried brinjal and serve immediately with steamed rice.

It's absolutely delicious if I may say so myself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Herbs Used in Nin Jiom

I went looking on the Net for the herbs that are used in the cough syrup King To Nin Jiom Pei Pa Kao and found these which I have compiled below.

Each one works to alleviate cough, phlegm and all manner of lung problems. I got the info from this website: in case you want to go on your own TCM herb hunting adventure or find out what those Latin terms actually mean.

Fourleaf Ladybell Root or Nan Sha Shen nourishes yin and removes heat from the lung, resolves phlegm, and reinforces qi. Suitable if you have heat in the lung with dry cough; cough with scanty sticky sputum; or deficiency of both qi and yin with feverishness and thirst.

Bulbus Fritillaria Cirrhosa or Chuan Bei Mu removes heat, moistens the lung, resolves phlegm and relieves cough. Good for those with dry cough due to heat in the lung; cough with bloody sputum in consumptive diseases.

Folium Eriobotrya Japonica or Loquat Leaf removes heat from the lung and the stomach, and relieves cough and vomiting.

Indications: Cough and dyspnea caused by heat in the lung; vomiting, fever and thirst caused by heat in the stomach.

Poria cocos or Indian Bread is the dried sclerotium of the fungus, Poria cocos. Poria is collected mostly in July to September, removed from soil, piled up, spread, and air-dried. This is repeated until all water evaporates before it is dried in the shade. Normally it is known as Fu Ling (white slices you see sometimes in Chinese herb shops).

Fu Ling or Poria cocos helps invigorate the spleen and calms the mind. Useful for curing dizziness and palpitation caused by retained fluid; diminished function of the spleen marked by anorexia, loose stools or diarrhea; restlessness and insomnia.

Exocarpium citrus Grandis or Pomelo peel, another ingredient in Nin Jiom, acts to dispel cold, eliminate damp and phlegm, and arrest emesis or nausea. Good for cough, itchy throat and profuse expectoration in colds; nausea, vomiting and epigastric distension caused by improper diet or excessive drinking.

Platycodon Root or Radix Platycodon Grandiflorum helps relieve cough, soothes sore throat and promotes expectoration and discharge of pus. Usually used when there's cough with much phlegm and hoarseness.

Pinellia Tuber or Rhizoma Pinelliae Preparatum also helps to remove damp and phlegm.

Chinese Magnoliavine Fruit or Fructus Schisandra Chinensis replenishes qi, promotes fluid secretion, tonifies kidney. It is used for chronic cough and asthma; nocturnal emission, permatorrhea; enuresis, frequent urination; protracted diarrhea; spontaneous sweating, night sweating; impairment of body fluid with thirst, shortness of breath and feeble pulse; diabetes caused by internal heat; palpitation and insomnia.

Snakegourd Seed or Semen Trichosanthes Kirilowii resolves phlegm and is a laxative and as such is good for those with dry cough with sticky sputum and constipation.

Common Coltsfoot Flower or Flos Tussilago Farfara relieves cough and resolves phlegm, nourishes the lung to keep the adverse qi downward.

Thinleaf Milkwort Root or Radix Polygala Tenuifolia promotes sputum expectoration and reduces swelling. It is used for those suffering from insomnia,dream-disturbed sleep, forgetfulness,palpitation ,trance; cough with a difficulty in expectorating sputum; boils and sores as well as swelling and pain in the breasts.

Bitter Apricot Seed or Semen Prunus Armeniaca relieves cough and asthma, and helps relax bowels. It is often used for cough and asthma accompanied by stuffiness in the chest and profuse expectoration; constipation due to deficiency of blood and fluid.

Among all these herbs, there is of course, the well known Fresh Ginger or Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens. Fresh ginger promotes sweating, dispels cold, warms the stomach, relieves phlegm and cough.It is usually used if there's cough with thin whitish sputum.

Nin Jiom also contains Liquorice Root or Radiz Glycyrrhiza Glabra which improves the spleen and replenishes Qi. Liquorice root also removes heat and counters any toxicity in the body, dispels phlegm and cough. Chewing on a liquorice root (easily available at any Chinese herbal shop) as a quick remedy to alleviate cough helps! Just chew the root to get its juice (like chewing gum). Spit out the root once you've extracted all the juice of course.

Other ingredients include menthol which is a saturated, cyclic alcohol obtained from peppermint oil; honey or known as Mel which helps relieve dryness, replenishes the spleen and stomach and counteracts toxicity.

So you see, there's a bunch of herbs (roots, seeds, leaves) used in the preparation of the traditional Nin Jiom cough syrup.

It's amazing to know that more than 15 herbs/ingredients are used in such a simple yet effective remedy for coughs.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What's Inside King To Nin Jiom Pei Pa Kao?

I still have a bloody phlegmy cough. Despite eating everything I think is good for curing a cough.

So as a last resort, I turned to a favourite cough remedy - King To Nin Jiom Pei Pa Kao! I had a bottle stashed in my kitchen so I thought, might as well take that and see if my cough can be cured.

The funny thing was, it has expired in 2007.

But what the heck.

It's just cough syrup, right? Won't die anyway. So being highly practical, I took whatever's left of this remedy. (I'm Cantonese. We're a highly practical people. That's probably why we can survive anywhere. I grew up with lots of pragmatic advice from mom and grandma.)

For those of you who don't know what King To Nin Jiom is, it's a thick, gooey, honey-like syrup masquerading as cough syrup. It's a traditional Chinese preparation so it's lovely and sweet, much like honey. It's not like those yucky cherry-flavoured cough syrups doctors give. Not at all. (By the way, I hate those.)

This syrup is so good that children will take to it like they take to all sweet stuff.

Locally in Malaysia, we know it as Ubat Batuk Cap Ibu dan Anak. In my younger days, the TV ad for this syrup was a wayang kulit or shadow play where the son goes in search of a cough remedy for his mom and then finds this King To Nin Jiom. She takes it and hurray, is cured. I can still remember the ad!

Even if you are not coughing, you ought to keep a bottle of this Nin Jiom at home. If you are heaty (had too many late nights, eaten too much curries, sang too much at karaokes hence have a sore throat, or just plain grouchy which in TCM means you have too much 'heat' in the body), a teaspoon of this diluted in a glass of water is just the thing!

I went over to the official Nin Jiom website but it's done in Flash so half the info cannot be seen (and I am using the Google Chrome browser) and I didn't want to download Flash - too lazy lah. I wanted to find out what they use for this miraculous cough medicine.

In the end, I had to go on the Net and search for myself (coz remember I told you their Nin Jiom site sucked and I couldn't see a thing).

Inside this concoction, there's some 15 different herbs. They include:

chuan bei mu
loquat leaf
fourleaf ladybell root
indian bread extract
pomelo peel
platycodon root
pinellia tuber
chinese magnoliane fruit
snakegourd seed
common coltsfoot flower
thinleaf milkwort root
bitter apricot seed
fresh ginger
licorice root
peppermint oil

In my next post, I will let you on the benefits of these ingredients. Even if you don't know much about TCM, you notice that much of the ingredients are generally used to prevent coughs such as bitter apricot seed and licorice root.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quick Peppermint Soup

I bought fresh peppermint at the market today. I usually don't fancy peppermint but I thought with my flu and scratchy throat, peppermint soup sounds real good.

The peppermint was RM1 one bunch. When I came home, I just plucked the leaves and soaked them. Ditch the stems.

Next I marinated some fresh minced pork - about 1/3 cup of minced pork. You can use chicken if you want. Marinate with some salt, pepper and cornflour. The cornflour makes a world of difference. The minced meat will be smoother!Put this aside in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Since I was only making this soup for lunch and dinner, I measured out 4 medium bowls of water.

Once water is boiling away merrily, drop in the minced meat - form them into tiny balls of meat. I like mine like the size of marbles.

I also put into 3 cloves of garlic, with skin attached. This flavours the soup a bit.

Next, add your rinsed and drained peppermint leaves.

Let the soup simmer for 5 minutes on medium fire before you add salt, sugar, pepper and soya sauce. No MSG, if you please.

Finally, beat an egg and slowly drizzle this into the soup. Let soup simmer for another minute before you turn off the fire and cover the pot.

The soup should "sit" for 20 minutes or so before you serve. I find that this helps gel the flavours and intensify the taste tremendously.

That's why soups kept overnight in the fridge tend to be a lot more tasty than the day before.

Bread Update - BG's Recipe Worked!

Not that I am major doubter in his basic bread recipe... it's more like I doubt my bread kneading skills.

But I armed myself with complete knowledge before I plunged into breadmaking again yesterday, despite the awful headache I was having. Despite my flu and sneezing 20 times!

Still, I had to throw out cups of yeast in lukewarm water because silly me, I wasn't patient enough to let the yeast bubble and ferment. Finally it dawned on me that the yeast was alive but a bit slow in 'waking up'. 4 lukewarm cups of water + yeast + honey later, I realize this.


Anyway, the basic bread recipe is simple and yes, I finally have 94% of what resembles bread. I cannot say 100% because Nic says it needs some 10 minutes more in the oven but excited old me took it out at 30 minutes and it was slightly, just slightly underdone. But it was bread. It looked like bread, it tasted chewy and lovely. It was BREAD.

Thank you Cosmic Universe!

So the recipe is super simple. Make the yeast concoction first. Dilute 1 tsp instant yeast into a cup of lukewarm water mixed with 1 tsp honey or sugar. Let it sit until it foams and smells like beer. Mine took about 15 minutes. I was getting edgier by the minute.

Put 4 cups plain flour into a bowl. Make a well and pour the yeasty stuff into this and mix well. It starts off a goooey mess but soon you will be able to knead it. I had to use more flour to coat my hands as I kneaded. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Then knead again until you feel you are getting an upper arm workout. About 10 minutes kneading will do or I feel my biceps forming. At this time, work in some salt. Kneading as you add 1 tsp salt.

Put into a bowl (I oiled it first), cover with a wet cloth and let it sit for 2 hours. I put it into my oven as I felt a warm place helps yeast work faster.

After 2 hours, take dough and punch down. Literally it means punch to release the air pockets. Not too much. Just a mild punching will do.

Shape it into a round and bake in oven for 30 minutes at 200 C. I would have liked to glaze it with a bit of olive oil! Oh yes, I oiled the pan too so that the dough won't stick.

Thanks to BG and his bread recipe!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Bit of Bread Diversion

This blog may be about soup but sometimes, I come across other types of niche food blogs too and thought you might like to know!

Recently, a friend found me on my other blog. He apparently is into bread-making (like me, but my first few attempts sucked) and he seems to be a maestro at it, looking at the number of bread recipes and modified recipes he has at his blog.

I know I am the soup queen (please take it with a pinch of salt) but he is definitely a bread king. He makes his own bread so that his wife (who has a thyroid condition) need not eat commercial bread which as you know is full of preservatives and stuff even my cat won't eat. (Do you know that a piece of commercial bread can stay fresh and unmoldy up to a week or more?!)

As I am bread newbie, I can tell you I was excited on learning that he has a blog dedicated to his fascination with bread.

Do hop over to BG's blog on bread baking and bread making.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Steamed Tofu, Vegetarian Style

Sometimes I get so tired when I get home from work (even though it is my own business but I tell you, running a business is far more exhausting than being a salaried employee! I've been on both ends so I know that as an employee, you can 'shut off' the moment you get home. As a business person, I'm thinking of work even when I'm on the throne!)

So what's a girl to do when she comes home tired and yet wants to cook something homemade for the man in her life? Ah yes, I can be traditional in some ways. I think the less I eat out the better.

I always have some beancurd or tofu in my fridge for those emergency dinner moments. I prefer the silken tofu in a box which you can easily buy at any supermarket for RM1 per box.

1 box of tofu is good enough for 2 persons.

To prepare this steamed tofu (which takes less than 10 minutes to cook), just open up the plastic casing and put the tofu on a plate. Steam this over high heat for 5 minutes.

The tofu will 'sweat' some water during the steaming process. Drain away this water.

In a separate pan, heat up some vegetable oil. Saute some minced garlic and minced ginger for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in 1 tbsp dark soya sauce, 1 tbsp light soya sauce and 1/2 tsp sugar. Combine well and pour over steamed tofu. Sprinkle chopped spring onions and serve warm with plain rice.

You can spice it up with a dollop of sambal. The sambal can be combined with the soya sauces and sugar.

This is my quick and easy version of Ma Poh Tofu, minus the minced pork meat!

This tofu dish is healthy and suitable for vegetarians.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

5 Bean Soup with Green Love Mix

I first had this soup when I was at my Mom-in-law's back in Kuching a few months ago. I really love beans so I decided to recreate this soup here in Penang.

I noted that my mom-in-law used a variety of beans in her soup plus some chicken carcasses.

I was thinking of buying a handful of each type of beans but thought better of it! It would be such a waste if my own concoction didn't turn out right or taste right.

So I turned to Green Love's Multi Bean Soup Mix which had 5 types of beans in one packet (RM4.80 for a 250 gm packet). The beans were chick peas, kidney beans, borlotti beans, large lima beans and Great Northern Beans.

This bean premix pack can make a savoury or sweet soup.

I made a savoury soup with blanched pork bones which was delectable. I love beans in all manner so this was really comfort food.

Here's how you make a Five Bean Soup (makes 6 serving bowls of soup).

125 gm of beans from Green Love's Multi Bean Soup Mix
300 gm blanched pork bones
1 tbsp medlar seeds, soaked and drained
2 slices of ginger
6 dried red dates, soaked and de-seeded

Bring a pot of water to boil (about 1.5 liter). Add in all ingredients. Boil on high and uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover pot and boil on low/simmer for 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste about 15 minutes before soup is ready. Let the soup 'rest' for 20 minutes before serving. I find this intensifies the taste!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Black Sesame with Milk

This is yet another recipe I picked up from TV. You see, you can learn from TV if you choose your TV programmes well.

Black sesame with milk is a drink recommended for people who are constipated.

Black sesame seeds are used to tonify yin, jing and blood and most importantly, moisten the intestines. Hence its usefulness in helping to move the bowels. (It's associated with Kidney and Liver meridians.)

Other than that, Chinese love the black sesame because it can keep your hair glossy and black. A sweet, thick dessert made from ground black sesame seeds is often served in good Chinese restaurants. In fact, black sesame seeds are good for improving memory and preventing Alzheimers.

Here's how you can prepare this beverage:

Warm up some 400 cc of fresh milk.
Add 1 teaspoon of black sesame seed powder.
Mix well. Add honey to taste. Also if you wish, you can add in some medlar seeds (pre-soaked in hot water to soften).
Drink warm.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dang Shen & Red Date Tea

I got this recipe from a Taiwanese TV show on traditional chinese herbs. It looks easy enough to prepare.

In a pot, bring 500 ml of water to boil. Add dang shen and red dates. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

This tea helps to boost the immune system.

Dang Shen or Codonopsis Pilosulae
is helpful for the spleen and lungs. It's a root similar to that of the ginseng family. It is considered the poor man's ginseng as it is cheap yet full of amazing properties. As it's mild, the whole family can take this herb.

According to FoodsnHerbs website, this power root helps:
-Build immunity and raise resistance
-Promote the production body fluid
-Nourish blood and energy
-Lower blood pressure
-Raise blood sugar
-Tonify spleen and lung energy

Dang Shen is also suited for people suffering from chronic fatigue, hypertension, loss of appetite, loose bowels, pale complexion, exhaustion after surgery or childbirth, body bloating and facial swelling due to edema, immune deficiency and hypoglycemia.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Homemade Gui Ling Gao Herbal Jelly

Everyone has this idea that Gui Ling Gao, a Chinese herbal jelly, is made from Tortoise Shell. I think it used to contain tortoise shell scrapings but no longer. I bet it must be tough finding people who would ingest anything made out of the poor chelonian.

I made some Gui Ling Gao today with a premix powder I bought from Eu Yan Sang. The packet priced at RM 10 consisted of 2 smaller packets (so it's actually RM 5 per pack). From RM 5 worth, I could make 14 small cups of gui ling gao, which would last me a whole week! (Normally I would buy readymade Gui Ling Gao at RM 2 for a small plastic container but I love to experiment so I thought I should be able to make some on my own. Plus it's cheaper too.)

This herbal jelly has a bitter taste but it is recommended for teens as it helps clear acne (and most women too as it enhances the complexion).

Gui Ling Gao is served chilled and as a dessert after a heavy meal. As it clears heat, it is a cooling dessert and pregnant women are not supposed to take this.

Here's how I prepared this easy dessert.

Gui Ling Gao

1 packet gui ling gao powder from Eu Yan Sang
250 ml water

Dissolve powder into water. Stir well to combine. This is (A).

In a pot, bring to boil 1 liter of water and 150 gm sugar. When water boils, turn heat down to a simmer. Quickly stir in (A). Keep stirring for 10 minutes.

Strain this gui ling gao mixture quickly once you turn off the heat. It solidifies rather fast so you have to be nimble. After straining, again quickly pour the mixture into smaller bowls or cups. Leave to cool in the open for 20 minutes before chilling them in the fridge. Serve cool.

You can also add a few teaspoons of honey if the gui ling gao is a bit bitter for your taste. I take mine as it is (since the sugar has been added).

So what's inside this herbal jelly which slithers smoothly down your throat?

Here's what I discovered...

Japanese honeysuckle

Can anyone vouch that these ingredients are what really go into a bowl of delightfully smooth gui ling gao? (It's a bit like our Malaysian grass jelly or 'cincau')

Let me know if you do!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ning Shen Soup

This is yet another herb soup packet mix which I got from Eu Yan Sang.

Ning Shen Soup is a traditional Chinese soup recipe for calming the mind and keeping the heart healthy.

Its ingredients are:
radix astragali
rhizoma dioscareae
rhizoma polygonati odorati
pericarpium citri reticulatae
bulbus lilii
arilllus longan
fructus lycii

If the above sounds like gibberish to you, it actually isn't. Of course it sounds like a bunch of sophisticated herbs but really, they're normal Chinese herbs.

radix astragali -- Huang Qi or Milk Vetch Root
rhizoma dioscareae -- Chinese yam or shanyao
rhizoma polygonati odorati -- Solomon's seal
pericarpium citri reticulatae -- dried tangerine peel
bulbus lilii -- dried lily bulb
arilllus longan -- dried longan
fructus lycii -- wolfberry

The herbs are clean so a quick rinse was just about it. Next I brought a pot of water (1.5 liters) to boil. Once the water was bubbling, I added in the Ning Shen herbs and blanched pork bones. Boil on high for 10 minutes before covering the pot and simmering on low heat for 2 hours. Season with salt when the soup is almost done.

I like to 'rest' my soups for at least 30 minutes before serving. This seems to make the flavours more rounded and robust.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Five Flower Tea

I bought a packet of Five Flower Tea (comprising 2 sachets) from Eu Yan Sang for my mom-in-law not too long ago but she only kept 1 sachet and gave the other sachet back to me. I think older people do not dare to drink too much of these cooling teas...something I should have remembered when I bought this tea!

But one learns!

I've become a fan of Eu Yan Sang of late, possibly because I visit Jusco in Queensbay Mall so often. I am the mad sort, the type who loves the smell and fragrance of herbs in a TCM shop and that's what Eu Yan Sang/EYS is. And perhaps the great thing is, I can ask for the herb in English and the staff knows what I am talking about.

But EYS is also a modern shop which means a lot of the herbs are packed hygenically. Of course the prices at EYS is much higher than my regular TCM stall inside the Lip Sin market BUT the herbs really do look better - they don't look too dried up!

One of those things I would spend on is food and herbs are food and I stand to gain if I buy better herbs, so sometimes I do splurge a bit at EYS. (I still buy from the TCM stall at the wet market sometimes!)

I've been going to EYS mostly to get the Gold Label Bak Foong Pills which at RM88 for 6 bottles of tiny black pills aren't exactly cheap but after all this quality issues with China and what-not (tainted milk powder from the Sanlu brand which has now extended to other dairy products), I'd rather pay a bit more and rest easy that I am NOT ingesting some poison. And like I always say, EYS is a reputable brand and they are surely more careful of its products.

Anyway, I do go on a chinese herb buying spree whenever I step into EYS. Bad for my credit card though Jusco Card holders do get a 5% discount OFF EYS products.

OK, so back to my Five Flower Tea or Wu Hua Cha (RM8.90 per packet of 2 sachets). According to the packet, 1 sachet is to be boiled with 3 liters of water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the honeycomb sugar (it's included in the packet) and that's it - serve warm or cold. Apparently this 3 liters can serve 4-5 people.

It's a delightfully light tea that's good both warm and cold. The flavours did remind me of spring - delicate, fragrant with flower aromas and not-too-sweet.

So what's inside this sachet? The Five Flower Tea has more than just five flowers; it contains:

pearl barley
licorice root
stir fried white bean
pagoda tree flower
cotton flower
peuraria flower

Update: A kind reader, Joe, wrote and told me this: 

Five Flower Tea helps to rid the body of uric acid build-up. The flowers contain saponins and the efficacy is evident from the bubbly urine output. Adding licorice reduces acidity in the stomach.

Thanks Joe for the helpful info. ;-) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Madam Chin's Easy Soya Sauce Chicken

Madam Chin is my grandmother who is touching 91. She's my dad's mom and a mother to 9 children.

One of the best recipes come from my grandma. She cooks the best stuffed crabs, the best braised ikan terubok with black beans and the best soya sauce chicken. In fact, her salted chicken is a family favourite.

But she's 91 now and can hardly walk, what more cook. She now spends her time in her room, watching TV, reading magazines and talking to her sons and daughters and grandchildren.

My grandma's soya sauce chicken is my life-saver for days when I do not know what to cook or when I get too darn lazy to cook.

This recipe is a sure success because the ingredients are easily found in any good kitchen. It's also a dish for children because they will love the soya sauce gravy to bits. It's a foolproof dish that keeps well and one that you will adore for its so easy and quick to prepare. (My husband loves this dish too!)

And if someone asks you where you got this recipe, do acknowledge that it came from Madam Chin from Penang, Malaysia. ;-) It's proper that she gets the accolades.

Soya Sauce Chicken

2 chicken thighs
1/2 bowl good quality soya sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
3 bowls water or enough to cover the chicken
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
dash of pepper
3-4 tbsp dark soya sauce
5 slices young ginger
1 stalk spring onion, cut into 2" lengths
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed, skin removed
3 tbsp butter

In a pot, put all ingredients except chicken and bring to a brisk simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken and cover pot. Simmer for another 15 -20 minutes until the chicken is done.

Before you serve, bring the dish to boil again and thicken the gravy with some corn flour. That's it!

Try it and let me know if you like Madam Chin's easy chicken recipe.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lemongrass Tea with Brown Sugar

Today's recipe is not so much a soup but a drink! And this one comes with its own little story.

One day, many moons ago, I was at the Tropical Spice Garden. This was at Teluk Bahang, almost near the end of the tourist hotel strip.

My sis, cousin and I decided to lunch there, not knowing what we would find. But adventurous girls that we were, we headed there, despite the oncoming drizzle.

It didn't help that my sis and cousin were in 'urban attire' - short skirt, shorts, heels. It was a bit of a climb up to the cafe of the spice garden (which by the way is a must-see for horticulture fans. It's a spice garden so it's full of plants and herbs for the green fan.) I'd been on the spice garden walk years ago so we skipped that. We were there for the grub.

Which wasn't much and that itself was a disappointment. The cafe basically served as a snack and beverage corner though the view of the sea off Batu Feringgi was amazing. Imagine, post-rain, the aquamarine sea.

The sandwiches were palatable. But what I loved were the drinks. Made with spices and herbs, the drink menu attracted me, particularly the lemongrass drink.

I ordered that and it was the best thing that day.

Best of all, it was a thirst quencher and a mosquito repellant. I say repellant because no mozzie came near me throughout the time we were lounging at the open air cafe. This is tropical Malaysia and mozzies are everywhere, and it had just rained so my sis and cousin yelped in agony each time a mozzie bit them. Or the mozzie just buzzed around them, annoying them totally.

As I had just drunked my lemongrass tea, I was mozzie-free!

The aromatic and citrusy lemongrass shrub, if planted around your home, dispels mozzies. The oil extracted from lemongrass, citronella, is a key ingredient in most mosquite repellant sprays, candles and rubs.

But more than that, lemongrass tea is so easy to make. Its health benefits are plenty, According to a Buzzle article:

[It's] a good cleanser that helps to detoxify the Liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and the digestive tract...cuts down uric acid, cholesterol, excess fats and other toxins in the body while stimulating digestion, blood circulation, and lactation...alleviates indigestion and gastroenteritis...helps improve the skin by reducing acne and pimples and acts as a muscle and tissue toner... reduce blood pressure.

This is my lemongrass tea recipe. I drink it warm but you can cool it and add ice.

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and sliced thickly
1/2 stick of brown sugar (available from Chinese shops - this is brown sugar made from sugarcane and comes in flat sticks)
5 cups water

Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

That's it.This is not a very sweet tea. If it is not sweet enough, you can add more brown sugar, perhaps a whole stick of it.

Your own fresh lemongrass tea, perfect for a Saturday afternoon as you read your favourite novel.

*** You might want to read this for more uses of lemongrass.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cold Remedies, The TCM Way

It's been raining nonstop the whole of today. And I've been sneezing and having such a running nose! I woke up with a little bit of a sore, parched throat but I quickly drank a warm glass of water mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. That seemed to do it but my nose is still red and runny!

Yes, even SoupQueen sometimes get the sniffles!

That's the main reason I stuff myself with soups. So that I don't get the sniffles and have to down some pills. I was thinking of popping 2 cold pills and going to bed (since it is lovely and cosy to be in bed right about now) but I shall let my body battle the cold the natural way.

Maybe my cold is due to the sudden changes in the weather - it is hot and sunny in the morning and suddenly rains nonstop in the evening. The weather changes from warm to cold can be unnerving for my body.

Or it could be the KFC which I took for dinner last Tuesday. I was hankering for some fried chicken and thought, time to try out the new Spicy Crunch chicken. It wasn't very spicy but it was hot off the oven. I'm always fearful of anything fried or baked because of my tendency to get 'heaty'.

But cold or no cold, I made soup today too. Lotus Root soup. Yum. Can't wait for a bowl of warm goodness in a while. Did anyone try the Vegetarian Lotus Soup?

What I really wanted to share with you today is that I found a site which teaches you about the different types of Colds and Flus, according to TCM and the acupressure points you can press to lessen the awful effects of a cold.

Besides, the page also has a few folk remedies to cure a cold depending on what type of cold you have.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Green Papaya & Snow Fungus Dessert

Fruits, especially local fruits like bananas, papayas, dragon fruits (my favourite is the deep ruby red variety) are cheap and plentiful in Banting. That's where I was last week. I went home to visit my parents for a few days and decided to teach my mom a new dessert recipe.

I bought an unripe papaya at the Banting Sunday market. My mom chided me saying that it's not palatable. I told her I was going to cook it, instead of waiting for it to ripen.

The fruit vendor was smart enough to tell my mom that she knew what I was going to do with the unripe fruit. Hmmm!

After I made it, mom took some over to our longtime neighbour, Mrs Chan. Mom told me the unripe papaya tasted a lot like sweet potato after it's been simmered.

So here's a green papaya and snow fungus dessert recipe you can try:

1 unripe papaya (a bit green with blushes of orange, signs of going to ripen), cut into bite size chunks
8-10 dried red dates
a few pieces of snow fungus, soaked and cut up into smaller pieces
rock sugar to taste
1 litre water

Into a pot, bring to boil water. Add papaya chunks and red dates. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add rock sugar and snow fungus. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve warm.

A quick and easy dessert you can whip up any time!

This dessert soup is for smooth and clear complexion. Papaya has lots of nutrients while snow fungus nourishes the lungs.

Soups and Desserts and Dragon Too

I haven't gone missing though I've been quite busy. I was in and out of Penang and doing stuff I wouldn't normally do.

You can see what I was busy about if you read this - which is over at my regular blog.

Anyway, I am back in Penang already. And super excited because I bought myself a new recipe book on Chinese soups (Cooking with Chinese Herbs: New Edition with 20 Additiional Recipes) by Terry Tan for RM60, a book which I'd been eyeing greedily this year. *grinning like a Cheshire cat*

I am glad I waited because I won a book voucher from Popular Bookstore recently and I used that voucher to redeem this book. Did this yesterday when I was on a book browsing spree at Popular Midlands (they're having a book sale of up to 20%). I said spree because I spent close to RM200 buying books and magazines.

Now Terry Tan is not a new author. I'd seen his books before and one of his recipe books was published in 1983! Now that's what I call a long time cook and author. This new recipe book is a rework of some older book with an additional 20 recipes.

What I particularly liked about Terry's cookbook is his book is well organised. I like organised minds because I'm fastidious too. I don't like messy recipe books where the recipes have no particular order!

Terry groups this Chinese soups into various categories such as one-pot meals, sweet soups, etc. This would definitely help me decide what soup to create on any given day.

I would be testing out a few of his soups as the instructions are simple, clear and there's at most 4 to 5 ingredients for each soup. His personality shone through too in this cookbook - unlike some dry textbook recipe copy which doesn't inspire one at all.

Speaking of soups and sweet soups, I was in Pavilion KL's Dragon-i Restaurant with my parents and aunt for lunch last week. For those who don't know, Dragon-i is a chain of sumptuous Shanghainese restaurants started in 2004 by a smart Singaporean woman. Only 4 years but what a runaway success.

The decor is in dark red and brown with lots of mirrors and subdued lighting. It's classy and sensual. They probably made kitchen work sexy too judging by the crowds who peer into the glass kitchen, watching chefs in action, making pau and tiny dim sum! I wonder if these chefs feel like animals in a zoo!

It occurred to me that we have a Dragon-i here in Queensbay Penang but I was never tempted to go try its famous 'xiao long pau' (steamed meat dumplings). Maybe I got scared of the crowds outside the restaurant. People lined up outside the restaurant to get into Dragon-i here in Penang. The thing with me is, I get freaked out if I see crowds. I won't go where the masses go because it will be noisy and dining can be chaotic.

Anyway, their xiao long pau is indeed the most heavenly stuff money can buy. But that's not it... we ordered dessert soups right after we had our meal and those where really what I enjoyed, sweet though they were! (My Dad who is now extremely careful about the amount of sugar and sodium he consumes, asked the waitress to add more water to his sweet hasma dessert. It was THAT sweet.) I had the same dessert and yes, it was terribly sweet! The hasma came in generous portion though.At RM 12, it sure beat making this dessert on your own at home. Hasma comes from snow frogs and one has to pick out the grit and stuff from the hasma (shuet kap in Cantonese), aka cleaned properly before it can be double-boiled.

My aunt had a lovely stewed pear with bitter and sweet almonds, while Mom tried the water chestnut and sea coconut dessert.


I'll be back soon with an easy papaya snow fungus dessert which I made for my mum the week that I was back home in Banting.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Kachama Chicken, A Confinement Dish for Sarawakians

Just got back from one week in Kuching. It was warm over there which is unusual as I always expect rain in Borneo. When it rains in Kuching, it pours.

I go back to Kuching for 1 reason - to visit my parents-in-law. So I take it as a break from work. But the thing that gets me truly antsy is that we just have dial-up internet access in his parents' home. Which is horrible. After years on broadband, getting to dial-up is torture.

I don't cook when I get to my mom-in-law's. She likes cooking and she has a particular way of cooking to accommodate my father-in-law. I tried once but my efforts were rebuffed. So the SoupQueen gets a total break from the kitchen when she's in Kuching.

Anyway, enough of gossip stuff. In the spirit of Sarawak, I am going to teach you how to cook 'kachama' or 'kachangma'. It's a wild grass or herb that's used famously in Sarawak for mothers who are in confinement / just given birth. This dish helps get rid of wind.

As with most confinement dishes (we Chinese are good at this sort of dishes because I've been told that a good confinement or rest for the new mother prevents later health problems... later as in when a woman is in her 50s or 60s), this one contains ginger to alleviate wind too.

On a personal note, I've a friend who dislikes Chinese herbs (despite being Chinese). Ever since she gave birth 2 years ago, she has been suffering chills, incontinence and weakness. I advised her to take some Chinese ginseng tonic or at least drink a nightcap of Benedictine DOM (another must drink for Chinese moms) but she steadfastly refuses to.

Instead she relies on her vitamins. Sure, vitamins are good but I believe she needs to strengthen her body with herbs such as dang gui and ginseng. But she stubbornly refuses. If I weren't a friend, I'd tell her off sharply that all her health problems now are caused by NOT having a proper confinement with the proper confinement foods.

For this kachangma dish, you will need:

1/2 cup of dried kachangma
2 chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon of pounded young ginger (squeeze and retain ginger juice)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
cooking oil
2-3 cups water

* As with all confinement foods, ginger and sesame oil are musts.

1. In a dry pan (no oil please), dry fry the kachangma for 2 minutes over a low fire.

Scoop into a mortar and pestle and pound lightly. Set aside.

2. Heat up pan, add 1 tablespoon cooking oil and sesame oil. Slowly fry the pounded ginger.
3. Add chicken pieces.
4. Add in the pounded kachangma. Coat evenly.
5. Pour in ginger juice (which you squeezed out earlier).
6. Add water to cover chicken pieces. Cover pan and simmer until chicken is tender.
7. Dish out and serve with a dark soya sauce.

Now in this dish, no salt is used as you will be dipping the chicken into dark soya sauce (try Lee Kum Kee Dark Soya Sauce for extra bite). This dish has a bit of gravy too so don't simmer the chicken too long.

It seems to taste better if you leave it overnight in the fridge.

Kachangma is widely available in Sarawak, sold as dried and chopped in packets. They are cheap at RM2.00 per packet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fresh Cordycep, Medlar Seeds & Honey Date Soup

I bought some fresh cordyceps from the Lip Sin market just last Friday and asked the vegetable lady how to cook it.

I remember clearly the last time I cooked this fresh cordyceps - I went to the Chinese herbalist and got a packet of prepacked herbs to add to the fresh cordyceps. It made a lovely soup.

This time though I wanted to try something else. My vegetable lady told me that it's also good to boil fresh cordyceps with medlar seeds/wolfberry seeds and honey dates.

And I, being the adventurous sort, never say no to a new soup recipe. Yum!

Luckily I had some honey dates in my fridge as well as some leftover medlar seeds. (It's good to stock up on herbs - buy a little of everything and store in jars in the fridge. On any good day, I have dang gui, red dates, honey dates, tao ren, medlar seeds and dried longan which I can use to make anything from soup to sweet dessert! It's my stockpile of Chinese herbs... which is very important, well to me anyway!)

I also had some chicken feet, besides the basic pork bones so I blanched them too.

In a pot of boiling water, add the blanched pork bones and chicken feet together with some fresh cordyceps, a handful of medlar seeds (soaked to re-hydrate) and 3 honey dates. Someone once asked me how much of water is needed for soups and I go for at least 1.5 liters of water. This feeds me and my husband comfortably for 2 meals.

Clockwise from top: honey dates, medlar seeds & fresh cordyceps

Boil on high for 10 minutes, uncovered. Then cover with lid, turn heat down to very low and simmer for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt when it is almost done. Let the soup "sit" to develop flavour for about an hour before you serve. I usually boil the soup around mid-afternoon, 4pm or so and once it's ready by 6pm, I let it 'rest' until 7pm before dinner is served.

In some soups, I add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the saltiness but in this soup, I refrain because the honey dates lend a natural sweetness. Honey dates are sweet so don't go adding anything but salt.

If you cook soups with chicken feet (which is really a favourite with me), remember to scoop off the oil which floats to the top of the soup. Chicken feet are good for the skin as it contains collagen but it is also very oily.

I'll post another recipe on how to cook chicken feet as a main dish later on.... as you can see, I am a big fan of chicken feet (which are really cheap and nutritious). I'm Cantonese, what can I say! I like all those things which people look upon with horror such as pig liver, pig blood, duck blood, chicken feet, chicken intestines, duck tongues and etc. OK, maybe I'm old school but I do so love the dracula stuff!

Until then, try out this soup and let me know if you like it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

American Ginseng Soup

Clockwise from top: dried longan, dried lotus seeds and American ginseng slices

I was wondering what kind of soup to cook this week when I saw a box of American Ginseng in the fridge. It had been sitting there for almost 2 months now. Usually I will use pre-packed herbs for soups but this time around, none were to be found. So American Ginseng it is.

American Ginseng, unlike its cousin, Korean Ginseng, is the best kind of ginseng to brew and drink as it is not cooling nor heaty. Korean Ginseng is very heaty - it is a tonic after all. My 90 year old Grandmother consumes Korean Ginseng to give her strength and warm up her limbs. At the same time, the Korean Ginseng is helping turn her grey hair black - I am not kidding. I saw her with partially black hair and wondered why. Did she dye her hair? My cousin then remarked that her health (and hair) started to improve eversince she started taking Korean ginseng.

But if you are of the heaty type (which means you have a heated blood system), do not overconsume Korean ginseng.

But if you are looking for a mild ginseng which isn't too cooling or heaty, American Ginseng is good enough for weekly use.

I wrote about American Ginseng sometime back so check this post if you want to learn more.

This time, the soup recipe calls for American Ginseng, Dried Longan Flesh and Lotus Seeds.

It was supposed to be boiled with pig's heart and pork but I doubt anyone sells pig heart if it isn't ordered in advance. So I made do with pork bones.

You need:

2 tbsp American ginseng slices
1 handful of dried longan
1 handful of dried lotus seeds (soaked, split into 2 and remove the green pith)
1 bowl pork bones (blanched)
1.5 liter of water

Bring water to a boil. Add in all ingredients and bring to a furious boil for 10 minutes. Cover pot, lower heat to a mere simmer and simmer for 2 hours minimum. Season with salt to taste when soup is almost done. Serve warm.

That's it. I make it a point to boil a little more so I can freeze the rest for days when I need a good soup to warm the body!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Braised Chicken with Bitter gourd

I'm bowled over by everyone's comments! I never knew so many people were reading this blog.

Starting from this post, I will feature more regular recipes apart from soup recipes.

Today, let me share with you a simple chicken recipe. I love eating bitter gourd but not my husband. So if I thinly slice bitter gourd and fry it with egg (as an omelette), the bitterness still lingers.

Using the braising method, I find that bitter gourd is more palatable and easier to eat. Its taste is more mild.

Bitter gourd is a good vegetable for removing heatiness in the body (which is accumulated if you stay up late or have eaten too much meat or have taken one too many alcoholic drinks).

This is a recipe which serves 4 persons well. When I cook this, I cook more so that I can freeze the rest for dinner. It has a touch of gravy so it goes great with rice.

Braised Chicken with Bitter gourd

2 chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size OR 6 pairs of chicken wings - drummets included
1 whole bitter gourd, sliced thickly and with seeds removed (rub with a bit of salt when washing it under running water)
3-4 chilies, sliced thickly (remove seeds)
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
3 slices young ginger, minced fine
1 tablespoon fermented soya bean paste ('tau cheong' in Chinese)

1. Mix garlic, ginger and soya bean paste.
2. Heat up pan with oil. Fry this mix until fragrant.
3. Add in chicken. Coat well with soya bean paste.
4. Add bitter gourd and chillies.
5. Pour in enough water to cover chicken. Bring to a rolling boil, uncovered.
6. Cover pan, bring heat down to a simmer and simmer chicken until tender, about 20 minutes.
7. Season with a little sugar, pepper and soya sauce.
8. Before dishing up, thicken the gravy with 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with a little water.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Get Me 2 Ways Now

Just a quick one: you can now bookmark this blog at

If you type in, you will reach this blog of mine on Blogspot. I know many of you probably have bookmarked this site at Blogspot, but a shorter domain name is always preferable. I know how confusing it is to have a long URL!

As I run a web design business, I always aim to walk the talk whenever I can. Of course I wanted to get the domain but that's already taken up! So what can a soup queen do but buy the next available one, even though it's a .net

I know you come to SoupQueen for soup recipes. I'm a big experimenter in the kitchen and always look out for ways to cook tasty, simple and nutritious meals even if it's only for me and my husband. I'm not the type to resort to instant Cintan or Mamee noodles. No way.

Cooking for me is also a way to spend time with myself. I can talk to myself while I'm stir-frying vegetables or chopping garlic. It helps me unwind and relax especially if I am cooking my favourite dishes.

I'm quite pleased that I am a true blue Cantonese at heart (and I am pretty sure Nic is happy he has a Cantonese wife too) because we Cantonese really take our gastronomy seriously. If food is about love and loving, then we Cantonese are the Casanovas of food!

But it's not automatic - this love of food may run in the genes but unless one has a passion for cooking and eating, nothing will come out of it.

So now, the big question is, would you mind if I introduced some recipes here in addition to my soup recipes?

I know it's the Soup Queen but I think sometimes we need more than soup to fill our tummies.

Would you like to learn how to cook a smashingly simple ginger sesame chicken?

Would you like to learn how to fry squid without it turning rubbery?

Would you like to know what's the best way to keep broccoli from turning yellow and unappetising?

Let me know if you want to see more recipes at Soup Queen. The reason I asked is, I want to share all my recipes but I really don't want to start yet another blog for home-cooked meals and such. As it is, running my business is taking up lots of time. I simply cannot do another blog, though blogging is what I love doing.

But I think, if I can cook quickly at home (give me an hour and I can give you a full meal), I am sure others can appreciate some tips and ideas on cooking. Plus nothing is more heavenly than sitting down to your own home-cooked meal, without MSG or additives. And you know it's hygienic. Best of all, it's also about sitting down to a good meal and bonding as a family.

Cooking isn't hard, no, not at all. You just need the right tools and of course, the right attitude towards food. And it helps if you are a scientist at heart. Because you need to try a bit of this, a bit of that, and if it fails, you note it down and proceed to test the damn recipe again. ;-)

(The reason I am not keen on starting another blog for sharing my home-cooked meal reicpes is that I'm actually working on an ebook version of my soups. I'm going to be just too zonked.)

Soups are more than just liquids, soups are about us and how we translate our love into something so easy to drink up, something that soothes at the end of a tough day, something that says 'I love you' in more than just words.

And mothers are good with soups. Drinking a bowl of painstakingly simmered soup made by our moms remind us that someone cares. And when you bring a bowl of homemade soup to your friend, she'll understand that warmth, goodness and kindness too.

So yeah, please let me know if you want more than just soup recipes. Your comments and feedback will be much appreciated!

Another Simple Vegetarian Soup

OK, OK, I keep going to Than Hsiang Temple for vegetarian meals BUT I also go to check out what vegetarian soups they have. I mean, that's like killing 2 birds with one stone right? On one end, I get to be healthy (by focusing less on meat and more on tofu and greens). On the other, I get some ideas for my vegetarian soup series. Hmmm, what could be better than that?

I always thought that soups made purely with vegetables tasted bland. For the longest time, I thought meat/chicken gave soup such robust tastes. They still do but they also can be oily (skim the oil off before you serve) and for non-meat eaters, a definite put-off if they want a vegetarian version.

I deduced that any soup made with carrot as its core ingredient will be light, clear and delightfully tasty (I opt out of using 'sweet' but that's how we Cantonese describe a light and tasty soup - it's "sweet". The meaning for "sweet" is very distinct from the "sweet" one gets from sugar or honey.)

Another ingredient that helps to add a touch of sweetness and harmony is of course dried red dates, a perennial favourite in every Chinese kitchen. Any herbal soup should have dried red dates as one of its harmonizers.

Last week, I was again at Than Hsiang Temple for lunch. This time, the soup was again truly lipsmackingly good. And it just contained mustard green and carrot!

The mustard green is what we Cantonese call "kai choy". "Kai choy" is the same mustard green with thick, hard stem used in making "chai boey". By itself, "kai choy" can taste bitter. It's usually used in stews and soups which reduces its bitter edge.

I have yet to try making this soup but you can....I peered into the pot of soup and saw this 2 core ingredients. Shouldn't be too hard. Just slice the "kai choy" and chunk the carrots. Put into a pot of water, bring to boil and then cover for a slow simmer of 2 hours. Salt to taste. I think sugar is not needed as the carrots give a natural sweetness to the soup. The more you boil the carrot, the better the soup will taste.

Related post:
If you want to try your hand at cooking 'chai boey', here's the recipe.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chrysanthemum Dessert Soup

Here's a super simple recipe to reduce heatiness and prevent colds. I got this recipe from a Taiwanese TV programme today - yes, so it's fresh!

This dessert soup is not suitable for people with gastric ulcers or weak stomachs as it contains hawthorn, which can be too acidic. If you are serving this to the elderly folk, you can reduce the amount of hawthorn too.

Chrysanthemum Dessert Soup

25 gm honeysuckle or jin yin hua
5 gm licorice
25 gm dried chrysanthemum flowers
15 gm hawthorn
6 bowls of water

Place water and all ingredients into pot of water. Simmer closed for 15 minutes on low heat. Serve warm, sweetened with honey.

* Honey is also a good remedy for constipation. Drink honey if you are constipated.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watercress Soup for Vegetarians

I'm a big fan of watercress because it makes for a delightfully delicious soup. Watercress is big on nutrients too but usually I make the carnivore version - watercress soup with chicken or with pork.

This time though I tried a vegetarian version of watercress soup. I was inspired to cook this soup as I've been visiting Than Hsiang Temple almost weekly now for my vegetarian lunch (one of my resolutions this year is to eat less meat and more veg - not that I am a big meat-eater. I just want to do my part for the environment). I salute those who are vegetarian because it's not easy, well for me at least. I still love fish too much!

So yeah, I made a pot of watercress soup today. And it's suitable for vegetarians.

You need only 3 ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh watercress
(pluck leaves and wash. Do not throw away the hard stems. This will go into the soup too. It'll be too wasteful to throw out the stems when they can add flavour to the soup.You don't have to eat the stems though.)

8-10 dried red dates, de-seeded

Buy unseeded dates and de-seed them yourself. I used to be lazy and thought that buying de-seeded dates would save me time but my mom-in-law said that de-seeded dates were de-seeded in unhygienic ways so it's back to regular dates for me.

1 whole carrot, peeled and cut into chunks

Bring a pot of water (approximately 1.5 litres) to boil.
Add in red dates, carrot and watercress stems.
Boil for 10 minutes on high fire, uncovered.
Lower fire to a simmer and cover pot with lid.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the watercress leaves.
Simmer covered again for another 30 minutes.
Finally, add salt to taste.
Turn off fire and the soup 'rest' for another 10 minutes.(I found that this makes the soup a lot tastier. I wonder why.)
Dish into bowls and serve warm, with rice or on its own.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

3 Minute Soup

This is my lifesaver soup! Doesn't need any boiling and doesn't need anything except some fresh kelp.

I believe that soup should nourish the soul and tummy but like all busy bees these days, I sometimes don't have time to simmer soup for 2 hours. I need to zip in and out and watching the stove can be tedious.

But never fear. If I can make this 3-minute soup, so can you.

It's called Miso. ;-)

My favourite instant soup. It is also great if you are feeling blue and not up for cooking but just want something to keep one's tummy warm.

You can buy miso paste in single-serve packs or you can buy one whole carton of it (around 400 gm). Miso paste is basically fermented soya bean paste ("tau cheong") which we Chinese use often in cooking. I buy my miso paste at Jusco supermarket, RM4.50 for 10 packets of single-serve miso.

Some miso paste have shreds of seaweed or kelp. Some come with bits of mussels. Of course since I don't read Japanese, I look at the graphic on the packaging.

You don't boil miso paste because that would get rid of its good bacteria (it's fermented bean paste, remember? There's live organisms in the paste which is soothing for the stomach and intestines.) In fact, there's a host of vitamins and minerals within miso.

Imagine, miso can help:
* detoxify radioactive substances
* help with anti-ageing
* aid digestion
* detoxification
* control blood pressure
* negate smoking effects and lots more.

Here's how miso is made.

Anyway, here's how you can make miso soup at home.

Bring water to boil. Portion out 1 bowl per person. When water has boiled, take it off the stove. Place 1 tablespoon of miso paste into bowl (1 tablespoon of miso for 1 person). Pour boiling water into the bowl. Mix thoroughly so that the miso paste is well mixed. Add cubed soft tofu and fresh kelp* if you like.

Serve hot. Great on its own or with rice. Oh ya, don't add salt as miso is naturally salty. Remember do not boil miso if you don't want to ruin its taste and destroy its nutrients.

* I was introduced to fresh kelp at the Lip Sin market. It's far pricier than dried kelp (dried kelp is RM1.90 but fresh kelp retails at RM5.50 for a small packet). Fresh kelp must be kept in the chiller or freezer. You can eat it raw or lightly boiled. Before you add into your miso soup, remember to rinse it under running water and slice into bite-size pieces.

I call this my 3-minute soup. Itadake mase!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shark Fin Melon Soup

I made this soup today because I haven't tried this type of melon before (I mean I have not cooked it before). My mom-in-law always makes this soup whenever we are back in Kuching.

It's called Shark Fin Melon or Spaghetti Squash (Cucurbita Ficifolia) because once cooked, the melon really resembles shreds of sharksfin! I confirmed this with the lady who sells vegetables at the Lip Sin market. In Hokkien, it is called Shark Fin Melon.

I bought half a melon because I plan to make a pot of soup for 2 meals. The melon is distinguished by its smooth light green and pale green skin. Almost like a watermelon skin. (See how the whole melon looks like from this blog:

The melon needs to be peeled and cut into chunks. The part which I didn't really relish was removing the seeds! There's a lot of seeds in this melon, even a chunk has about 4-5 seeds. You can be lazy and skip this part (that's what my vege woman said) or you can be a detailed freak (like me) and pry the seeds out one by one! I did that and it wasn't so bad. Consider it meditative! I plan to germinate the seeds and see what happens though I don't have much of a garden and space is a premium in my apartment.

As with my normal soups, I am using pork bones (blanched in boiling water). Into a pot of boiling water, I add these pork bones, 2 slices of ginger and the shark fin melon (cut into fairly large chunks because smaller chunks tend to disintegrate into the soup). Boil on high heat for 10 minutes, then close the pot tightly and simmer on the lowest fire for 2 hours. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Serve hot.

For vegetarians or at least for people like my husband who doesn't eat real shark fin, this melon is a good substitute!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Braised Chicken with White Radish

I know this is not a soup BUT it does taste so good and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. It has a bit of a gravy that goes well with plain rice.

White radish is a versatile root vegetable. You probably have eaten radish in its other forms in Japanese or Korean cuisine. In Korean food, you probably have eaten radish as a spicy kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, you would have been familiar with "daikon" used in Japanese stews or even as a white shredded pile of mush you usually add to the dipping sauce for tempura.

But a word of caution, if you have taken herbal soups such as ginseng a few hours before, you should NOT take anything (soup or otherwise) that is cooked with white radish. White radish detoxes the body of all the goodness that you have just eaten. I once heard that if you have food poisoning, taking white radish is good as it helps flushes out the unwanted from your body.

Anyway, white radish is a vegetable you should eat if you want a clear complexion. Perhaps that's why the Japanese and Korean girls look so radiant and pretty.

This recipe comes from Karen Mok's recipe book. While I am not a big fan of Karen Mok, this recipe is a knockout success each time I've made it. And it has become my husband's favourite dish, among the other favourite dishes like ginger chicken.

You'll need:
2 chicken thighs (remove skin if you're on a lowfat diet, otherwise keep it on; chop into bite-size chunks)
1 medium size white radish, wash, peel skin and cut into chunks
2 slices young ginger
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 sliced red chili (for garnishing)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the white radish. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a separate pan, heat oil. Saute ginger until fragrant. Add chicken and radish. Stirfry for a few seconds before adding water. Add in the fish sauce, rice wine and soya sauce. Bring to a fast boil. Then turn the heat down so that chicken simmers gently for 25 minutes or so (don't let the gravy dry up, add more hot water if you find the gravy disappearing!). Once chicken is tender, dish up and garnish with red chili. You should have a bit of gravy with this dish.

That's it. A quick dish you can make even if you think you don't have time.

Try it and tell me how it went! And of course thanks to Karen Mok for such a simple, delicious dish.

By the way, radish soup is also really good and simple. Just throw some chicken carcasses into a pot of boiling water with some chunks of radish. Add a slice of ginger and some red dates if you want. Simmer 2 hours or so and season with salt at the end of the cooking time. I prefer to add some chicken feet to this soup as I am a chicken feet lover! Radish is also good for the lungs and clearing heat.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Kelp Soup

Discovered how to make a new soup this time during my travel back to my husband's hometown of Kuching, Sarawak.

He used to tell me that his favourite soups were seaweed soups. I always thought seaweed was seaweed until I tried kelp. It's not that I have not heard of kelp before. I had a bad experience a few years back when I tried cooking soup with kelp. It turned out rubbery and to this day, I call it my Tyre Soup because it looked like rubber! Also, it could be that the kelp was "old" and tough.

So this time around, mom-in-law cooked kelp soup and it tasted very much different from mine. In fact, the kelp wasn't rubbery at all. It was soft but still had a bite to it.

Kelp is called 'hai dai' in Chinese or 'kombu' in Japanese. Like most seaweeds, this is a nutrient-packed ingredient. In Kuching, it is sold in dried strips. It is cheap too at RM1.90 per packet.

Remember that a little kelp goes a long way as it expands during cooking. We made the mistake of not cutting them small enough and ended up with huge strips of kelp!

Soak and slice kelp into long strips.

For this kelp soup, I am using chicken carcasses as a base because it complements the lovely, light taste of kelp. If you use pork bones, the flavour might be a tad too heavy.

Use about 1 whole chicken carcass for a soup which feeds 4 persons comfortably. Blanch the carcass to get rid of scum.

Bring a stock pot of water to boil. Add in the chicken and pre-soaked kelp. Also to counter the 'cooling' properties of kelp, add in some smashed young ginger.

Bring to a furious boil for 10 minutes. Lower fire, cover tightly and simmer for 2 hours. Season with salt and let the soup 'rest' before you serve it hot.

Delicious and affordable and full of vitamins and minerals. What more can you ask for in a soup?!

NOTE: Just a note of warning, DO NOT OVERDO IT by eating too much kelp or seaweed. While it is good for health, overeating it (more than 2-3 times a week) can make you feel weak and cold (as seaweeds are cooling anyway). That is why seaweed, if needed, can be cooked with a slice of young ginger (ginger is warming). If you suffer from cold feet (usually happens to women more than men!), do not drink too much of seaweed soup.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Black Date Tea

This is a recipe for a stomach and spleen tonic called Black Date Tea.

In Chinese culture, we have 2 types of dates. Large, black dates and small, red dates. This one uses the big dates called Da Zao.

Black Date Tea

20 black dates
Rock sugar to taste
4 bowls of water

Simmer all ingredients for 20 minutes until water has reduced by half. Drink warm.

Black dates are also called Nan Zao (Southern Dates) although both red and black dates apparently come from the same plant.

While red dates are usually used as a harmoniser for soups, the black date helps tonify the stomach and spleen.

Read and find out more about dates from