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