Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Lotus root soup 莲藕烫

When I was growing up, we would have soups at dinner time once or twice a week. My family is Cantonese and slow-cooked soup, or lo foh tong (老火湯) is a Cantonese specialty. The soup is usually a clear broth produced by simmering meat and other ingredients for several hours (usually 3 to 4 hours but up to 6 hours). Chinese medicinal herbs are often added to the pot, the most popular of which are dates (红枣), wolfberry/goji berry (枸杞子) and jade bamboo (玉竹).

Lotus root

Lotus root soup (莲藕烫) is a soup that we have quite frequently. The actual ingredients vary a bit from time to time. Sometimes raw peanuts are added, and sometimes whole dried shitake mushrooms. But the essential ingredients are pork and lotus root. Lotus root is the root portion of the lotus plant. The plant grows in ponds with the flowers, stems and leaves above the water and the roots below the water. Every part of the plant can be used in cooking, either as ingredients or as cooking tools. When cut in cross-section, the root portion look like wheels.

Sliced lotus root

Lotus root is often used in Chinese cooking, especially in vegetarian dishes. It is crunchy even after long hours of cooking and it does not have a strong flavour on its own. Lotus root can be used raw in salads, deep fried as tempura or chips, stir-fries, and of course in chinese soups.

Traditionally, pork ribs is used in this soup. But to produce a less oily soup, I tend to use either shoulder or loin cuts. I like to add carrot to the soup for extra sweetness.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

250g lean pork ribs or chops
1 lotus root, about 2-3 sections
1 large or 2 small carrots (optional)
2 dried honey dates (蜜枣)
6-8 dried red dates (红枣)
1.5 litres water
Salt to taste

Ingredients for lotus root soup

1. Wash and clean the lotus root of any mud and dirt. Remove the outer skin with a vegetable peeler, or scrub thoroughly (treat it like a potato). Cut the roots cross-wise so that they look like wheels. Peel the carrots and cut them up roughly.
2. Place the pork in a large bowl or pot and pour boiling water over it. Let sit for a few minutes. Rinse with clean water. This essential step removes excess fat, any strange 'porky' flavour and makes for a cleaner tasting soup.
3. Combine the pork, lotus roots, carrots, honey dates, red dates and boiling water in a large pot. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down to a low simmer. The soup will be ready in about 2 hours, but I like to cook mine long and slow for at least 3-4 hours.
4. About 5-10 minutes before serving, season to taste with some salt.

Lotus root soup 莲藕烫

Tip: Since traditional Cantonese soups require long hours of cooking over low heat, they are particularly well suited to the slow cooker or crockpot. Just place all the ingredients (except salt) into your slow cooker, put it on Low or Auto setting and leave it for the day. You can do this in the morning before going to work, or around lunch time if you are at home. Hot and nourishing soup will be waiting for you by dinner time. Season to taste with salt and serve.


VeggieGirl said...

Beautiful soup and memories attached to it!!

the ever lovable said...

Just another Singapore girl in Vancouver saying Hi to you!!

Alex said...

Wow, those roots look like miniature loofahs! And the finished soup looks delish.

The Nomadic Gourmet said...

beautiful photography

kris said...

This is one of my favorite soup that my mom made. Her's is pretty similar except she didn't have the dates. She would sometimes add dried soy beans and peanuts!

Asian Food Gallery said...

my wife love this lotus root soup very much, definitely will love to see how this soup is beautifully presented.

Hi, I am Jon Looi, nice meeting u and ur site

Greg said...

Congratulations for getting this on both FG and TS! And deservedly so. Very nice photos and great soup!

didally said...

I like this soup a lot too. I like them with peanuts.

danny kwok said...

new idea! been a while since I drank that. love soup too. slow cooker is best for this!

Nilmandra said...

Veggiegirl: Good memories make good food taste even better :)

The Ever Lovable: Hi to you too! Thanks for dropping by :)

Alex: Hmmm I've never thought of loofah. I guess in some ways!

The Nomadic Gourmet: Thanks!

Kris: I have heard of those ingredients too. It is one of those soups that people adapt to their own taste, and it's more special that way :)

Asian Food Gallery: Thanks for the comment. I'll will check out your gallery too.

Greg: Thanks! I try my best with the photos :)

Didally: My mum makes them with peanuts too. Unfortunately my husband does not eat nuts, not even in soups. Hmph.

Danny: Do give it a go if you find some lotus roots where you are.

Beachlover said...

this is one of my favourite soup!! I love it with dried cuttlefish (tiu pin) flavor!! yummy!!

Parker said...

Those are really great looking, I've never seen lotus root. Beautiful photos.

noobcook said...

I love lotus root soup very much. Your close ups are lovely. I must try to simmer it for a few hours next time for extra favour :)

Anonymous said...

this is one of my favorite soups-but without the dates or carrot--just with giant chunks of ginger :)

Phoebe said...

Thank you for the 莲藕烫 recipe

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