The first thing I crave whenever I'm back home from a trip is some Chinese-style, home-brewed soup that's been simmered with tons of goodies. Each spoonful of the clear, clean elixir promising to nourish my well-worn, over-taxed digestive system and to purge out the excess toxins that have accumulated from an 8-planned-meals-a-day itinerary. The woes of having an intense, passionate love affair with food. Ah, but there are way worse addictions to be involved with...
Old Cucumber Soup is "cooling", meaning it provides some yin to our bodies to balance any excess heat or yang. And if you've been eating wok-fried/charcoal-cooked dishes almost every meal and wandering on foot under the hot sun, the scales are definitely tipping on the far side of yang. The aged cucumber is also supposedly a beauty food - doing wonderful, magical, clear-y things for our skin... A girl can hope, can she?
The recipe,along with tons of other home-style dishes, can be found in my cookbook here. Instead of using an excerpt from the book, I'll be talking you through the steps casually. So here's the recipe. Ish.
Procure some pork ribs or soft pork bones from a trusted meat source. You'll need 500g of them. Boil them in a saucepan of water for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing the scum to rise and to seal the meat. This will ensure a clearer tasting broth later on. Wash and rinse the blanched meat. Place the cleaned meat in a large stockpot or claypot.
For the star of the show - you'll need 1 old cucumber, scrubbed and cleaned. Slice it in half lengthwise, scooping out & discarding the seeds with a spoon. Cut the old cucumber into large-ish chunks, with the skins still on. This will prevent the cucumber from disintegrating as your soup cooks. Besides, the skin is where the true power is seated - nutrients AND flavour.
Now, on to the goodies that will be boosting your soup with some intense savoury-sweet notes! You can use any combination of dried seafood you fancy. For this, I used 6 dried scallops and dried conch/whelk - I had a really large & thick piece of conch from HK given to me by Caecilia, so I only used half of it. Add the rinsed & cleaned dried seafood into your pot, topping the entire thing up with water, roughly 2 litres of, along with 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt. (I use Morton's)
Let the entire thing come to a boil and simmer over low heat for at least a few hours. I usually let mine go for about 5 hours, by which time the soup will be reduced and concentrated in flavour, while the soft meat will yield to your touch. Now, time to add in 2 tablespoons of goji berries and some Chinese red dates. I ran out of red dates and didn't add them here today, all's still good. If using the red dates, add about 6 to 8 of them, de-seeded. Let it go on for another 15 minutes for the sweetness to be extracted from the dates and berries. Do a final adjustment for seasoning and when you're happy, it's done. Consume piping hot, visualising a clearer complexion as you down each spoonful of this clear elixir.....