Pork Rib Soup

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain was onto something then. Bay area weather is unlike anything one would expect. Merely 2 weeks ago, temperatures were in the high 70s, daring some souls to meekly bring out t-shirts and flip flops, tempting the fickle clouds. This past week had all running back to Uggs and recycled fleece, heaters kicking into gear. The thing about making soup over a stove is that it warms up the kitchen and living room quite nicely, at the same time filling the house with homely aromas. Sweet corn is coming into season here (10 for $5), and sweet corn is my middle name. This is a clear soup, naturally sweetened by rib bones, dried cuttlefish and sweet corn. Root vegetables offset the pork protein. Gogi berries are not usually added but they were in my pantry. They are the cause of the slightly reddish tinge in this otherwise colourless soup.

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1 lb pork back ribs
2 carrots, coined
2 ears of fresh corn, broken into 3″ sections
1 lb winter melon, cubed
1 potato, cubed
(optional) 1 dried cuttlefish, for flavouring
(optional) Handful gogi berries

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1. Blanch pork ribs. This will ensure the soup is clear and free of debris.
2. Bring a fresh pot of water boil. Place blanched ribs and cuttlefish into boiling water.
3. When pork is nearly cooked through, add carrots, potatoes and gogi berries for about 2 minutes.
4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add soy sauce to taste if desired.
5. Add winter melon and increase heat for 3 minutes till melon is just cooked through. This delicate root turns becomes bitter when overcooked.

Serves 4


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Winter melon (冬瓜 dong gua) soup

These pale-fleshed, spongy gourds are commonly eaten during winter. Low in calories, it has a mild and refreshing taste. A week ago, the Asian supermarket was selling 2-lb slices at incredibly reasonable prices, despite being an unusual crop for this time of year. I was recovering from a bout of ‘heatiness'(阳 yang); this ‘cooling'(阴 yin) gourd in a clear soup was just the ticket. Nonetheless, I added a bit of ginger(阳) into the soup to balance the yin(阳). The seeds, which can be candied, and often eaten during Chinese New Year, are easily scooped out with a spoon before cooking. This is a versatile plant; nearly every part can be eaten except for the skin and roots.

Winter melon soup.a

2lb winter melon, skin and seeds removed and cubed
2lb pork bones for stewing
2lb chicken bones for stewing or 2tbsp chicken stock powder
3 stalks celery, cut into 1″ chunks
1 carrot, cut into rough chunks or faux tourné
1 dried scallop, softened in hot water and separated
1″ ginger, sliced lengthwise
1 shallot, sliced lengthwise

Luncheon meat, cubed or Ham, cut into strips
Cilantro, finely chopped

1. Blanch pork bones to remove foam and rinse quickly.
2. Place pork and chicken bones in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
3. Add carrots, celery, scallop, ginger and shallot.
4. Boil for about 20 minutes.
5. Add winter melon and cook till transparent.
6. Garnish with ham and cilantro to serve.

Serves 4


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Sweet corn soup with luncheon meat

I’m on the lookout for quick, savory lunches using whatever is on hand. I don’t usually keep a fully stocked kitchen, so this exercise often ends up with some interesting results. I also wanted something that I could freeze for future lunches. A sort of Smoky Corn Chowder was what I had in mind. I also recently harvested spring leaves from a couple of shallots that I had planted in winter and wanted to use that. Bacon would have been ideal for this soup but I didn’t have any, but I always have luncheon meat.

Whole kernal corn, canned or fresh
1 can cream of chicken
1/3 cup luncheon meat, cubed
Sweet (taiwan or napa) cabbage leaves
1 cup water
Spring onions
Pinch of pepper

Serves 3

Bring all ingredients to a boil, except cabbage and spring onions.
Add cabbage when soup has come to a rolling boil.
When cabbage has softened, snip spring onions into the soup.
sweet corn soup with luncheon meat

Hamburger stew

It’s a cold day and I was yearning for something warm and comfortable. I’d come across The Pioneer Woman’s Hamburger Soup a few days ago and it has been lingering in my mind. A peek in my fridge revealed that a simple adaptation could serve, without a trip to the grocery store. Beef and tomatoes are the mainstays, you can pretty much any sort of vegetables to it, a great way to use up those leftovers. By the way, if you have not seen it, Ree Drummond writes an entertaining blog called “The Pioneer Woman”.

1 lb ground beef
1 potato, cubed
1 carrot, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
½ zucchini (this was leftover from something else)
 ½ onion, diced
1 can tomatoes, regular or stewed or herbed versions
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
½ can corn, creamed or whole
1 tbsp garlic
A handful of raisins
Oregano to season
Salt and pepper

Serves 6

Saute garlic and onions till fragrant.
Add beef and cook till beef is barely pink.
Add carrots, then peppers.
Add in canned tomatoes. Break tomatoes into smaller pieces if they are in large slices or halves.
Add zucchini.
Toss in raisins.
Finally add in creamed corn and potatoes and cook tastes blend together.
Season with oregano, salt and pepper.
Serve over hot rice or on its own.

Tip: Raisins add surprising punches of sweetness.
Tip: Sun-dried tomatoes gives it a more intense flavour.

Sweetcorn & Beancurd Soup

2 cakes bean curd, cut into cubes
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp sherry
900 ml (1½ pints) chicken stock
250 g (8 oz) prawns, peeled
1 can sweetcorn
salt & pepper
chilli flakes or cayenne pepper (leave this out if you don’t want it spicy)

125 g chicken breast, cooked & minced or
50 g (2 oz) ham, diced

Serves 4 – 6

Mix ginger, sherry and prawns together.
Bring stock to boil. Stir in prawn mixture.
Add drained sweetcorn and beancurd and add to pot.
Salt/pepper to taste. Add chilli flakes or cayenne pepper.
Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with ham or chicken and chives.