Shenzhen Ren on Cantonese soup

Shenzhen Ren comes up with an excellent post about a subject of which I know quite a lot – the famed soups of Guangdong. Particularly the ones prepared with Chinese medicine:

One of the under-appreciated varieties of Chinese food is the soup they make here in Guangdong. It’s a specialty, and I don’t know all the secrets, but one important point, maybe THE most important, is that they’re made with Chinese “medicine”. Now, I don’t mean bear gallstones or deer penis, nothing exotic like that, but there is a selection of roots, berries, and….substances….added that is actually healthful, and I can tell the difference. Call it a tonic effect, but I do seem to suffer less exhaustion or stomach upset if I eat the Guangdong soups regularly. There’s a gnarly root sort of thing, and something that looks like a thin slice of wood, some little red raisin-like things (I think they’re Chinese wolfberries), and some smaller stalks that are all included.

Guangdong soups are boiled for many hours. Traditionally, in huge soup kettles which usually stood outside of the restaurant, though such a sight is rare these days. The deep meaty flavour of the soups mainly comes from the long boiling of animal bones, as well as the addition of vegetables, roots and herbs. Small blocks of congealed pigs and chickens blood are probably the most common “unidentifiable” floating in the soups.

When in Guangdong, always go for soup – they are consistently excellent. As well as medical soups, also try the medicinal wine – alcohol with traditional medicine added for up to several years. If you have a small medical complaint (upset stomach, tiredness, insomnia etc.) be assured that traditional restaurants will have a remedy. It normally works as well.

The Discussion: 10 Comments


….now all night I’m going to dream of the Mock Turtle, singing,

“Soo—oop of the e-e-vening,
beautiful, beautiful soup!…..”

(Alice in Wonderland, chapter ten)

November 20, 2005 @ 7:07 am | Comment

Oh alright, here’s the rest:

Soup of the evening, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop? …
Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish,
game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth of beautiful soup?
Soooooup of the eeeevening,
Beauuuuutiful sooooooup….

November 20, 2005 @ 7:11 am | Comment

You know what, although Guangdong soup is extremely tasteful, this cooking habit has been criticized for some years because Cantonese eat a lot less meat (protein) for drinking too much soup. And they often think the essence of meat is already in the soup, so that meat can be discarded. Another reason is that the soups usually have a tremendous meaty flavor, so that they don’t have desire to eat more meat:)

As a result, Cantonese young kids in the family who like eating a lot of soups are thinner and shorter than those who like eating meat directly:)

Of course the statistics could be wrong. However if it’s true, probably I can open up chain stores in US to help those fat kids later ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, still have to pass FDA examination for using those Chinese medicines first:(

November 20, 2005 @ 9:44 am | Comment

Ah yes, the famous Cantonese “bao tang” (煲汤).

Dammit, now I’m hungry…

Speaking of soups, anyone hear about Xi’an’s hundred-year soups? True or apocryphal?

November 20, 2005 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

That’s funny, lin!

I always tell first time visitors, “no matter what wierd foods you’re presented with, always eat the soups. If you can’t bear to look at the floaties, at least drink the broth.”

I got a packet of the ready-made medicines, and made my own pai gu tang at home yesterday. Pretty damn good for a beginner! Now there’s a different combination for “black chicken soup” I want to try, but Lily tells me it’s a summertime dish.

November 20, 2005 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Supposedly, any respectable Cantonese femme au foyer who doesn’t know how to make a mean bao tang or two is not worth her salt. Sort of like the Korean housewives with kimchi.

November 20, 2005 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

MMM i want some shark fin soup! Turtle soup.

November 30, 2005 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

Being a Cantonese, I find the comment that the unidentified things floating in the soup to be “small blocks of congealed pigs and chicken blood” to be ignorant and insulting. If you bother to ask your chinese or cantonese friends what goes into these soups, you will know that this is ridiculous. The secret to the broth is simply the use of pork and chicken bone and meat. You can also choose herbs and roots to add “top-notes” of flavour to the soup and, more importantly, to give it certain tonic properties. (Yes, wolfberries are very common and they are called gei tzi in the local vernacular) The key difference between cantonese and western soup-making technique is simply that there is a far greater use of heat in cantonese soups, which gives it a milky quality and a mouthfeel which is heavier than a simmered soup. (There are, of course, light cantonese soups which are simmered, but these are another style altogether and more commonly used for herbal soups) I hope this helps to clarify what goes into these soups.

December 1, 2005 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

I love pig blood/ chicken blood in soup! But i can’t get these suop in Chinatown. you can only get to eat blood in Black pudding or hagis.

December 1, 2005 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Finall some information!! Reading the great book ‘swallowing clouds’ on chinese cousine, culture, and characters, i got courious about the cantonese soups but can not find much information on them. Where can you eat them in Beijing? Where can you get the packaged ingredients to make them in Beijing? Can anyone suggest a good book on these soups and how to make them?

January 1, 2006 @ 8:07 am | Comment

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