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Chinese Winter Melon 'Slow Fire' Soup ~ 冬瓜老火汤

Saturday, September 03, 2011 | Labels: , , , , |

It's been awhile since I have featured one of my absolute favourite Chinese comfort foods, the ever-nourishing and soothing slow-fire soup or 老火汤 for those of you who read Chinese.  Slow-fire soups are a genre of soups usually Cantonese in origin and as the name implies, you have to boil or rather simmer this soup for hours before it is considered done.  Usually there will be a kind of protein, a meat of some sort, chicken or pork are popular choices, boiled with a type of vegetable or even peanuts all combined with a myriad of Chinese dried goodies including dried scallops, red dates, maybe a herb or two and the list goes on.  For today, I am presenting the classic favourite of winter melon soup and you know what? I find that no matter where I am living, while suffering the humid heat in Malaysia OR while living in cooler weather in the US and UK, slow-fire soups are welcome anytime or maybe is it just me and my crazy soup-loving ways?

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Anyways, the main 'star' of this soup is the winter melon, apart from the soothingly mild flavours it gives, I love eating the melon wedges as well.  I prefer to use chicken with winter melon instead of pork as I think chicken provides a slightly 'cleaner' and clearer flavour profile while the Chinese Yunnan smoked ham, dried scallops and red dates provide perfect savoury accents to this traditional Chinese soup.  The Chinese believe that these slow-fire soups are not just soups but are more like tonics.  This again comes back to the concept of balance in one's body as the Chinese believe - winter melon soup is thought to bring down heat in one's body and so is especially suitable in the hot weather although I must admit, for me, this is an all-weather comfort food.  It is also incredibly easy to put together, you just need to put all the ingredients in one pot and simmer for a few hours - how easy is that?  Of course, do keep watch on the simmering soup just in case AND never add additional water while boiling which will be a guaranteed way of irreversibly messing up your precious soup :O. 

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Serves 6

Ingredients:

12 cups of water
1 winter melon, skin removed and cut into wedges
3/4 cup worth of dried scallops 干贝, rinsed quickly
1 free range chicken, skin removed
5 red dates, seeds removed
Sliced green onions, for garnish (optional)
2 inches worth of dried Chinese Smoked Yunnan Ham(云南火腿)

Method:

Firstly, blanch the chicken quickly in boling water to remove impurities.  Remove from the water as soon as the surface turns white which will just take a flash.  Discard water and set chicken aside.

In a large soup pot (I use a large claypot), place all the ingredients inside, add the water and bring to a boil, covered.  Once boiling rapidly,  turn heat to low and allow to simmer but allow some space for the steam to escape by tilting the cover a little.  I have to do this as my clay pot does not have a big enough vent but please adjust accordingly.  Simmer for at least 5 hours.  Do a taste test and and salt if you wish but usually with slow-fire soups that have been cooked this long, all the natural savoury flavours from the ingredients will be adequate and there is no need to add salt.  Your soup is ready. 

Ladle the soup into invidual soup bowls.  Garnish with some green onions if you wish.  Serve piping hot!

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11 comments:

Tresdelicious said...

Such a delectable appetizing soup. I want this chinese soup, can't wait to prepare that.

Kelvin said...

This is good stuff! Although I always use those prepared sachets :p 

Tastes of Home (Jen) said...

thanks! hope you'll like it.

Tastes of Home (Jen) said...

Yes indeed! Prepared sachets are great when you're short on time :D But, you'll still have to get the winter melon no?

Kelvin said...

Yup! And chicken or pork. 

Tastes of Home (Jen) said...

oh yeah, I totally forgot those ha

Smallkucing said...

yumm....very tasty soup. I love it. Normally i would use pork and add some dried squid But then i guess it would give it a differnt taste

Tastes of Home (Jen) said...

ahh yes, I've tried with pork and squid too, while slightly different still tasty! :D

Steph Lim said...

I cooked this soup last week in a slow cooker but without the Smoked Yunnan Ham. I find it hard to buy in Australia, is it commonly sold in the US?

I also find that a whole chicken gives me too much meat and I'll generally take a lot of it out (I prefer a soup with mostly vegies). Thanks for all the slow-fire soup recipes, I really enjoy reading them.

Tastes of Home (Jen) said...

Hi Steph, how long did you cook it in the slow cooker? I have not used a slow cooker in years :) Oh not really, in some really large China towns maybe but when I lived in the US, I brought the ham over from Malaysia. Also, smoked Virginia ham could be a good substitute :) Glad you like my slow fire soup recipes, they are like my ultimate comfort food....on the whole chicken in my recipes, perhaps it also depends on the size of your chicken? The free range chickens I find are usually on the small side but yes, please do tailor according to your preferences.

Xiaolu said...

Ah I love these soups from childhood.  Unfortunately, I don't eat them anymore since I don't eat most meat but my mom makes other, less rich, veggie or seafood winter melon soups as well.  The texture of winter melon that's been cooked like this is amazing.

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