Winter nourishment

By Li Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-11 5:03:02

Nutritious dishes to fight off the cold

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Soup is a very different beast when it comes to Chinese cuisine versus its Western counterpart.

Western meal tends to start off with soup whereas a Chinese meal tends to end with it. But the sequence isn't the only difference. 

While both clear and thick soups are common in the West, most Chinese soups tend to be of the clear variety. 

Soup has a long tradition in China and over the centuries many different regions in the country have developed their own particular tastes when it comes to how they like their soup prepared. 

Chinese living in the north, such as the Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces, prefer to filling up on rice before having soup, because they believe it's more important to fill their stomachs with solid food first and then use soup to fill up any spaces that are left over in their tummies before the meal finishes.

This is especially true when guests are in the house. Letting people fill up on soup comes across as a bit rude and inhospitable to northern Chinese, who have a reputation nationwide for being generous and hospitable.

Chinese in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong particularly love soup. Soup is such a big part of Cantonese cuisine that they have developed many different ways to prepare soup and pretty much anyone who knows how to cook knows how to make a decent soup for their family.

Ingredients for southern soups range from poultry from meat and fish to herbs and Chinese medicine. 

Chinese living in Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province and Shanghai also enjoy soup, but tend to be less particular when it comes to ingredients. A few eggs and some pickles is more than enough for them to make a nice soup.

Chinese medicine believes winter is the time to replenish oneself. A saying goes "One who replenishes themselves in winter, can beat a tiger in spring."

Because our metabolisms slow down in winter, eating more nutritious foods helps give the body the energy it needs and enhances our immune systems.

There are tons of recipes for nutritious soups that can help get you through the winter.

Here are some examples of classic Chinese soups that are healthy as well as tasty.

Silkie chicken, jujube & wolfberry soup

As the name implies these are the three ingredients for this soup.

Compared to common chicken meat, silkie meat contains more protein and vitamins, like vitamin E, iron, zinc and sodium, but less fat and cholesterol.

More importantly, in Chinese medicine, silkie meat is great for your health, especially women who are having a difficult time during their menstrual periods.

Ingredients: Half or whole silkie chicken, 20 jujubes, 40 grams of wolfberries and two slices of ginger.

Step 1: Wash the chicken and remove the feathers and internal organs (many supermarkets will do this for you). Boil the chicken in water for five minutes and remove.

Step 2: Soak the wolfberries in warm water for a few minutes, wash them and remove from water.

Step 3: Wash the jujubes and ginger. Remove the pits from the jujubes and slice the ginger.

Step 4: Pour clean water into a clay pot and bring it to a boil. Add ingredients and boil for 2-3 hours.

If you are comfortable with Chinese medicine like huangqi, adding a few slices is a also a great choice.

This soup is great for combating lethargy and dry skin.

Pork rib soup

Besides protein, fat and vitamins, bones contain substantial amounts of calcium and bone collagen. As the saying goes: You are what you eat. So having some bone soup is of course really good for your bones, which makes it the ideal meal for growing children and the elderly.

This is especially true for those over 50, who may be dealing with the brittle bones that come with age. Drinking soup from boiled bone can help strengthen bones and slow down the ageing process.

There are a great many vegetables that go great with pork rib soup, the main thing you have to get right is the pork ribs themselves.

Ingredients: Pork ribs 500 grams, scallion 5 grams, ginger 2.5 grams, star anises 1 gram, your favorite vegetables 400 grams.

Step 1: Chop the pork ribs into small pieces and boil for a few minutes. When you see a layer of foam floating on the surface, remove it with a ladle. This foam is formed from the blood in the meat. As such, this step is meant to help clean the blood from the meat and bones, which not only prevents the soup from smelling bad, but also helps the broth to be clearer. Remove pork from the water.

Step 2: Cut your scallions into 3 to 4 pieces, shred a few pieces of ginger and prepare 3 to 4 pieces of star anises. Put these in a fresh pot of boiling water along with the pork ribs and boil for about an hour on low heat.

Step 3: The pork ribs should become tender after this time. There are a couple of vegetables that go great with pork ribs, such as white gourds, seaweed or corn.

Pig's feet soup

While pig's feet may seem a bit weird to some Westerners, it is actually a very common ingredient in Chinese cuisine.

Actually, pig's feet contain substantial amounts of collagen, which is great for improving the elasticity of skin and keeping it hydrated. This is precisely why many Chinese girls love eating pig's feet.

Soybeans are commonly seen as going great with pig's feet.

Ingredients: pig's feet 1 kilogram, soybean 500 grams.

Step 1: Make sure you have the market remove any hair from the pig's feet, otherwise it'll be really difficult to do it yourself.

Step 2: Just like the pork ribs, also boil the pig's feet in hot water for a few minutes and remove the foam floating on the surface of the soup.

Step 3: The soybeans have to be soaked in water for over an hour before adding them to the soup to cook, otherwise they will turn out really dry and chewy.

Step 4: Add the pig's feet, soybeans, scallions, cooking wine, to the hot water and boil for an hour.

Salt can be added when the soup is done.

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