Soup has a long history in China. In the 5,000-year history of China, the culture of soup has existed for 3,000 years. ‘Food is the paramount necessity of the people; soup places first in food’ is the actual portrayal of soup culture in China’s history. The world’s oldest recipe was found more than 2,000 years ago in China. It recorded more than 10 kinds of soup, in which, “pigeon egg soup” has had its presence up to now. Whether be a common meal or festive feast, soup is an indispensable dish.
Cantonese say: ‘It is the simplest and most effective way to nurture and nourish the body by taking soup’.
There are many kinds of soup such as light soup, thick soup, cream-like soup and juice soup. From the perspective of food therapy, soup is made up of minimal amount of ingredients or appropriate amount of Chinese health care herbs, and cook with a lot of water to make a soup dish which contains small amount of ingredients but plentiful soup. There are many methods in preparing the soup. The most common ones are cooking with water, steam cooking or simmering. Soup can be made sweet or salty.
The key to prepare a good soup dish lies on the selection of ingredients and their suitable combination. It requires fresh and good quality ingredient or health care herbs, added with accessory food to make a nutritionally balanced, health enhancing and delicious soup. Soup is a good health care supplement for the family and people of all ages, male or female, throughout the year. There are various kinds of health care soup bag available in the market for the convenience of busy urbanite.
How can we select from so many kinds of soup? We can select from the season, efficacy, cuisine and ingredients to make the appropriate soup.
Selection by the season and efficacy
Different seasonal weathers will cause the body to make corresponding changes in nature and ask for different needs to cope with. Just like the animals and plants living in the natural environment, they gestate and grow in spring, breed and ripe in summer, shed leaves and store up in autumn, hibernate and fade in winter. We all need to absorb different kinds of nutrients to maintain growth during different seasons.
|Seasonal weathers||Body change in nature||Health care method|
In springtime, the weather is humid and turns to sudden cold or warm unpredictably. It is a thriving season of germs and virus.
|The human body is susceptible to respiratory problems, ailments such as rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis, or, suffering from pandemic virus.||Strengthen the body to enhance immunity, at the same time nourish the liver to eliminate dampness. It may worsen the condition of rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis because of liver and kidney deficiency or weak ‘qi’. Select soups effective for nourishing the liver and dewetting.|
In summertime, the weather is hot, humid and rainy.
|In hot and humid weather, the human body is easier to get spleen and stomach problems such as indigestion or loss of appetite.||Refresh the body by eliminating dampness so that it is not affected by heat and wetness. Chinese medicine suggests to heal winter diseases in summer, i.e., make use of the hot weather in summer when ‘yang qi’ is abundant to heal frequent winter diseases such as tracheal or lung diseases.Select soups good for dewetting and refreshing.|
In the dry season of autumn, the weather turns to sudden cold or warm unpredictably.
|The human body is easily affected by the dry weather to incur ailments like coughing and sore throat. If the immune system is weak, old illness may recur.||Prevent dryness and store up moisture to safeguard the body from dry weather’s influence. Select soups having moisturizing effect.|
In wintertime, cold and dry weather slows down metabolism of the body.
|It is preferred to eat and drink for purpose of “store up heat energy” during cold weather. The spleen and stomach are easily get hurt because of over intake of food, causing the body to accumulate heat.||Apply the “Storage” principle, i.e., the human body should grasp this good opportunity to take a rest and restore vital energy, enhance physical strength and nourish kidney. Select soups having nourishing effect.|
Selection by cuisine:
There are many ways to make soups. The most common one is cooking with water, or, by way of steam cooking or simmering.
|Ordinary soup||Cook ingredients in a lot of water to make the soup. Because of using simpler ingredients and lesser Chinese herbs, it takes about 45 min. - 1 hr. to make the soup with light flavour.|
|Slow cooked soup||Cook ingredients in a lot of water to make the soup. Because of plentiful ingredients and mostly added with Chinese herbs and accessory food, it takes about 4 - 5 hrs. to finish the cooking. Most of the ingredients dissolve in the soup making it become turbid and taste sweet and thick. The advance function of modern cook pot allows cooking time to be shortened to 2 - 3 hrs.|
|Soup prepared by Steam cooking or simmering||Put ingredients in the container, add enough water and accessory food, cover up with the lid and put into a steamer for steam cooking, or, put in a double boiler for simmering until the ingredients become soft and mashy. Since the ingredients consist mainly of precious Chinese herbs or accessory food such as bird’s nest and hashima which are not sustainable to high heat, the cooking time needs 5 - 6 hrs. The advance function of modern cook pot allows cooking time to be shortened to 3-4 hrs.|
Selection by ingredients:
The key to prepare a good soup lies on the selection of ingredients and their suitable combination. There are lots of ingredients for making soups and the most common ones are listed below:
|Meat||Pork, chicken, beef, mutton, fish||Make the soup sweet and nutritious|
|Vegetables||Carrot, melon and fruit||Make the soup sweet and rich in fibre|
|Dried seafood||Dried mushroom, dried scallop, fish maw||Good for preserving health, make the soup sweeter and more delicious, thick in taste|
|Accessory food||Dried longan, dates, yam, red meddar berry||Good for preserving health|
|Precious ingredients||Bird’s nest, cordyceps, American ginseng||Good for preserving health|
The efficacy of soup depends on the ingredients used and their combination. Common soups can be divided into 4 main efficacies: preserving health, beautifying complexion, nourishing the heart and body strengthening.
Soup for preserving health:
It is mainly considered from the perspective of seasonal needs, such as: spring – soup that can nourish the liver and eliminate dampness; summer – soup that can eliminate dampness and refresh; autumn – soup that can moisturize; winter – soup that can give nourishment.
Soup for beautifying complexion:
Soup is welcomed by women all the year round because of its complexion beautifying effect. Dry weather accelerates moisture running off from the skin, making the skin dry and lacking moisture, thus incurs formation of wrinkles or skin cracks. Complexion beauty soups such as bird’s nest soup and fish maw soup nourish skin and ‘yin’. It moisturizes and strengthens the lung which masters the skin and hair. A weak lung will lead to pale skin lacking luster.
Soup for nourishing the heart
Heart nourishing soup is most effective to the elderly and people under heavy pressure. The sentiment of people will change following the change of weather. For instance, the natural phenomenon of perished grass and falling leaves, withered trees and flowers easily leads to distress on people (especially the elderly). The stresses and strains, heavy workload or academic pressure of the intense social life create sleepless nights for urbanite. Soups that have tranquilizing effect can help improve sleep quality, soothe tinnitus annoyance and irritable temper.
Soup for strengthening the body
The soup aims at strengthening the body and improving immunity. For instance, Chinese medicine suggests to heal winter diseases in summer, i.e., make use of the hot weather in summer when ‘yang qi’ is abundant to heal frequent winter diseases such as tracheal or lung diseases. Apply “Storage” principle in winter, i.e., the human body should grasp this good opportunity to take a rest and restore vital energy, enhance physical strength and nourish kidney.
There is a great variety of health soup packs available in the market. The more popular types are listed below:
|Light soup pack||Mainly adopt simple combination of ingredients such as: dried mushroom, burdock, etc. It takes only about 45 min. -1 hr. to make a light fragrant soup. Especially suitable to busy urbanite or working people. Only simple preparation work is required.|
|Healthy soup pack||Consist of a lot more ingredients and mostly added with Chinese herbs and accessory food such as: fish maw, shark bone, American ginseng, etc. It takes about 2 – 3 hours to make a sweet and thick soup. Especially suitable to the health care of families and any age group of either gender.|
|Premium soup pack||Consist of plentiful and precious ingredients and mostly added with Chinese herbs and accessory food such as: shark fin, shark bone, sapodilla, dendrobii, etc. It takes about 2-3 hrs. to make a sweet and thick nourishing soup. Especially suitable to the health care of big families or for festive feast.|
|Instant soup pack||Rich selection of ingredients are boiled and stewed with high heat retaining the original delicious taste of the ingredients in the soup which is sweet and thick. Health is nourished by the rich ingredients. It only takes a few minutes of reheating for you to enjoy this nourishing soup. Especially suitable to busy urbanite so that they can replenish their body anytime.|
1.There are too many health care ingredients and accessory food for us to choose. How can we select and make correct combination?
Select ingredients according to personal needs. A list of several popular Chinese herbs and their respective efficacies is given below for your reference:
|Health care effects||Health care ingredients|
|Strengthen the spleen and stomach, tranquilize and replenish blood||Eucommia, Candied dates, Dried longan, Officinalis|
|Strengthen the spleen and nourish ‘qi’, diuresis and relieve swelling||Astragalus, Yam, Atractylodes, Dang Shen|
|Nourish ‘yin’ and blood, invigorate blood circulation and regulate menses||Angelica, Black fungus, Red Meddar Berry|
|Strengthen the spleen and nourish lung, moisturize and relieve tendon||Radix fici|
2.Why most of the health care ingredients, accessory food or Chinese herbs have to be soaked first before cooking?
Most of the ingredients are predry and their outer skin is covered with a layer of horny cells. After soaking, these cells will absorb water and expand, releasing the effective constituents of the ingredients after cooking. If these cells are heated without presoaked, they will become hardened and the constituents contained in the ingredients will be locked up, effectiveness will thus be lowered.
3.How to control the intensity of heat when making ordinary soup or slow cooked soup?
Boil a pot of water with high heat. Add in ingredients and wait for about 10 min.until the water is boiled. Turn to low heat and continue cooking. Try not to add water in the middle of cooking. Only add boiled water if necessary.
4.What should we pay attention when selecting instant health soup pack?
Select instant health soup pack that does not contain monosodium glutamate, preservatives or artificial colouring but contains rich ingredients.
5.Select instant health soup pack that does not contain monosodium glutamate, preservatives or artificial colouring but contains rich ingredients.
Certainly, most of the nutrients in the soup will stay in the ingredients. Therefore, you can get the most of the nutrients if you eat the ingredients while drinking the soup.