As the weather continues to cool down, I find myself cooking soup almost everyday. It is wonderful to start a meal with a sip of soup as it warms up the body and whets the appetite. These soups are usually clear meat broths to go with our rice based meals. Vegetables like lotus root and herbs may be added for a range of flavors. They are very easy to prepare requiring few ingredients and little prep work.
Chinese herbal soups are simple with clarity of flavors and low oil content. Nothing is ever fried. They are usually simmered very gently or double-boiled. The gentle cooking produces a clear and nutritious broth. Often, only the broth is consumed and the solid ingredients discarded. I like to eat the ingredients dipped in a little soy sauce.
This Six Combination Soup popularly known as “lok mei thong” or “luck bee th’ng” has six Chinese dried herbs in it. The combination of herbs may vary slightly and sometimes one or two more herbs are added. When I was growing up, Mom often cook this soup. The herbs can be easily purchased at the Chinese herbal shops in the neighborhood. I enjoyed going to the “medicine” shop with mom. I love to sit on the high stool at the long huge counter watching the “Ah Pek” slicing, weighing, and packing those strange looking roots and herbs. It was fascinating to watch him weigh the herbs with his tiny Chinese weighing scales. Those are now antiques and have been replaced by electronic scales.
Now, a little bit about the herbs. Wei san or Chinese yam are chalk white slivers of root believed to be an effective tonic for the kidneys and lungs. Solomon’s seal rhizome or yok chok are slivers of yellowish root with moisturizing properties excellent for alleviating throat and lung ailments. Lotus seeds are the hard, cream colored seeds that are used in a variety of sweet dishes. Lily bulbs are the scales of the bulbs of the tiger lily flower. They are cream colored and look like flower petals. Fox nuts are the hard brown seeds that look like barley grains. They boil open into little “popcorns”. Dried longans are prized for their warming properties.
4 pieces Chinese yam, wei san 淮山 (huai shan)
20 pieces Solomon’s seal rhizome, yok chok 玉竹 (yu zhu)
¼ cup (20g) lotus seeds 莲子(lian zi )
¼ cup (20g) lily bulbs 百合 (bai he)
¼ cup (20g) fox nuts 芡实 (qian shi)
¼ cup (20g) dried longan 龙眼肉(long yan rou)
- 4 pieces Chinese yam, wei san (huai shan)
- 20 pieces Solomon’s seal rhizome, yok chok (yu zhu)
- ¼ cup (20g) lotus seeds (lian zi )
- ¼ cup (20g) lily bulbs (bai he)
- ¼ cup (20g) fox nuts (qian shi)
- ¼ cup (20g) dried longan (long yan rou)
- 8 oz (225g) lean pork ribs, cut into pieces
- 6 cups (1500 ml) water
Rinse and soak dried herbs for 10 to 15 minutes.
Bring water to a boil. Add pork ribs and allow it to boil gently over medium heat for 15 minutes. Skim off scum rising to the surface. Add drained herbs. When it comes back up to a boil, add salt. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting so that soup will simmer very gently for 1½ to 2 hours. A gentle simmer will produce a clear soup.
Turn off heat and serve warm.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!