Holidays, holidays, we just can’t get enough of them. The Christmas ornaments are back in their year-long storage and the new calendars are up in place. Time to move on with the work year, right? Not so fast! Let’s bring out the bright red scrolls, pussy willow branches, and Mandarin oranges. The Chinese or Lunar New Year is upon us! 2012 is the Year of the Dragon and this auspicious year starts January 23rd on the Gregorian calendar. The maternity wards all over East Asia will be expecting a bumper crop of babies this year because dragon children are supposed to have a leg-up in life.
In China, the Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival. One can only surmise that somewhere in East Asia, spring has arrived or so it seems. Here in Minnesota, we will have to make do with the thoughts of spring to warm us up for the next three months of winter. Better still, enjoy this warm and comforting poached pear soup. This nourishing soup is usually taken as a dessert and is supposed to be good for healing dry coughs and keeping the skin young. The latter effect comes from the collagen content found in the white fungus. Many of us have made New Year resolutions after the holidays to eat healthily. Hopefully this dish will help fulfill the desire and start the countdown to the Lunar New Year.
Traditionally, Asian pears are used for this soup. However, I could not resist trying out the recipe using these gorgeous red Anjou pears. They did give off a slightly reddish tinge to the soup. White fungus is available in dried form at the Asian grocery stores. Select pale and slightly yellowish colored ones. When soaked for 15 to 20 minutes, they double in size and turn semi-transparent. The hard bottom should be trimmed leaving a soft gelatinous body. When eaten, the texture is surprisingly crunchy.
This soup can be double-boiled but I chose to do a quick version on the stove with the lowest possible setting. A very gentle simmer ensures a clear soup.
- 2 pears (Asian, Bosc, or Anjou), halved and cored
- 1 piece white fungus, soaked, rinsed, trimmed, and separated
- 8 red dates, soaked and rinsed
- 3 small pieces (30g) rock sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- Soak white fungus and red dates separately for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain. Trim, separate and remove the hard parts from white fungus.
- Place all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan. Cover and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow it to simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
- Remove and serve warm with the liquid.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 8)