My favourite Chinese soup of all time: Spare rib and mustard green soup
What do you eat when you’re ill?
I have decided that I am impossible to cook for when ill because I become a very horrible patient.
Colds are f–king annoying!
One’s not sick enough to be confined to bed but the snot-filled, streaming-eyed person it turns one into means one isn’t fit for company either. I’ve been working from home today, fuzzy-headed, and doing conference calls mostly on mute so that no one can hear me sneezing or coughing.
Can anyone tell me if I’m meant to starve a fever and feed a cold or feed a fever and starve a cold???
My friends and I were debating this very subject only a few months ago, I was convinced it was the latter but the Oracle that is Google tells me otherwise.
But what’s the point of feeding a cold if I can’t bloody taste anything? This is what happened yesterday…
I had a business lunch out with my colleagues. My fried tofu starter felt crisp and light but I suspect the plaice I had as my main, cooked in a buttery caper sauce, was a tad overcooked because it felt rather too mushy on the tongue (a fact my colleague confirmed as true since she had it too). The beans, on the other hand, must have been cooked to perfection because it had just the right amount of squeak as I bit into them, grrr…
Which is why I think I am a horrible patient; for despite the cold, I feel like I’m constantly hungry because I’m not getting any satisfaction from what I actually eat. In the process, I’m driving my poor husband insane because I don’t know what I want to eat either since I can’t bloody taste anything. The only things I can taste are really salty, really sweet or really sour things – all of which are off the menu due to the cold. That makes me cross and grumpy and grouchy and just, well, grrr…!
So after I finished making my croaky calls today, we ended up making this spare rib and mustard green soup because you’re meant to have soup when you’re sick, right?
It’s like a version of a hot and sour soup (but with no real chilli heat, just warmth) but we also made it because it’s our favourite.
The essential ingredient is the sour mustard greens; this provides a gentle sourness to the soup, while the pork and fresh ingredients provide the rest of the flavour.
We love this soup so much that we probably make it every couple of months. It helps that you can make this soup in 30 mins if you’re in a rush (though an hour’s simmering is ideal), and also because it’s so nice that the only thing we tend to have it with is a bowl of steamed rice. It is the easiest soup to make because you pretty much bung everything in at the same time, so the hardest bit is just waiting for it to finish simmering.
You’ll probably only be able to find these mustard greens in Chinese grocery shops but every Chinese shop will definitely sell them because they’re again another mainstay in most Cantonese families’ kitchens. They’re either tinned or vacuum packed in plastic and I’ve taken a picture of a typical tin in case you need a picture to show it to your grocery shop owner.
On a dreary wet day like today (it’s been drizzling and grim and grey here in the UK), it’s perfect for supper. My husband says tonight’s soup tastes fantastic but you’ll have to take his word for it because my tastebuds are still blunted, and now I’ve lost my voice too so it’s back off to bed for me. My husband thinks this is hilarious, it means I can’t nag him and he’s taking far too much delight in saying to me “www.sssshusssssh.com”, supposedly for my own good… GRRRR!
Lots of love
Spare rib and mustard green soup (feeds 2 with leftovers for tomorrow)
500 grams pork spare ribs, marinated in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (alternatively, duck also works very well in this soup)
1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine
300 grams sour mustard greens (please retain all the liquid – it’s essentially a vinegar, salt and sugar solution)
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 large carrot, chopped (I don’t bother peeling it)
1 red chilli, pierced with a skewer
1 large clove of garlic, left in skin and lightly crushed
4-5 large slices of ginger
1 pork stock cube (or use a chicken/veg stock cube)
2 litres of water
3-4 large tomatoes, quartered
(optional) 300 grams of fresh tofu (firm or soft – your choice), cut into cubes
(optional) 200 grams for freshly sliced lotus root – I didn’t have it in the fridge this time but I normally put this in
In a large pot, brown your pork ribs. Once browned, pour the shaoxing over the ribs. Add the water and all of your ingredients apart from the tomatoes and the tofu. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
5 minutes before serving, add half of the tomatoes and all of the tofu to the soup.
Divide your remaining tomato slices between your serving bowls and dish up the ribs, vegetables, tofu and soup evenly.
I serve this soup with a small bowl of plain rice, a saucer of pickled green chillies in soy (recipe here), and a saucer of sweet soy for dipping.