Archive for the 'Soup' Category


Browned Chicken Broth

Browned Chicken Broth

Browned Chicken Broth

I believe that it’s important for everyone to know where their food comes from.  It’s one of the things I value, especially when we talk about how food gets from vendor/farmer/producer to kitchen to table.  I’ve learned that if I know where things come from, the impact of their production on the environment, and their impact on our bodies, then I have a deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect for the farmers, the factory workers, the vendors, and the animal.  Most of my education around vegetables and seafood came at a much older age when I graduated college and entered my “responsible” age.  It wasn’t really until the push for organic and local fare that I started to educate myself around food culture, food politics, and general healthy living.  Meat, however, was something that I learned about at a young age.  Thanks to a childhood memory from a trip to Taiwan, I didn’t need to be taught about meat or where it came from …


The main form of short distance transportation in Taiwan is done via scooter – slow speed vespas with the shell of motorcycles.  Because of their slow speed, you commonly see parents using them to take their children to school, the local store, or the farmers market down the street.  And since I saw a bunch of kids riding around on them, I too wanted to do that.  It was fun, exhilarating, and free.  Plus, I felt like I was speeding down the country roads of Taiwan, until I saw the jogger next to me run by the scooter that my Aunt and I were riding.  I didn’t care though; it was fun to be able to ride around on a scooter and I found any excuse to get on the back of one of those machines.



I like to keep dead animals in my freezer...

I like to keep dead animals in my freezer…

One year, my Aunt asked me if I wanted to go with her to run some errands for dinner.  I knew she was going to take the scooter, so I jumped at the chance.  We went to the farmers market and picked up some vegetables from various stands and after a few stops, ended at a vendor who had a bunch of chickens in cages.  “Wait, we are buying a new animal for our farm?  A pet!? awesome!”. I was so excited to see all the chickens; although they were not the baby chicks that I would have melted for, these chickens were still cute in their own way.  In my limited Taiwanese, I was able to understand that she wanted me to pick out a chicken; I assumed that she wanted me to choose our new pet.


I inspected each cage carefully.  There were three to four chickens in each cage and I wanted to make sure that

each one had its chance to show off its greatness.  I wanted to make sure I made the right choice so that on future visits to Taiwan, the chicken I selected would be waiting to greet me at the door upon my arrival to the farm. Finally, I picked out the chicken I wanted, pointed to it and said, “那個.”  She leaned over to the man who owned the shop and told him which one I had chosen and with a quick thrust, his hands grabbed my chicken by its legs and pulled it out of the cage.  I had a feeling that something got lost in translation, especially when I saw him pull a sharp blade out of his pocket I knew that I the fate I had pictured for little “Wilmur” was no longer the happy ending I had planned.  Within minutes the chicken had its neck slit and was thrown into a large barrel to quickly go to “sleep.”  I was in shock.


Once the chicken stopped moving in the tub, I thought the nightmare was finally over.  But I was wrong.  The vendor then reached in and grabbed the chicken and put it in a tub that I can only describe as a giant washing machine with an exposed window on the top.  In went the chicken , the machine was turned on and around went the chicken.  Every cycle of the tumbler I would see the chicken through the opening and with each turn there seemed to be less feathers on the body.  Six turns later, the chicken was naked, and ready for the final stage.  I think my Aunt finally realized what was going on, it was probably obvious; my mouth was wide open, no more color in my face.  She distracted me (although too late) as the vendor cleaned the chicken and packed it up.  She then put me on the back of her scooter and we rode back to the house and that night I ate “Wilmer”.


Events like this have taught me a lot of things.  I learned that day that “Scott, let’s get a chicken” has many meanings.  I also learned too have a better appreciation for animals now. It has even taught me to respect the animals that we eat and all of the parts of the animal.  It has taught me to respect the work that butchers and farmers go through.  It has also taught me that I need to learn Taiwanese better.



the bones of 1 chicken

1 tsp thyme, dried

2 tbs canola oil

1 tsp oregano, dried

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper, ground

1 tsp rosemary, dried

1 tsp thyme, dried

1 head of garlic, split

2 medium carrots, rough chopped

3 celery stalks, rough chopped

1 medium onion, rough chopped

4 whole shitake, dried

3 qt water

salt and pepper to taste



preheat oven to 375°f

toss bones with thyme, oil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary until fully covered

roast bones on baking sheet until fully browned, about 30 minutes

transfer all contents into a large stock pot and cover bones with water, about 3 qts

add carrots, celery, onion, and dried shitake and turn the stove on low heat

cook broth for at least four hours, until the flavor comes out into the broth

season to taste

**note:  for clear broth, skim off the top of the broth and run through cheese cloth when completely cooled


-makes about 4 cups-


Day 8: Tomato Egg Drop Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

As you know from a previous post, one of the most common dishes that I made when I was young was a noodle soup that my parents taught me. It was a dish that I commonly made after school and would involve whatever vegetables I can find, canned chicken stock, and scrambled egg. Well, it was supposed to be egg drop, but I was having trouble with creating the desired texture. Instead I was getting an omellette floating on the top of my soup.

For .01% of people who have never had a soup from any Chinese resteraunt, Egg Drop or Egg Flower soups are soups that have scrambled egg in it. The egg is done in a technique that creates a light feathery texture to the scrambled eggs allowing it to keep the broth light and fresh. Also, by doing the egg drop method, you’re ensuring that each scoop of the soup with have a subtle egg flavor rather than a big bite of egg.

If I sound a little too enthusiastic about the egg flower method, I am. I think it’s a brilliant cooking technique that has stood the test of time and it’s also one of the first cooking techniques that I learned. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to master this technique when I was only 13 years old. There is a sense of accomplishment that one feels when they finally get thin ribbons of egg in the soup.

When I was young, I was having a problem with my egg drop technique. I finally asked my dad to teach me how to make the egg drop soup and he said the secret was to turn the heat off completely and using one chopstick to stir. By having the heat off, your ensuring that the eggs don’t cook too quickly. The same theory is being used when you cook scrambled egg on a lower heat, because high heat would just turn it to rubber. By stirring with one chopstick slowly, the broth will be agitated just enough to move the egg around, but not too quickly to break up the eggs. The goal is to create a slow flowing movement to build ribbons instead of agitating the egg to break down the protein. If there is too much agitation, you risk turning the soup cloudy.

Now, the first time you do this, it might not be perfect. But, after a few times, I promise you will be just as good as your neighborhood Chinese take out.


4 c chicken broth

2 c water

3 tsp salt

3 medium tomatos, sliced into wedges

1/4 c scallion, minced

4 eggs, beaten


combine first four ingredients and turn heat on high

simmer soup for 20 minutes, until the tomato begins to break down

turn off heat and slowly pour egg into soup while stirring the soup

add scallions and serve

-serves 4-


Day 4: Pork and Daikon Soup with Soy Paste Dipping Sauce

Pork Broth Soup with Daikon.

Pork Broth Soup with Daikon.

As a kid, I’ve always been in to intense flavors.  One of the many great things about growing up in a first generation family in Southern California is the access to different flavors, cuisines, and ingredients.  When visiting Westminster, I would love the tart fishy flavors of Nuoc Cham, or when eating dim sum in Roland Heights, the bitter, earthy quality of gizzards, liver, and kidney would stick in my mind for the rest of the day.  So, naturally when I first tasted Taiwanese Soy Paste, I would be drawn to the sweet and salty quality of the sauce.

At home, there was one dish that we would use this sauce for dipping.  It was a soup that was made with the neck bones of pork and with the addition of bitter melon, daikon, or winter melon.  It was an easy soup to prepare and the flavor was clean and light and warmed the body.  The broth is magical because it is only a few ingredients and takes an hour to cook, but tastes like a complex broth that’s been boiling for a whole day.  The best part of the soup is always the pork bones.  It takes a little effort, but the neck bones have some meat that has to be dug out.  Once you get to it, it’s tender and earthy flavor will make it all worth the work.

I, of course, would always fish for the largest piece at the beginning of the meal so no one claim rights to it.  I’d set it aside in my soup bowl while I continued to eat my rice, other braised meats, fish, vegetables; whatever was required for my parents to be satisfied that I had eaten a balanced meal.  Then, when it was time to enjoy the pork, I would spoon some soup over the meat to reheat it and then go grab a small dish of soy paste.

My mom would always watch how much I poured into my dipping dish, because I always seemed to “accidentally” pour twice the amount that a person should consume.  Once I got it back to the table, with sheer excitement, I would start picking pieces of pork off the neck bones and cover them in this sweet salty sauce.  These bones have some nooks and crannies to them, but I discovered what the chimps had known for so long; that a long stick is a great tool.  I took my one chopstick and began picking at the crevices to get out all the tender meat.  Sometimes, if I planned it right, I would run out of the sauce and have to go back for seconds.  This is how I was able to cheat my Mom’s system.

I remember one time, when I was young; I was so excited to be able to get more of the soy paste that I wasn’t really in the right state of mind.  It’s like when I was scooping mayonnaise into my mouth or drinking coleslaw juice.  I had a moment of weakness.  I noticed that some of the paste was dribbling down the side, I could have just wiped it with a napkin, but that would be wasteful.  What if I use a piece of my pork?  Wait, it’s too far.  I know! I’ll lick it.  So I slowly moved the bottle to my mouth, and with a quick lick, it was clean.  (I realize that the last two options make me sound unsanitary.  I was)

“Did you just put your mouth to the bottle?”   Damn, my brother caught me.

“No.  That’s gross!”  I stomped back to the dinner table, upset that my brother thought I would do something so disrespectful and offensive.  But, I did.  And it was worth it.  I got more of the soy paste.

Later that night, Mom threw away the bottle of soy paste.

Taiwanese “Soy Paste” or “Sweet Soy Sauce” is a thicker more viscous soy sauce that contains sugar, rice and potato starch in addition to the soy sauce. Because it’s a blend, it has much less sodium than regular soy sauce, but not that much more. The brand that I like to use is “Kimlan”. You can commonly use it in stir fries, but when going through the streets of Taiwan, you will more likely see it mixed with cilantro and crushed peanuts and used as a dipping sauce for various dishes.  It’s really good, in that combination, over Taiwanese Tamales.

Some notes on the soup.  In order to get a really clear broth, my mom would do a quick initial boil of the bones to release all the protein and scum and then re-boil it with the vegetables.  If you don’t mind swampy broth, you can skip that step.


2 lb pork neck bones

1 large daikon, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces

4 cups of water

salt to taste

cilantro, optional


for clear broth (skip the next two steps if you don’t mind a clear broth)

rinse bones and place in a large pot and cover with cold water and turn on high heat

drain water once it has come to a boil

add all 4 cups of water, until covering the bones, in a large pot and boil on high heat

simmer the stock for 45 minutes after the water comes to a boil

add the daikon and simmer until fork tender, about 15 minutes

season the broth with salt and thrown in some cilantro for the last five minutes of cooking.

-serves 6-



Day 3 of 30: Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

Chinese Long Squash Soup

Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

“Are we trespassing?”

I was home visiting my parents in California and they had asked me to join them in running a quick errand to pick up some stuff for dinner that night.  I was about to start my journey to the freeway to get us to the Chinese Supermarket, before my Mom told me to make a quick right.  She proceeded to give me directions to go deeper into the suburban neighborhood that we lived in.  Eventually she led me to the driveway of a standard California ranch house that looked similar to everyone else we knew.

My fellow offenders.

My fellow offenders.

I assumed we were just stopping over to say hello to a family friend, but my parents proceed to exit out of the car and walk toward the side of the house, open the gate, and walk into their yard.

“No, we are only trespassing if you’re not wanted.” My mom says with affirmation. “Besides, they’re not home”

“But what if they are home?” I still feel uneasy about the whole situation.  I get a vivid image of me getting arrested with my parents by the police and having to tell my brother, our lawyer, that we weren’t trespassing because we were wanted. I get anxious.

My dad chimes in.  “Then we say hello.”

We walk into the yard and I am amazed.  One of my parent’s friends had turned his yard into an amazing mini-farm full of Taiwanese vegetables and fruits.  They had surrounded their pool with trees saturated with guava, wax apple, and persimmon fruit.  All along the grass: Chinese watercress, bok choy, Taiwanese greens, and chayote had grown bright green leaves in the warm California sun. It was a magical place where birds where singing and butterflies where fluttering.  The sun had a big smiley face and clouds where dancing in the sky.  My parents had pulled the “freshest Taiwanese produce you will ever have outside of the Island” card to get me to stay in California; and it was a shady card to pull.

“Ok, I’m going to get the stuff on the floor, can you cut off the squash?  It’s too high for me to reach.”  My Mom brings me back to

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.


So on top of trespassing, we are adding stealing to my rap sheet?  Well, it can’t be any worse then it already is.  Plus, she distracted me with the right vegetable: The “Long Squash”.

It’s a pale gourd that imparts a fabulous broth that is slightly sweet. The finished broth is almost all the liquid and juice that comes from the squash and mixed with the salty dried shrimp; it’s an amazing winter dish that warms the soul and eases all anxiety of any felony you decide to do with your family. You can get it at most Asian markets.  If you can’t find “Long Squash”, you can use “Chinese Okra” or “Fuzzy Squash”.  But it if you can’t find “Long Squash”, you probably can’t find the other two.  Sorry, maybe you can grow it in your backyard?  I’ll come trespass and steal some.


1 tbs canola, vegetable, or peanut oil

1 large clove garlic, sliced

1 tbs. dried shrimp (can substitute with 2 anchovy fillets)

2 large “Long Squash”, sliced (about 4 cups)

1/4 c. broth or water

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground white pepper


sauté garlic and shrimp in oil in dutch oven on high heat until shrimp is tan in color and garlic turns a nutty brown

add squash, liquid, and seasoning and stir

simmer on medium heat until squash breaks down and turns into a soup, about 15 minutes

-serves 4-


garlic chicken soup

garlic chicken soup

Holy ice bats it’s been a rough winter this year. We’re still in the middle of the season, but already we’ve had a blizzard, a snow storm, an ice storm, and below freezing temperatures. My pipes have frozen and my heat has been testy, and to top it all off, I didn’t get to make a snow man. Shame. So, I think it is fair to say that this has been a rough winter for many New Yorkers. And when the temperature drops and there are mini ice pellets falling from the sky, the thing you want to do most is just curl up on the couch with your roommate’s fleece throw (er…thanks roomie) turn on some bad tv and just sip some chicken soup.

Chicken soup. It’s like the ultimate comfort food for anyone. Something about the clean broth and the great chicken flavor that makes everyone happy and warm. My brother has an awesome recipe that involves the standard carrots and celery but then he spices it up with other stuff like mushrooms and ginger. It’s pretty awesome. Maybe one day I will ask him to post it on here. Maybe. I’m craving another soup,which requires less work and less ingredients: my Mom’s Garlic Chicken Soup.

This soup is amazingly simple. From start to finish, including prep time, you’re looking at 2 hours minimum. On top of the ease and quickness of the soup, the ingredients list is only six ingredients including the water and salt. Amazing. The best part of this soup is that all the ingredients seem to shine on its own and work beautifully together at the same time. Because of the slow and low cooking process, the garlic develops its sugars and adds a hint of earthy flavor to the broth. This mixed with the sweet Chinese soy pickling liquid gives it an amazing subtle flavor. For the pickles, I used to use the 6 oz. cans. However, after accidentally putting a whole 13 oz. jar of pickles in the soup during a recent party (one too many beers maybe?), I’ve discovered a better flavor that really brings a richness to the soup. Also, I didn’t have to add more salt to the soup because their was enough sodium in the liquid already. One less ingredient.

I like to make this soup because, unlike other soups, there is no planning required. I have cooked this dish by putting a completely frozen chicken in the pot as well as a thawed one. Both work fine. Being able to use a frozen bird helps when you want to make something quick. My mom would cook this in a slow cooker. She would set it in the morning, turn it on and go to work. Soup would be done when she gets home and the house would be filled with an amazing aroma that I don’t even want to attempt to describe. I wouldn’t do it any justice. I opt to go for a less hazardous cooking method that doesn’t risk the house burning down and still achieves almost the same result. If you do use a slow cooker, just put it on low for at least 4 hours. Obviously if you cook it longer the flavor will be so much better. I defer to my friends to help me describe the favors of this soup.

To all the fire marshals out there, mom doesn’t cook with the slow cooker unless someone is home now so don’t be knocking on her door.


1 large cornish game hen (1¾ to 2 lb.)

1 13 oz. jar Chinese soy pickled cucumber, w/ juice (hua gua)

9 cloves of garlic, whole

8 cups of water (enough to cover chicken)

salt to taste


place game hen, Chinese pickles, and garlic in a large dutch oven or slow cooker

pour water over chicken until it just covers the chicken

cook chicken on low heat for two hours or until chicken is fully cooked and tender [should fall off the bone]

-serves 6 to 8-


zaru noodles -Japanese cold noodles-

zaru noodles Tom Selleck would be proud of

Hot weather reminds of Mr. Baseball.  You know, that 1992 Tom Selleck movie where a white American moves to Japan and learns the ways of the people.  While at the same time, saving the baseball team from being destroyed.  It’s kind of like The Last Samurai but with baseballs, comedy, and a whole lot of mustache.  There’s one scene in the film that has Tom Selleck’s character eating cold noodles with his Japanese love interest and her family.  They where eating Zaru Soba, or Udon, but none the less it seemed like the family, and Tom Selleck, where wonderfully cooled and refreshed during that meal.  If you’ve never heard or had Zaru noodles, go and watch Mr. Baseball and feel the icy coolness just consume you.  Or warm hotness if you’re into Tom Selleck’s mustache.

My brother and cousin introduced me to this dish.  Both made it for me after their studies in Japan. I was completely sold on it.  Not only was it easier than Kraft Mac and Cheese for after school meals, but it was also healthier.  Because, you know-as a 9 year old, I was really concerned with my health.  It was simple because you could buy the bottle, cook some noodles, cut some scallions and then you had a great meal.  I would make it almost every day when it got really hot outside.

I’ve been trying to challenge myself in my culinary adventures.  Also the heat has made me really nostalgic for cold dishes because, well, I hate heat and humidity.  So, I’ve been really excited to eat this dish.  I went to the local Asian store and grabbed a bottle of the zaru udon/soba dipping sauce.  I read the ingredients and was like “Hey! I can make that!”  So I bought what was listed on the ingredients and went home to try to make the sauce.

It’s easy and requires no oil.  It’s also quick to cook.  The wait is a somewhat painful though.  Because it’s meant as a cold dish, the cooling time to get the dipping sauce to ice cold takes a while.  Unless you have access to the Iron Chef America Kitchen Stadium or have a blast chiller at home, then I would give the sauce some time to cook.  You can actually make it in advanced and it will keep for 4-5 days.

There are a lot of ingredient descriptions and notes.  Click on the ingredients to be directed to the “things to know” section to learn more info about it.

This is perfect for the random heat wave that is hitting the world.  Icy cold noodles in icy cold dipping sauce for icy cold goodness [and Tom Selleck].


6 1 inch pieces dried kombu

4 cups water

1 tsp hon dashi

1 tsp mirin

4 tsp soy sauce

¼ cup katsuoboshi

1 tsp rice vinegar

4 servings dried udon noodles

1 tsp grated ginger

4 tsp grated daikon, optional

4 tsp minced scallion

chopped toasted nori, optional

wasabi, optional


combine the first seven ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to simmer on medium heat for 15 – 30 minutes.

remove broth from heat and chill completely for 2 hours

boil a large pot of water for noodles

cook noodles according to package instructions and blanch in ice cold water

strain broth to remove bonito flakes and kombu and discard

serve broth in small container beside strained noodles.

provide ¼ tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp of daikon and scallion, and some wasabi on side to allow person to add as much or little as they like.

-serves 4-


winter melon soup with clams

winter melon soup with clams

It’s starting to get colder and colder in New York.  This means less going out for meals, and more staying in to cook.  It’s a great money saver in that the heat from cooking usually helps warm the house, plus it’s a bonus for the readers because it means frequent posts.  The weather is cool and crisp, or as my roommate would describe it, “brrr, yuck, ouch, ahh, splat!”  [not sure what splat is….but ok].  Regardless if I don’t know what splat is describing, this weather is for sure good for some soup.  It’s one of my favorite things for the winter season.  Cooking up a soup on the stove and eating it with my meal, is not only warming but also brings me back to family dinners.  No matter how hot the Southern California weather was, my Mom was sure to cook a pot of soup every meal.  While kids across America where drinking soda or juice with their meal, I was drinking soup.

Most of the soup I had growing up was meat based, but there were 2 soups that my mom would deviate from beef, pork, or chicken: miso soup and winter melon soup.  They were all good, but the winter melon soup had a ginger base so it was spicy and gave off an internal heat that heated you from the inside out.  It’s an extremely easy soup and only has four ingredients: winter melon, ginger, clam, and water.  How hard is that?  Winter melon is tough to describe.  It’s a large squash that is green and slightly waxy on the outside but produces a spongy, white flesh.  It grows primarily in warm and sunny weather, but lasts a long time when uncut.  I think that’s why it’s called winter melon.  People would grow it in the summer, and then keep it until the winter to ensure fresh produce for the cold season.  It’s like the super endurance melon.  The superman of melons.  Some melons can stay fresh for up to seven or eight months, some up to a year.  However, once cut, you should use the flesh as soon as possible.  The kryptonite of the melon.  A knife.  Winter melon is a pretty amazing melon.

This soup is crisp, clean, and produces a delicious broth.  Most of the cooking time is to soften the melon and let the flavor of the melon and ginger release into the water and create a broth.  The last 30 minutes of cooking is really to add the clams, cook them, and let the little shellfish release the juices to add a hint of ocean to the broth.  It adds an umami flavor to the brother to really help balance it out.   The end result is a slightly sweet, savory, and spicy broth that does nothing but warm your body and make you smile.  So, head to the nearest Asian market and pick up a winter melon, ginger, and clams and make this crisp and refreshing broth.


17 cubes of winter melon, about 1-2 inches

12 small clams, i.e. little neck

¼ cup ginger, julienne

5 cups cold water

2 tsp salt


fill large soup pot with winter melon and ginger

pour 4 cups of cold water until water barely covers the top

heat till boiling on high

turn down heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes

add remaining water and clams

simmer for 30 minutes

discard any unopened clams

serve with ground white pepper (optional)

-serves 6-


i hunger...i cook...i eat...i come back...i reminisce...i blog...enjoy.


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