I briefly posted about The Cat’s and my thoughts (differences?) about soup before. Here’s a little more. I grew up with soups made with bones (beef, pork, and chicken, in case you were wondering), vegetables and herbs. The Cat grew up with those types of soups as well as quick soups made with water, vegetables, and some flavorings, including a little sesame oil. I used to call these types of soups “dishwater” soups. Very thin, light soups. I have since grown to appreciate these soups for their convenience. These soups come in handy when we’re in a rush and haven’t had time to simmer bones and other ingredients for hours. The Cat likes these soups more than I do.
While we were in Zhenhai, Ningbo, China, we were given a large bag of dehydrated green vegetable, cai gan (“vegetable dried”). As best as I can figure, cai gan sounds like tsye gahn. The cai rhymes with “why.”
When The Cat was growing up, she said they used to make their own cai gan. The vegetable looks like a cross between choi sum and Shanghai cabbage. After cleaning the vegetable, it was quickly dipped in boiling water and hung out to dry like laundry. The Cat said that during the winter, when fresh vegetables were scarce, they would use the cai gan.
One day last week, The Cat wanted a light dinner. This soup was just right. I soaked the dried shiitake mushrooms for about 30 minutes, strained the water the mushrooms soaked in, brought the water and mushrooms to a boil, added a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, a splash of Shao Xing wine, and a tiny scoop of pork fat. After a second boil, I turned off the stove, added the cai gan, a splash of roasted sesame oil, and served.
The soup doesn’t take any longer than heating canned or other pre-made soup (except for rehydrating the mushrooms). We get to control the salt, fat, and sugar that’s added, and ingested (I think I posted about this previously). These types of soups do not require any recipe. Sometimes its what in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry. In the past, I used chicken broth instead of water, added a beaten egg (egg drop soup), added different vegetables (fresh or frozen), and add either fried or fresh tofu. The boundaries are only limited by the imagination, although not even I would add natto to make soup.
The Cat was happy.
This post is being sent to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series: http://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/
p.s. Someday, I may post about The Cat’s early cooking: ketchup soup (maybe not).