Although stir frying is probably the most well-known method in
Chinese cooking, you might be surprised what an important role soups play in
Chinese soups, however, are completely different from Western ones, and by this I mean both the actual soup and the concept. The first few times I tried butternut squash soup in England, it took my 'Chinese stomach' a while to understand what I just had.
Chinese soup is usually 'clear', never creamy. Although the soup obviously contains various ingredients, it rather looks like 'colored' water. So, this kind of soup can never be like butternut squash soup as a 'main' on the table, it is not heavy enough.
The history of Chinese soup goes back to thousands of years ago. In those ancient times, rich people had soup on a daily basis. Some of the soups were supposed to keep you healthy, calm your mind, and give you a long life.
The most famous soups are the ones with the purpose of nutritious boost and medication, for example, chicken and mushroom soup is best for helping women achieve a speedy recovery after giving birth. And if you are not feeling well, lost appetite for food, people would normally suggest you to have some soup as it is easy to digest. These kinds of soups normally require hours boiling, and some of them can be very expensive.
In recently years, these 'nutritious' soups have again become popular in China. They can normally can be taken alone, without rice or any stable food. And according to their functions, they can be taken before the meal, for boosting appetite, or after meal, for digestion, or just in between the meals, and may even serve for medical purpose.
The 'nutritious' 'soup' tradition is still well-kept in Southern China, especially in the Canton area. In contrast, in the North of China, soup is still part of a typical meal. Soups normally accompany dumplings, bao zi (steamed bread with fillings), or bing (flat bread). Some of them are very easy to make. The most popular homemade soup is 'sour and spicy' soup. It sounds very similar to the 'hot and sour' soup you can get in the restaurants or takeaways in the West, but it is rather different. Northeastern 'sour and spicy' soup has tomato, cucumber and eggs with sour and chili seasonings in a clear water base, without any thickening.
Another two popular soups are lamb soup and chicken soup. Lamb soup is believed to have originated within Chinese Islamic ethnic groups, but has become one of most popular soups in Northern cuisine. It consists of boiled lamb and viscera with seasonings. At home, we normally use lamb ribs, with bones to boil the soup, and with some ground white pepper and coriander.
About the Author
Shibin Zhang writes about Chinese food and Chinese culture. She specializes in the cuisine of North East China and in Islamic Chinese cuisine. On her website, you can find more information about Chinese soups