Codonopsis (dang shen) and red dates (hong zao) are two of the more commonly used Chinese herbs. Codonopsis is said to help increase appetite and immune system, while red dates are good to maintain healthy blood pressure and full of vitamin C and super perfect when you have cold. Both of these are said to be really good for women during confinement period, a.k.a after pregnancy, so if you are looking for food to prepare during this period, give this a try.
I am going to say it now since there probably will be readers asking about it later. I am not a trained Chinese herbalist, so what I know is just what teeny tiny amount of family wisdom passed down from Grandma to Mom to me, which is not much. If you need a more scientific explanation, please consult a professional 😉 Anyway, let’s talk a bit about this dish.
This recipe is super simple, basically it’s just dump everything in a wok/pot and let it simmer until soft and tender. Next is just a matter of boiling down the liquid to reduce it into sauce and thicken it with the help of corn starch slurry. This is a very easy food to reheat, so I always make lots and reheat a little throughout the week for lunch or dinner.
Many of Chinese soups that my Mom regularly have in her rotation are very simple, and this bean curd and shiitake pork ribs soup is one such example.
Despite its simplicity, this soup is delicious and is also healthy thanks to the inclusion of bean curd, shiitake mushrooms, and jujube/Chinese red dates. Best of all, this is another soup that you can just dump and simmer away, which is ridiculously easy to prepare on busy days.
What you need to prepare Chinese bean curd and shiitake pork ribs soup
The only meat you need is some pork ribs, and you can choose to use boneless pork ribs, or the one with bones attached. Both types will work, but the one with porks will usually give a richer soup, while using boneless pork ribs will give you a lighter version, so choose accordingly.
As for the Chinese herbs, you will need the following ingredients:
All three ingredients should be easily available in any Chinese grocery stores. You can always get them from Amazon following my links, though the prices are usually cheaper in a brick and mortar shop.
Start soaking the dried ingredients ahead of cooking time
Since we are using many dried ingredients, I usually start the prep work the night before I plan to cook the soup.
I place each of the dried ingredients in separate bowls and pour enough cold water to submerge them by one inch and leave them to soak overnight. They should all be rehydrated and ready to use the next day.
Also, remember to save the shiitake soaking water, you can strain the soaking water to remove impurities and use it as part of the 2 liters of water that you need for the soup for a boost in umami. It’s free anyway.
Those are all my pointers to help you with preparing this soup. I hope you will like it as much as I do. 🙂
Do you have favorite dishes that you must order whenever you go for a Chinese dim sum? For us, steamed spare ribs with black beans is definitely one of our must-haves. Though lately, we have been ordering this less and less because of how easy it is to actually prepare this dish at home. These spare ribs are so delicious and ridiculously easy you will want to make them, again and again, to serve with steamed white rice.
For dim sum style, make sure to use a shorter spare ribs
Do you notice that Chinese style spare ribs are much shorter compared to their Western counterparts? It’s actually the same thing, but Chinese butchers usually cut the regular spare ribs into two lengthwise to create shorter ribs, which makes them much easier to handle with a pair of chopsticks. If you want your spare ribs to look exactly like the dim sum version, you will definitely want to get your butcher to chop them for you. Or, if you buy your spare ribs from a Chinese/Asian grocery store, it is very likely that they are already pre-cut for you.
The prep works: marinate the spare ribs and prepare the rest of the ingredients
Once you have your requisite spare ribs, you will want to marinate them with the following for at least 2 hours, though I usually let them rest overnight in the fridge.
ground white pepper, you can use black pepper too if you don’t mind the black specks in the final dish
And here are the rest of the prep works that you need to do prior to steaming:
chopping 1 red chili, I usually use Fresno chili for this
chopping 1 green chili, I usually use Jalapeno or Serrano
You should be able to find fermented black beans in any well-stocked Chinese/Asian grocery. I find that these are usually found in the dried/preserved ingredients aisle, along with dried turnips and the assortment of dried vegetables.
Steaming the spare ribs
There are two ways you can choose to steam your spare ribs: the dim sum style, or the normal way.
Dim sum style
You will need several small rimmed heatproof porcelain plates, like those you get from the dim sum. You then divide the spare ribs into several of these tiny plates, making sure that each plate only has one layer of ribs, or your cooking time will be off and the ribs won’t cook at the same time, then top with the chilies and fermented black beans.
Simply arrange the spare ribs in a heatproof rimmed plate/bowl, again in one layer, then top with the chilies and fermented black beans.
Once they are arranged, be sure to steam over medium heat until the meat is opaque and fully cooked. I usually need around 8-10 minutes as long as I keep the ribs in one layer. Enjoy!
Growing up, my Mom made us plenty of this Chinese lotus root and peanuts with pork ribs soup. She has this big planner to map out all the food she will be cooking for us every day. It’s pretty simple, basically one soup, one vegetable dish, and one meat dish per day. And this particular soup usually appears once every month. ♥
Ingredients to prepare Chinese lotus root and peanuts soup
You will only need a handful of ingredients to prepare this soup:
1 section of fresh lotus root, usually around 400-500 grams.
500 grams of pork spare ribs, or any cut that is suitable for soup. You can even use bone-in chicken if you prefer.
200 gram dried peanuts, you will need to soak the peanuts for at least 2 hours prior to cooking the soup.
2 tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges per tomato.
1 dried squid/cuttlefish, this one is optional since it can be harder to find, but your Asian market should have it in their frozen section along with dried shrimps and dried salted fish. If you can get this, definitely add it to the soup since even just one tiny squid can add so much umami level to the soup.
How to prepare fresh lotus root
Fresh lotus roots look like tubes linked together like giant sausages. If you buy more than one section and they are still linked together, don’t separate the links until you need to cook them to preserve freshness. Here’s what you need to do to prepare your lotus root for cooking:
Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler.
Use a sharp knife, or a mandolin (if you have), and cut into thin slices. For making soup, I usually aim for 1 cm (about 1/2 inch) thick.
Optional: if you do step 1 and 2 far in advance before you plan to cook the soup, you may want to soak the slices in some acidulated water bath (water + a little bit of acid such as lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar) to prevent the root from browning.
What I love about lotus roots is that they look so plain and unassuming from the outside, but once you slice them up, they reveal their glorious beautiful pattern. So pretty, and so tasty too.
How to cook Chinese lotus root and peanuts soup
Please follow these steps to prepare the soup. You should get a broth that is flavorful and free of debris/scum!
Boil a pot of water, then blanch the pork spare ribs for about 2 minutes. Drain the pork and discard the water. You may want to clean the pot a little to ensure the pot is free of scums.
Return blanched pork to the clean pot, along with lotus root slices, peanuts, dried squid/cuttlefish (if using), salt, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer until both the lotus root and peanuts are tender, but still retain their crispiness. This usually takes about 1 hour.
Add tomato wedges to the soup and cook for another 15 minutes.
And we are done! Very easy, right? Now you too can prepare this classic Chinese soup in your own home.