Watercress originates from the West. Thus its name in Cantonese ‘ Sai Yeung Choi’ which means western vegetable. It is used as natural medicine to cure headache, eczema, cough and flu. This is because watercress has cooling properties and helps to dissolve phlegm and is good for cough. It helps to lubricate the lungs and skin and detoxify the kidneys. However, the longer you boil the soup, it will reduce its cooling properties, making it more of a tonic and nutritional soup. In those days, watercress was sold with very long stems and the roots along the stems were very long. Thus all the stems were bundled up together with a string and threw into the soup to boil then removed by lifting the whole bundle. Now they come properly trimmed.
My mother used to boil this soup when the season of flu and cough was most prevalent. Though we were too young to understand its nutritional value, we were very satisfied to have a bowl of soup accompanied by a bowl of rice and some cut red chilli with light soya sauce as a dip for the pork.
Chinese Watercress and Honey Date Soup (西洋菜汤) Recipe
Chinese Watercress and Honey Date Soup (西洋菜汤) is a great natural remedy to cure headache, eczema, cough and flu.
- Watercress, 2 bundles
- Pork bones, chopped into bite size, 600gm
- Chicken bones, 2 carcasses
- Chicken feet (optional), 2-4 chicken feet
- Water, 200 ml ( for blanching the bones)
- Nan Xing (Sweet Almond), 1/2 TBsp
- Bei Xing ( Bitter Almond), 1/2 TBsp
- Mee Zhou (Honey Dates), 2-3
- Red Dates, 6-8
- Wolfberries, 1 TBsp
- Water to boil the soup, 2.5 litres
PREPARATION FOR CHINESE WATERCRESS AND HONEY DATE SOUP (40 mins)
- Set 1 large pot and 1 smaller pot of water to boil – the large pot is for the soup, the smaller pot is for blanching the meat. Meanwhile wash the pork bones, chicken bones and chicken feet.
- Blanch the pork bones in the small pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Blanch the chicken bones and the chicken feet for 3 minutes. The blood clots will start to surface.
- Throw away the water and wash all the bones using a knife to scrap off any traces of blood clots on them.
- Separate the watercress leaves from the stalks (from the top of the leaves to 7 inches down to the stalks or until only the stalks are left).
- Discard leaves with black spots.
- Remove the tiny roots from the stalks if any.
- In a big basin of water, add a tsp of salt to it and wash the watercress leaves and stalks separately to get rid of the salt and mud. Subsequently wash them a few more times without salt .
- Remove the seeds from the red dates.
COOKING METHOD FOR CHINESE WATERCRESS AND HONEY DATE SOUP(2 1/2 Hrs)
- Place the pork bones, chicken bones together with all the watercress stalks in the large pot of boiling water (2.5 litres) boil for 1 hr on medium high heat.
- After 1 hour, remove all the stalks from the soup.
- Add in all the leaves, nan xing bei xing, chicken feet and honey dates and continue to boil over medium heat for another 1 hour.
- Lastly add in the red dates and wolf berries and continue to boil for another 15mins. Ladle into individual serving bowls and serve!
- When cooking soup with pork bones, two good choices are suo shi gu (锁匙骨) or bing bang ban (乒乓板) which you can get from your local butcher at the wet market. These two cuts of economical cuts of pork are good for soups, because even after the boiling, the meat on the bones still taste good when eaten because there is some fats (but not too much) to keep the meat tender and yet not make the soup oily.
- Indonesian pork (from the wet market) tends to be leaner and sweeter than Australian pork (typically sold at supermarkets like NTUC), so the soup will not be oily.
- You need to blanch the bones to get rid of the blood clots. This removes the porky smell and ensure that the soup will not have a scum layer on top when cooked.
- It is good to add salt to the water for washing vegetable. It helps to get rid of all the sand, mud and dirt more easily. BUT do not soak them in the salt water, otherwise your vegetable will be very salty.
- The watercress stalks are usually too fibrous to be eaten but they give a thicker and more flavorful taste to the soup.
- More nan xing can be added to the soup but not the bei xing because of its bitterness. The almonds will still very crunchy and nice to eat even though they have been boiled for so long.
- If you want the soup to be more savory, don’t add too many honey dates.
- Don’t soak the wolfberries. Rinse them just before adding them into the soup otherwise they will become mushy.
- More water can be added to the soup but it must be hot boiling water so that the temperature will not drop suddenly, affecting the cooking time.
- Try to buy red dates with seeds. Firstly they are sweeter. Secondly pitted red dates, if stored too long at the shops, may have tiny insects and spider webs forming inside the centre hollow of the dates.
- Red dates and wolf berries must only be added in during the last 15 minutes, because if you boil them for too long, it makes the soup a bit sourish.
- Alternatively, watercress soup can also be taken as sweet herbal drink ( ‘leong cha’) to cool the body heat. In this case, both the leaves and stems are boiled together with red dates, nan xing bei xin and honey dates and ‘zhou fu tong’ ( soft dark brown sugar) for a shorter time like 1 hr. Discard all the ingredients, just drink the soup.
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Baby/Toddler-Friendly: Suitable for older babies / toddlers in moderation.
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
If you enjoyed this Chinese Watercress and Honey Date Soup (西洋菜汤) Recipe, you may also like:
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