Soup isn’t quite a big deal in my family when I was growing up. My childhood memory of soup is boiling water with omelette, tang hoon and spring onions, flavoured with soy sauce. That soup is delicious.. but it’s.. boiling water flavoured with soy sauce.
During Chinese New Year, Ah-mm would also cook a big pot of wong-bok vegetable soup with fishballs, meatballs, fuzhou meatballs, handmade meat balls and her-kiao (fish dumplings).. you know, all the teochew stuff. I still cook this soup often these days.. I love the sweetness of the soup when it is loaded with wong-bok, the magic vegetable created – I believe – just so it could be in soup.
For the past 3 weeks, the husband and I have decided to just eat soup for dinner Mondays to Fridays in our attempt to stay in shape, or not stay in round shape anymore. I have also started walking home from work (Boon Lay to Bukit Batok) and reach home about an hour later than usual, so cooking soup makes things easier for me since I basically just have to put everything in a pot and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours over the stove top (we have late dinners). I like this arrangement! You could also cook this in the slow cooker and it’ll be ready by the time you get home from work.
I like to use honey dates as they lend a savoury flavour to the soup. When cooking lotus root and pork rib soup, I also add dried octopus, red dates (sometimes) and peanuts. I cheat and use canned braised peanuts (Narcissus brand) to save time, and also because my aunt can’t eat crunchy peanuts so I have to ensure they are real soft. You could use raw peanuts (remove the skin if you use them!) if you want to be authentic and all, but canned peanuts taste great to me. I also used to add a whole small piece of octopus without cutting, but I find that cutting them into small strips makes the soup tastier. Don’t be tempted to use a large piece of octopus thinking that it would do your soup good. All it’ll do is overpower it.
Before cooking the soup, be sure to clean the pork ribs and scald them in boiling water first. Doing so removes scum, dirt and blood water, so your soup is cleaner and clearer. It also makes the meat juicier. And be sure to simmer instead of boil for the 2 hours so that the meat becomes tender, not tough. You could add carrots, but I didn’t in this recipe.
That night, my little niece came over. She is real picky about food but look at her gulp down the soup! What a gem, this little one! p/s- if you’re giving pork rib soup to children, filter the soup through a sieve first, to get rid of any tiny bones that could exist. Enjoy!