Warmth for the winter months: luo han guo soup

Today we say adieu to 2012.  I, for one, can’t wait to let go of an injury-filled year (dislocated shoulder & fractured foot) and look forward to one full of food, travels and photography.  What are you most excited about for 2013?

On the food front, I’d like to learn more about dishes from different cultures, starting with my own.  Soup is king in most Chinese households, so it’s no wonder that when my cravings for the food of my people inevitably surface, I turn to making a big vat of soup, the brothy kind.

Watercress bouquet

Watercress bouquet

Recipes do not exist in my family.  This simple fact often drove me mad with frustration (how does one learn without clearly written measurements and instructions?!), then I was introduced to the most amazing resource: Chinese Soup Lady.  The website c0ntains hundreds of soup recipes along with the health benefits of each dish.  In a culture where soup is synonymous to wellness, you can imagine why I felt like I had just hit the jackpot.

Chestnuts, not exactly roasting on an open fire

Chestnuts, not exactly roasting on an open fire

One of my favorite soups is luo han guo with watercress.  With just a morsel of rice and a big spoonful of this sweet and distinctive soup, I am taken back to the simpler days at the family table, where a big warm bowl of soup always accompanied our dinner.  It was something I could count on.

Ingredients before its two hour steam bath

Ingredients before its two hour steam bath

This is a soup that is extremely easy to make once you manage to source all the ingredients.  A quick trip to Chinatown should do the trick.  If you’ve never had luo han guo before you’re in for a treat; it’s a type of fruit that is not eaten but best used as a sweetener for tea or soup.  It carries a distinctive sweet flavor that I cannot quite explain but have always loved.  Give it a go and wrap yourself in its warmth.  I confess… it might not look all that appealing (mine turned out a little cloudier than it should) but it is a soup best judged by taste than by looks.

Luo han guo soup: a small bowl of nourishment

Luo han guo soup: a small bowl of nourishment

 

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