Monday 9 November 2015


Chinese ABC Soup

 May Loh's recipe
Serves 4

Preparation & Cook Time: 2.5 hours

1. 500g pork bones or ribs (2 slabs)
2. 1 large carrot sliced diagonally approx. 1 inch size each
3. 1 large potato halved
4. 1 large onion halved
5. 1 large tomato quartered
6. 1.5 liters water
7. Salt & pepper to taste
8. 1 stalk spring onion chopped for garnish (optional)

1. Bring to boil a pot of water.
2. Add pork bones/ribs and lower heat (no. 2.5 on my stove).
3. Add carrot, potato, tomato and onion and simmer on low heat for 2 hours.
4. Scoop into bowl, garnish with spring onion and serve :-)

You can add 1 corn cob quartered, 2 slices of gingong herb and a handful of goji berries, but it is not necessary.

Nutritional Value:
Carrots are perhaps best known for their beta-carotene content. (The nutrient beta-carotene was actually named after the carrot!) While they can be an outstanding source of this phytonutrient, carrots actually contain a fascinating combination of phytonutrients, including other carotenoids (especially alpha-carotene and lutein); hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic, coumaric, ferulic); anthocyanins (in the case of purple and red carrots); and polyacetylenes (especially falcarinol and falcarindiol). Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). In addition, they are a very good source of biotin, vitamin K, dietary fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. They are a good source of manganese, niacin, vitamin B1, panthothenic acid, phosphorus, folate, copper, vitamin E, and vitamin B2.

Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid.

Tomatoes are an excellent source vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc, and iron.

Tomatoes are also often associated with lycopene (a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties). They provide a unique variety of phytonutrients; carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin); flavonoids (including naringenin, chalconaringenin, rutin, kaempferol, and quercetin); hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic, ferulic, and coumaric acid); glycosides (including esculeoside A); and fatty acid derivatives (including 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid).

Onions are a very good source of biotin. They are also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, and vitamin B1. The outstanding polyphenol content of onions (including their rich concentration of flavonoid polyphenols) is probably the most overlooked nutrient content of these allium vegetable. Among the flavonoids, onions also provide a particularly large amount of quercetin. A wide variety of allyl sulfides are found in onion, including the four major diallyl sulfides: DMS (diallyl monosulfide), DDS (diallyl disulfide), DTS (diallyl trisulfide), and DTTS (diallyl tetrasulfide). Also present are a wide variety of sulfoxides, including (+) S-methyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide (MCSO), (+)-S-(1-propenyl)-L-cysteine sulfoxide (PRENCSO), S-methyl-l-cysteine sulfoxide, S-propyl-l-cysteine sulfoxide, and S-propenyl-l-cysteine sulfoxide.

Additional Information:
I mentioned that when I was a child, my mum would serve us kids 3-course dinner - a meat, a vegetable and a soup. My mum made many different soups, but this is the one she usually make, as the ingredients are so easily available and cheap. So I grew up drinking lots of ABC Soup.

Apparently, the name ABC soup comes about because the soup is packed with vitamin A from carrot, vitamin B from potato and vitamin C from tomato.

Because the soup is slow-cooked for long hours, you want the vegetables to be cut in big pieces so that they will not fall apart. The onion will peel off its layers very easily after 2 hours, so you just have to cut it into half.

When I was young, again, I didn't always appreciate my mum's soup. I would complain and ask for herbal chicken soup, black chicken Chinese tonic soup, gingseng soup, bird nest soup, etc. that my friends from the elite school I attended drink. They would still complain about it, and I would secretly long for it. My mum would say that those ingredients were too expensive, and we could not afford it. She would say it as-a-matter-of-factly, without feeling any sadness about our state of economy, nor complaints. If I can't afford anything for J, I would be sobbing for days. But not my mum. She has a heart of steel. She is a easily contented person, unlike her daughter. She knows how to manage her economy, and is not easily tempted, even until today. But hey, over the years, I have come to appreciate this quality of my mum. And as I became a mom myself, I am beginning to learn more and more from her leading by example that I saw as a child. I am improving... although I still cannot hold a candle to my mum.

However, I would go and visit my rich cousin once a year perhaps, and get to taste her black chicken soup that her rich parents made. They were business owners and owned a Chinese medical hall. So they are always well-stocked up with Chinese herbs and tonics. And my cousin was always generous. I also still remembered that those days, I would feel very left out in the elite school*, as I did not have any Hello Kitty and My Melody stickers to exchange. Then I would go to my rich cousin, and she would give me some of hers. I would happily go back to school and could mingle with the rich kids.

And the cost of owning a prosperous business? Her parents didn't have time to spend with her, although they provided for her expensive food and a huge pocket money. She was looked after by my granny until she was 6 years old, before she returned to her parents. My cousin didn't has such a close relationship with her parents.

Now that I am grown up, if I have to choose between having a struggling parents and eating humble food, and having rich parents and eating luxurious food, I would choose the former. I was really fortunate to have a mum, who was at home for me during my growing up years.

In today's Singapore, Chinese black chicken soup is now readily available at the hawker centres and food courts, and are no longer the confine of the rich. I have tasted it uncountable times.

But until today, I had only tasted Chinese bird nest soup once, and I have never tasted Chinese ginseng soup. Ginseng is very expensive, and among the most expensive are those ginseng from Japan and Korea. They can cost up to 10,00 USD for one. There is a boutique in MBS Singapore selling these expensive ginsengs, and they are making brisk business. Guess who they are selling these ginsengs to? To the rich mainland Chinese. Most of the local Chinese Singaporeans would not be able to afford it.

* I didn't have very good childhood memories attending an elite school, but it served me well academically. If you ask me today, if I would send my daughter to my Alma mater such an elite school if I am living in Singapore? I am ashamed to admit, that I would. Being academically strong is the most important. Fortunately, J does not go to school in Singapore, but in Denmark, and so we do not have such pressure.

Now back to the ABC soup, this is an all-time favorite of the Chinese Singaporeans' 家常便饭. This soup is so light, that you will not get tired of it. This post is another personal tribute to my mother. I hope to make this soup with J one of these days. I am now passing the baton to J, and painstakingly recording this soup for the future generations of our family.


Here are the basic ingredients - clockwise from left: carrot, potato, salt, pepper, pork bone and rib, onion and tomato.

You can buy pork bones and pork ribs from Føtex Supermarket for approx. 20 DKK for 1kg.

To make stock for the soup, bring to boil a pot of 1.5 litre of water.

Add pork bone/rib and lower heat to low (no. 2.5 on my stove).

Add carrot.

Add potato.

Add tomato.

Add onion.

Cover and simmer for 2 hours under low heat (no. 2.5 on my stove).

Now it's done :-)

Add salt...

And pepper to taste.

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