At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, November 08, 2013


Pursuant a recent description of herbal muck (Chinese medicine) which my FORMER significant other is drinking because of an eye-lid condition, as well as previous mentions of Cantonese tonifying soups, a reader who knows me in the real world asked: "are ALL their soups nasty?" He's had hot and sour soup, but he knows that that is a northern Chinese item. Cantonese soups, in his limited experience, have not been an unalloyed blessing.

Given that his exposure has been via his mom, that isn't surprising. Many Cantonese kids grow up with the grimly snarled admonition "drink it, it's good for you, tonifies the whatever it is!"

By which their mother or auntie means "I really have no clue what this does, but I learned how to make it long ago, and your uncle Stinky Feet (老臭脚 'lou chau keuk') lived to be ninety!"

The healthful benefits of the broth and Stinky Feet's longevity may not be connected. But there's tonic stuff in the bowl, and it combats either yit hei (热氣) or leung hei (凉热), both of which are harmful in excess.
So suck it up, little mosquito.
I did; look at me.

The answer to his query is no. No, not all of their soups are nasty. Chicken broth with watercress (西洋菜湯) is very nice. Egg drop soup (蛋花湯) is nice. Short ribs, corn, and chunked carrot (粟米排骨羹) in broth is nice.
Pickled mustard and lean pork noodles (酸菜豬肉粉湯) also.
And many others. You need to get out more.

Also nice are some of the stranger things from an American standpoint, like the refreshing soups that are between dessert and a wonderful comforting drink. Wondrous, and warm. And sweet.


I've had these two recipes for many years, and I make them occasionally, when I feel the need for an extra bit of health.

Faan-shyu yi-mai tong: Sweet potato and pearl barley soup

番薯: 4兩 (four tael sweet potato, cubed)。
片糖: 4兩 (four tael jaggery or gur)。
洋薏米: 1兩 (one tael pearl barley)。
薑: 1 片 (one thick slice ginger)。
清水: 4盃 (four cups water: 1斤10兩)。

Bring water, sugar, and ginger to a boil. Add the cubed sweet potato, cook for fifteen minutes.
Add the pearl barley, cook five minutes more.
Let cool slightly before serving.

[Good for the spleen and lungs, beneficial in cold weather.]

Hat-tou tong: Walnut soup

桃仁: 5兩 (five tael shelled walnuts)。
砂糖: 5兩 (five tael cane sugar)。
粟米粉: 2湯匙 (two TBS cornstarch)。
清水: 4盃 (four cups water: 1斤10兩)。

Blanch the walnuts briefly to loosen the skins adhering to the flesh. Spread out to dry.

Fry walnuts lightly in hot oil till pale golden, remove and drain.
Mix cornstarch smooth with some of the water.
Put the walnuts and the remaining water in a blender and whir till smooth entirely, then pour through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a saucepan. Cook for several minutes before adding the sugar.
Stir to dissolve the sugar, and cook a little longer. Blend in the cornstarch to thicken the soup and make it velvety.
Let cool slightly before serving.

[Good for the brain and kidneys.]

One tael (兩 leung) is one-and-a-third ounce, though nowadays metrified as fifty grammes. There are ten mace (錢 chien) in a tael, sixteen tael in a catty (斤 gan).
Two tablespoons of cornstarch are equivalent to one-and-a-half tael, ergo there are four teaspoons in one tael of cornstarch.

[From notations elsewhere: One cup sugar is 192 grammes, one tablespoon is 12 grammes, one teaspoon is four grammes. And one 兩 or 两 (leung) equals 37¾ grammes ~ 1.3 oz. So four tael sugar is the same as 4.3 oz., or approximately 150 grammes, 12½ tablespoons. Eh, ¾ cup.
Five tael would be exactly 190 grammes, or nearly sixteen tablespoons of sugar.]

Rather than being overly precise and neurotic about the exact weights and volumes, just wing it. You'll figure out what works for you soon enough.
I did; look at me.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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