Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup

By Chinuck | Asia Polka | 26 Apr 2021


Chinese spinach soup is one of a whole class of Chinese soups called "choy tong". "Tong" means soup and "choy" are green leafy vegetables. This version is done with spinach, but the same recipe is also made with watercress, dried bok choy, or Chinese mustard greens. The fact that there is a specific word for leafy greens shows how important they are in Chinese cuisine. In a "proper" Chinese household, there will always be a dish of leafy greens served for dinner. Health focused soup is also always served at dinner in a "proper" Chinese household, of which there are many types (I mean soups -- there is only one type of Proper Chinese Household!), often with medicinal herbs, but "choy tong" are the simplest.

Bunch of Spinach

This isn't the kind of soup that's meant to titillate your taste buds. The philosophy behind Chinese soup is to extract the nutrients from the ingredients for a warm, soothing feeling and to help with circulation and digestion.

Normally a piece of lean pork or pork liver is used for flavour, but today I'm going to use dried Chinese mushrooms ("tong goo" or dried shiitake) to add umami. You could also use kombu if you want to go Chinese-Japanese fusion.

Dried Shiitake and Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1-2 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • salt

 

Method

  • Wash the spinach. This was a daily chore that every Chinese kid hated, including me -- I had aliens to kill, aargh! Washing means ripping into an edible size, washing each leaf and cutting off the bottoms of the stems. Ok, back to killing aliens. Argh no, now I'm an adult I have to do the rest of it too...

Washed Spinach

  • Boil the ginger and mushrooms for about 5 minutes to extract flavour. Use enough water to just be able to cover the raw spinach. You won't need that much water, as spinach shrinks like crazy <insert inappropriate joke here if you wish>."Normal" people will soak the mushrooms to rehydrate them first. Efficient (a.k.a. lazy) people like me just throw them in dry. They're rehydrating in the soup, right?

Shiitake and Ginger in Pot

  • Add all the spinach. The water should stop boiling for a moment. When the water starts to boil again, turn the heat down to low-medium.

Spinach Soup in Pot

  • Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes for the flavour to fully come out and the spinach to start looking slightly "dead".
  • Add salt to taste. Might be about 1-2 tsp.

Some people like to have the soup with the spinach in it. Others like to just drink the soup. And some like to eat the spinach separately, dipping it in soy sauce. If you make this recipe with lean pork, it becomes very tender and pulls apart. It's also great for dipping in soy sauce, and having with a beer.

But doesn't boiling the spinach get rid of all the vitamin C? Well, it does if you throw out the water. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it's all in the soup. Chinese cuisine doesn't really have any raw vegetables, yet Chinese people have not all died of scurvy. But remember, I am not a dietician and am in no way giving dietary advice. Information provided here is for educational purposes only.

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Chinuck
Chinuck

A Chinese-Canadian expat living in Poland. Filling in the time here blogging about Asian food and culture while waiting for my crypto positions to turn the right way.


Asia Polka
Asia Polka

Asian food and culture from the perspective of a Chinese Canadian expat living in Poland.

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