I don`t like even the idea of having a hot liquid sliding down my throat in a hot summer day, but everything changes during the winter. It`s the only season I find a soup acceptable. And since winter is back to the south side of the planet, lets make it tasteful and simple.
Prepare a good chicken and vegetable stock. You can make one by boiling for 45 min to 1 h (depending on the size and type of the vegetables used – do not overcook) a chicken breast , some vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc) with the spices you like (cloves, black peppercorns, finely sliced ginger, etc). I usually drop a small piece of star anise in mine. Don`t forget the salt. Pour through a fine strainer and you`re done. Separate the chicken breast and cut it into bite size pieces. You can keep the stock frozen for one week or two.
Interesting to mention that Chinese don`t really make their stocks spicy, as they believe that spicing may mask the flavor of the chicken. Spices may be added later depending on the use of the stock. Such thin soups are even employed as beverage during a meal (no, they usually don`t drink jasmine tea with their meals). Also, employing the whole chicken, rather than specific cuts or the bones, to prepare the stock, as done in Europe, is much more common.
Put the stock back in the pot and bring it to boil. Place a Chinese steamer over it and cook, for a few minutes, some sliced carrots, green beans, etc. Put the noodles in the stock and let them cook for a couple of minutes.
Place the noodles in a bowl and add the chicken breast and vegetables. Some sliced red pepper (I usually unseed them) and coriander (or parsley) are added on the top. Pour some hot stock in the bowl and add 1-2 spoons of soy sauce. You`re ready to go.
My Chinese chicken and vegetables soup bowl
After eating the chicken, noodles and vegetables with the aid of your chopsticks (筷子 = kuàizi) drink the stock directly from the bowl. By the way, a few words on chopsticks from “Study in China“:
When the Chinese began to use chopsticks as an eating instrument is anybody’s guess. They were first mentioned in writing in Liji (The Book of Rites), a work compiled some 2,000 years ago, but certainly they had their initial form in the twigs which the primitive Chinese must have used to pick up a roast after they began to use fire. It is likely that people cooked their food in large pots which retained heat well, and hasty eaters then broke twigs off trees to retrieve the food. The earliest evidence of a pair of chopsticks made out of bronze was excavated from Yin Ruin’s Tomb 1005 at Houjiazhuang, Anyang, Henan province, dated roughly 1200 BC.
The pieces of food were small enough that they negated the need for knives at the dinner table, and chopsticks became staple utensils. It is also thought that Confucius, a vegetarian, advised people not to use knives at the table because knives would remind them of the slaughterhouse.
Simply a pair of chopsticks can fulfill all the functions at table, and compared with western table wares of “waving knife”, they have a sense of “harmony.” And chopsticks are seen as lucky items in ceremonies by many nationalities.
Chinese chopsticks are usually 9 to 10 inches long and rectangular with a blunt end. Bamboo has been the most popular material because it is inexpensive, readily available, easy to split, resistant to heat, and has no perceptible odor or taste.
Some Chinese bamboo chopsticks
The use of chopsticks requires some etiquette, with small differences among distinctive countries. Some Chinese rules are:
- Don`t tap chopsticks on the edge of one’s bowl, as beggars make this noise to attract attention;
- Don`t spear food with a chopstick;
- Don`t point chopsticks towards others seated at the table;
- Don`t stuck the chopsticks vertically into a bowl (specially of rice) as this resembles incense burning, which remindes death in general.