What would your Chinese Grandma cook?
My wai poa (grandmother on my mother's side) is from Sichuan province, originally, but married into a Fujianese family. She and my grandfather fled to Taiwan during the struggles between the Nationalists and Communists, in the PROC.
When my mother was growing up, wai poa didn't really make very involved dishes at all, since both wai poa and wai gong worked outside of the house and there wasn't much time to get dinner on the table in the evenings. She made (and actually still makes) lots of quick stirfries with bitter gourd, soy bean, tomatoes, eggs, various greens and very little meat, since for many years it was too expensive for them. Almost everything was stirfried with garlic and/or green onion in a very hot wok. The eggs with tomatoes stirfry that someone else mentioned was a common dish.
Other typical dishes:
-- zhou / jook / congee with thousand year old eggs and various pickled vegetables
-- sweet mung bean soup
-- tian jiu liang, a fermented sweet soup spiked with rice wine
-- cong you bing (literally "onion oil flatbread" or scallion pancake), which she makes incredibly well... there are more layers in her bing than any i've ever had elsewhere
- sao bing, you tiao (sesame flatbread with a pocket, filled with a fried savory cruller)
As the family became better off and meat became more readily available, these dishes became more common in the family:
-- pork meatballs rolled in rice and steamed (I think these are called "porcupine meatballs" or something similar)
-- pork sung eaten with zhou (rice porridge)
-- mapo dofu
Since Taiwan was briefly occupied by the Japanese, a few Japanese dishes were commonplace, including futomaki and omusubi, both of which my mother ate when she was younger and made for my siblings and me, too. Later on when US / European influences filtered through, folks ate crustless, white bread sandwiches with mayonnaise and cucumber or meat sung.
I'm not sure anyone really wrote down recipes for these sorts of dishes back then, since it was just assumed that everyone knew how to make them. But if you need guidelines, here are a few sites you can look at:
-- Eggs/tomato stirfry: http://www.recipezaar.com/-94119
-- Bitter gourd: http://www.grouprecipes.com/34967/bittergourd-with-egg-fermented-black-beans-and-wolfberries.html
-- cong you bing: http://nookandpantry.blogspot.com/200...
Oooh, I forgot one: noodles tossed with just soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, black vinegar and scallions! My mom, the health nut, would always try to adulterate this simple and perfect dish by adding vegetables; wai poa let us eat the noodles with just these four ingredients. Wonderful!!
My grandparents are sugarcane farmers so they also have a very rural and utilitarian approach to food. My list looks pretty similar to yours. The only distinctive things I remember Grandma making are:
Some kind of dense white fish steak - think a cheap version of swordfish - pan fried until well done and somewhat dry. It was so salty that a spoonful-sized chunk crumbled into rice could flavor a whole bowl.
Lots of home-pickled greens.
Stir-fried burdock (I think). Really fibrous and woody, and not my favorite thing.
I remember visiting my dad's cousins in China, they were fish farmers, but had sugar cane growing. We used to just chewed on them all day!
AngelSanctuary's list all the "every day" food my mom used to make!
Since it's Joong season, I had a craving for my mom's (she was making a big batch last week), but her being all the way up in Canada, I had to make do with the "Cantonese" style Joong purchased from Ranch 99....okay for a fix..but not the same or as good as my mom's version!
Chewing on sugarcane, yeah baby. I remember sitting on Grandpa's covered patio, chewing a sugarcane stalk and watching the daily afternoon rainstorm. Grandma would squat next to my brother and me and sharpen her cleaver on a stone in preparation for dinner. The garden would fill up with rain and pretty soon the patio would be invaded by snails fleeing the drenched soil.
A somewhat less pleasant memory is opening the outhouse door and seeing a huge yellow scorpion perched on the toilet seat. Oh Formosa...
I, too, come from a Chinese family where there aren't any recipes given. I remember them making Chinese tamales, steamed pork cake with salted fish, dumplings (steamed and fried).
So, I decided to go on a search for recipes and found a couple of great books! One of them is written by Grace Young . The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen.
In it she has her family cook in front of her and she gets the measurements as she's going along! I tried quite a few of these recipes and they were consistent and good!
Another one that was good is by Eileen Yin Fei Lo.
The books that she wrote that were good were the Chinese Kitchen and My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen.
Grace Young is more old fashioned cooking recipes while Eileen tries to be a little fancy.
But, Eileen has all these recipes on baos and the roast pork bao came out pretty good!
If you guys don't have these books, you should definitely consider getting them!
My Granny is full Chinese but since she is a third generation Hawaii resident, born and raised, I suspect that some of her dishes are amalgams of traditional Chinese and local-style Hawaiian fare. Also, I never learned Chinese (regrettably), so I don't know the Chinese names for these dishes (if there are Chinese names).. anyhow, these are two she loves. Simple, but tasty.
Sweet Sour Ribs
Chinese Five Spice
apple cider vinegar
raw brown sugar
Dust riblets w/ flour. Deep fry in oil until golden, but not fully cooked. Remove from oil and set aside. Combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C vinegar and carefully pour this into the oil. Sprinkle the ribs w/ approx. 1 Tbsp Five Spice and then add them back to the oil. Let simmer until the meat is fully cooked and softened from the bone.
Also, whenever we visit, she's constantly turning out bowls of fried rice, b/c she knows how much we love it. Day old rice, diced lop choong, minced green onion, sesame oil, sesame seeds, salt/pepper. Sometimes she also adds diced carrots and a scrambled egg, if she's got either handy. It's so simple, but delicious.
Sweet & Sour Ribs are known as "go lo yuk" in Cantonese. My mum's version of "go lo yuk" is similar to your granny's, except hers uses chopped green and red peppers and small chunks of pineapple to liven up the dish's appearance. She also mixes in the Five Spice with the flour before dusting the riblets. Unfortunately, this is also another one of Mum's dishes that I'm stll trying to master, so that's about all I know about her way of cooking this dish.
Was I the only chinese kid who had a permanent condensation on windows thanks to mom's constant steaming and boiling? Darn it, we needed a dehumidifier in Canada, even in the winter time when the heat is on! Dad has to empty that HUGE thing everyday.
Mom does a very tasty steam ginger mushroom chicken (cut into small pieces with bones). It's super tasty when steamed directly on the rice in the rice cooker. The rice soaks up all the juices...mmmmmm
Unfortunately, I really have no recollection of anything at all that my Hoo-hoo (calm down, folks, that means "maternal grandma"!) would cook...we lived a thousand miles away, and would only visit during the summer school break. Since that's when all my other cousins were out of school (I have about 25 first cousins on that side), EVERYBODY would be in town visiting. To keep things easier for Hoo-hoo, my mom and aunts would share the cooking load. The only thing I distinctly remember Hoo-hoo cooking was a soup that featured chicken feet in it. To this day, my brother and I talk about how that woman could slurp the meat from the bones of a chicken foot with scary precision and efficiency!
My brother has kids, 6 and 8 that love chicken feet dim sum style. It's kind of strange watching them fight over the chicken feet and really go to town on them. I've never acquired a taste for them. As an obnoxious young boy I would remind the family that we do not know where those chicken feet has been.
I have a sister who has acquired a chicken feet eating technique that maybe as good as ricepad's grandmother's .
Your grandma was definitely onto something there! There's actually a lot of not-authored-by-Chinese chicken stock recipes on the web and in cookbooks that advise the use of chicken feet, as they are extremely flavorful. I know it looks freaky as heck, so I never tell any non-Chinese person eating my soup that the feet are my little secret ;)
I did not enjoy eating my Grandmother food since I was born after they both passed away, but I have great memories of my Mothers and Fathers cooking. What they lacked in skill was more than made up with lots and lots love.
There were braised duck, chicken, pork and beef dishes.
Slow cooked soups and quick cooked soups.
The stir fry dishes along with the steamed fish plates.
Lucky I can cook them today. But there are no recipes, just taste and add sauces and spices.
But sadly there are the long lost dumplings both steamed and deep fried for Chinese holidays. I remember my Mother asking me to learn to make them and I wanted to out and play ball.
I fear that the next generation will have less and less dishes to share with the next.
I did enjoy the pictures on another website which someone who could write out recipes and post pictures.
Someday when I have nothing to do I should write down some of our family recipes. :>) not likely.
Like some of the previous replies above, my grandma makes a lot of simple meals but has never written down a recipe in her life. She's from the Fujian province in China, so her food is very southern...she does a lot of braising and stewing. One of my favorite dishes of hers is sea cucumber braised with fatty pork - the dark full flavored gravy of simmered juices is amazing over steamed white rice (I'm drooling as I think of it)!
Btw, for all the folks above who miss "jook" (congee) and don't know how to make it, here's my favorite recipe, which I learnt from mum:
(for 1 or 2 people)
3/4 cup rice grains
3 to 4 cups water
5 cloves of garlic
5 slices of ginger
2 skinless chicken drumsticks
2 'pei dan' (century egg)
Sesame Oil & Soy Sauce (to taste)
Shallot oil & fried shallots (optional)
Combine rice, water, garlic, ginger and chicken drumsticks in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer till rice is cooked to a consistency that you like (I like mine really sticky)- it usually takes anywhere between a half hour to an hour. Midway through the cooking process, remove and drain the chicken drumsticks, then shred them into small pieces with hands. Cut 'pei dan' into small pieces as well, then return shredded chicken and 'pei dan' bits into pot. Add sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.
Optional: Add a couple of teaspoons of fried shallots in shallot oil before serving. It's easy to make - thinly sliced shallots in a bowl, cover with vegetable oil, and microwave till deep golden brown and fragrant (make sure you keep an eye on it!).
Your mention of sea cucumber reminds me of a wonderful sea cucumber dish I had a long time ago. It was made from the dried and reconstituted muscles that occur in the animal lengthwise (so it can twist and turn). But whenever I order sea cucumber now, what is served is just chunks of the body, which have little taste and aren't worth eating IMO. Does this make any sense, and, if so, what are the muscles called so I can ask for them properly in our local Chinatown?
If I'm not mistaken, it's called "hoi sum" in Cantonese and "hai shen" in Mandarin. You're right, the sea cucumber itself tends to be rather tasteless on its own, hence the seasonings and foods it is cooked with is very important. A lot of Chinese restaurants tend to stir fry their sea cucumber with a green leafy veggie of some sort...this is definitely not my favorite version of it. What you're looking for is braised or long simmered hoi sum that's been cooked with a lot of aromatics and generally some sort of meat, as that's what gives it a richer flavor.
I'd attach the recipe of my grandma (and mum's!) that I love so much, except I haven't even learnt it myself unfortunately...
Thanks much for the information. This thread raises two important points:
1. My mother and grandmother were not very good cooks, so I do not wax nostalgic over many of their recipes, nor would I post them here, though I do miss one or two.
2. Those of you who had great cooks for parents or grandparents, PARTICULARLY THOSE FROM DISAPPEARING CULTURES, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET AND POST THOSE GREAT RECIPES! Point out to them that, despite possibly toiling in relative obscurity their whole lives, this is their chance to achieve immortality, e.g., Mrs. Chang's Tofu or whatever will be spread around the world through this and similar sites. Above and beyond that, by eating better, the world will become a better place through their posting. Doing so is using the internet to its best advantage.
I wish it was easy to write down recipes. My Mother would teach by saying "it looks like this", "it taste like that". "add some of this if it looks and taste that" and finally "you will know when it right".
A family member has alright said "nothing of you uncles make the dish the same way or with exactly the same ingredients but it all comes out tasting and looking the same"
Learning cooking from Chinese Grandmother was bonding relationship which knowledge and love was shared.
I do not think that is why so much is lost.
But some of us are trying.
Many of the foods mentioned by posters to this thread are familiar to me from my childhood, although some of them have different names. I have access to my mother's recipes,some of which came down to her through my grandmother. Is there any particular recipe you're especially anxious to have?
Sarah -- bless you for posting this! My Mom's family is from Toyshan but she didn't teach me to cook Chinese food and I am just plain horrible at it. I'm going to try and tackle these dishes. I would never have found them on my own - so, thank you so much! And thank you, scunge, for starting the thread.
Sweet Sarah... I checked your link and love your pictures. My grandmother didn't do most of the cooking in my house...mom did and my mother spent alot of time making soups for us so that would be her specialty. Grand-ma was good at deep frying!
For food it was simple steam ground pork with dried turnip & chinese sausage, steamed black bean ribs, steamed fish, beef stir-fry with almost every vegetable. My mom has passed away so I will use your website for some recipes I don't have either. I mostly got the recipes for the special occasions. I am Toyshan as well so the names may not translate as well. But for Chinese new year I made the Taro cake and tapioca dumplings stuffed with pork/chinese sausage, water chestnuts, peas, dried turnip, eggs. I don't imagine anyone would want to make these unless they are crazy like me, as they are far more work most people realize. I have a lot of recipes from my mom from Chinese new years but I don't have time to make them all so every year I make different ones..though I have been making the taro one for the last 2 years because it's easy and I like taro. Thanks all for their links ..I don't have a blog for my recipes but if anyone really, really wants it. I will check back and can write some of it out.
Those are not my postings, pictures or recipes! I'm just another second-gen who cannot cook the way my dad and mom (did) and does. Of course, no recipes are available, just the standard "you know when it's right"!! Huh? I'll never live down my one and only dim sum party fiasco...
I would appreciate any recipes.
alc - let me know how your dishes turn out!
Janine: please share the taro cake if you will! I love taro, too! Is it the steamed one dotted with chinese sausage and mushrooms that my auntie used to make around New Year's? I've got recipes and would like to attempt it, but have not yet gotten around to it.
Like others, my parents are of Toisan descent. I can fake simple home-style Chinese dishes, but miss the goodies that auntie used to make.....As a team effort, Mom and I would make the Chinese tamales but have not done that in a long time, it's a lot of work....She'd prep, I'd fold, she'd boil...Mine weren't pretty, but they were edible, and I do miss them!
Also....my parents used to make us a beef soup when we were younger, supposed to stimulate the appetite, typically made in winter....My dad put hard boiled eggs in with chunks of beef into a jug, and then place the jug in a soup pot with water, boil for a couple hours to extract the meat juices....Anyone familiar with this? I hear the boiled egg part might not be common.
At any rate, we tried to recreate this soup, this past weekend and suspect not enough meat - not much soup and it was kind of weak, probably needed to perk awhile longer......Very simple, tho, no herbs, just beef, eggs and a rice bowl of water.....
Great topic, thanks for sharing, everyone!
Okay here's the taro cake recipe I make
This will make about 1 large pan or 2 medium sized ones.
1 chunk of taro root about 3-4 cups
2 chinese sausage diced up
1 piece of pork diced up (size will depend on how much you like and I look at how it looks when it's all mixed in with everything else to see it looks uniform)
3-4 medium sized conpoy (dried scallops)
a good handful of dried shrimp
5 dried black mushrooms
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tsp white pepper
1 1/2-2 tsp salt
1 bag rice flour (400g)
1. Soak the dried stuff for 1/2 hour or longer for scallop. Save the water. Dice up mushrooms and remove hard piece in the scallop and break apart
2. Fry the mushrooms, shrimp, meat and garlic. (topping)
3. In another pot, cover the taro with just another water to cover and bring to just a boil. Then add rice flour and some water (how much? I don't know I will try to measure it this year...sorry folks..still didn't measure. Keep the heat just under high so that it will bubble and this will allow the taro to release the starch which you need to thicken. How much I put in went on looks. The mixture should look like creamy clam chowder soup. So that is how I judge if it needs more water or not or flour. Once it reaches that consistency, add s&p and 1/2 of the topping.
4. Pour into greased pan and sprinkle with the other half of the topping. Pan should be full but leave a bit of room for swelling. Steam for 30 minutes.
NB. some people like chopped green onion (green part only) on top and when it's done you can add that on and leave the lid on for a minute. It looks prettier with the colour but will not keep as long so I don't usually do it.
Thia Mi Gai Leung
Filling: make first as the dough will dry out
Fill with whatever suits your fancy, ours is filled with diced pork, chinese sausage, peas, finely diced dried turnip, scrambled eggs & dried shrimp. I also like diced up water chestnuts. This is all diced up and fried, salted before hand so it is room temperature when it is put into the dough. How much? well my mother had a favourite bowl she would fill and I go by looks. Uniform mixture of peas, meat and by taste as well. The water chestnuts give a good crunch and should not over take the saltiness of the meat etc. I usually make this the day before and let it cool and refrigerate overnight.
7 oz bag tapioca soaked overnight then drained
1 bag 14oz-16oz of wheat starch
1 tsp/tbsp shortening
Make a dough by mixing starch with boiling water. Use wooden chopsticks to mix enough water to form a dough. The dough should be dryish because the tapioca will be wet and adds moisture. Add drained tapioca and shortening and mix well to form a dough. I use a tortilla press lined with wax paper and roll 1 1/2" balls out and press into a circle. Otherwise if you use a rolling pin you make find it works to roll between 2 pieces of waxed paper and if it still sticks I think I grease the waxed paper as well sometimes.
Steam for 10-15 minutes until transluscent. This will make at least 4 trays of dumplings. The filling is salted so no dipping sauce is needed. It meant to be eaten room temperature as a snack.
I make doong every year in spring so if anyone is looking for a recipe for that..that is really easy compared to the dumplings. I also make the cheung foong from scratch and the deep fried dumplings, mah doohl and guy loeung. I'll check back later on to see if there are any other requests for those or others.
Also, when I was searching for recipes I did find a link on epicurious for taro cake though I make it like I mentioned above but I thought some of you may like to try it her way. there's several recipes from her book there. Her name is Grace Young..someone already mentioned her book.
6 potatoes peeled & mashed (we used to use sweet potatoes but my mother liked using softness of regular potatoes, so you can experiment)
2 bags of glutinous rice flour (may need a bit more depending on how wet your potatoes are)
Mix hot mashed potatoes with flour and abit of boiling water to make a dough. It should be dry to the touch but still a bit tacky. You will need floured hands to handle the dough.
Make into balls and press one side with sesame seeds then press/roll out to 1/8" thickness and fill with your favourite filling. And seal together to make a half moon shape.
We always made the filling the night before: diced up pork, chinese sausage, dried turnip, peas, scrambled eggs, a bit of green onion (white part only). Fried and salted of course.
The harder part was frying them. Best to toss in a piece of bread to see if the oil is hot enough. It should bubble. Then don't add too many. Slide them into the wok/pan and cook until golden. Best eaten fresh. If you make the dough too thick it will take longer to cook. My last comment was that I didn't make them thin enough and my family thought they were a bit too doughy (but they still ate them since no one else makes them!).
Well for the cheung foong..I'm sure you could find an easier recipe than mine but I will share how we've made them.
This is a rather large recipe.
Wash & soak 2 lbs of rice (nothing starchy so it has to be a rice that isn't too sticky when it cooks otherwise your cheung foong will be gummy) Also 2 lbs is a lot so you can always experiement with 1 cup of something.
Wash rice and soak the rice overnight or a least a few hours.
Using a blender (kitchenaid has a great motor), blend a bit of rice with boiled water (room temperature) until it is pulverized. If you don't add enough water, it will become a paste but you don't want to add too much otherwise you run the risk of making the batter too runny. So you have to play. If you don't have a kitchenaid or other powerful blender, then it takes about 5-10 minutes for each batch to beat. With the kitchenaid I found it only took about 3 minutes. Anyways, you repeat this process until all the rice is beaten. And put beaten rice in a pot or other container.
Add some salt to taste.
The batter should have a runny consistency that needs to be stirred. Otherwise, the rice will separate from the water. It reminds me of chalky milk.
It's best to do a test one before cooking.
My family makes them quite thin and fills them with dried shrimp, minced pork, dried turnip and egg. Made the day before and cooled.
Heat up water in pan wide enough to fit the cake or similar pan. Grease the pan with a bit of cooked oil. My mom used a piece of cut of ginger, dipped it in the cooked oil and greased the pan.
Stir batter and coat the bottom of the pan with scoop of batter. My family likes it thinly coated but if you want the dim sum kind they are thicker. Sprinkle your filling on top. I sprinkled mine all over. And put pan into frying pan/wok with boiling water in it/ or use steamer. Cover the pan/steamer and steam for 3 minutes for the thin ones and longer for the thicker ones. It should be rapidly boiling so the steam should be coming out of the top of your pan or it won't cook properly. When you open the steamer, if it's thin (I never make thick ones so I can't say), the batter should be bubbly looking from air pockets that lifted the batter.
Take pan out and using chopsticks to pick at one side of the pan and start to roll it and roll onto a square pan that is lined with oiled wax paper or your plate if this is your test one.
Taste for softness, saltiness, etc. Add extra room temperature boiled water a bit at a time as it is harder to fix that if you add too much. Anyways, if the batter seems good now then, continue making them until batter is used up.
Good luck! You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You're very welcome and its been my pleasure.I realize that many of the dishes from my Grandma's kitchen have been deleted.Just the other day I was in a Italian restaraunt with pictures of Palemo Sicily .The menu did not have any of those dishes I grew up eating such as Babaluci(snails) capocelle(lambs head) or the national dish of Sicily Pasta cu le sarde.The menu had the typical fare found in many Italian American restaurants gobs of mozzarella ,peasant dishes that take minutes to make at home for pennies at high prices such a macaroni with either greens or beans so I 'm on a journey not only to obtain my own cultures comfort foods but those that made others happy at the table some simple some more complex
Like mrsleny, my grandma did very plain every day cooking. Grandmother put dried citrus peel (a specialty from her village) in alot of savory things...including steam pork ribs, pork chops etc. I am not a fan of it, but in my family, it's better not to say anything! Otherwise I recall steam egg custard, steam meat loaf/patties for dinner.
She is a good cook, but doesn't do it all that often (she taught my mom, made mom cook for my mom's 6 younger siblings, as a result, my mom is quite bitter, but a much better cook). I do recall her kitchen always had some herbal soup/medicine brewing.
I am the only one of my grandma's grandkids who can (and am interested) in cooking, so I would love to know her Put Chai Ko (my mom could out cook grandma in everything except this, and no restaurant ever made one as good) recipe..but she isn't the teaching type, and I also suspect she thinks I don't understand chinese (I don't know her village dialect, which she unintentionally slips into).
My dad's family is from say yep (four counties), his county was Hoiping, we spoke Toishan which was the dialect of say yep. My grandmother would cook in country style from that region. Growing up I hated it. As an adult I realize the the following dished she cooked was quite good.
Jook (congee}, with salted duck eggs that she salted in jars and lop choong (Chinese sausages}.
Doong, sticky rice, eggs, lop choong, peanuts, dried shrimp steamed in wrapped lotus leafs.
Steamed pork cake.
Salted Fish, that she salted and dried out in the backyard covered in a screen to keep the flies off.
She also had a garden in the back yard growing bitter melon and winter melon.
I haven't thought about the food of my paternal grandmother in years.
Sorry she didnot have recipes, if she did it would have been in Chinese and like all of her grandchildren we are functional illiterates.
Put Chai Ko is this: http://www.leisure-cat.com/frm_1198.htm Wikipedia has the wrong picture.
Unfortunately I don't read Chinese so I really have no idea what the heck is in it (all I know is that grandma's taste great). If anyone could translate that recipe I would appreciate it :)
My family is cantonese, but it's not Toisan dialect my grandma has. It's some really local dialect I don't even know the name of (if it has one), I understand some of it...but most is gibberish to me. No one in the family speaks it but grandma, but they all understand it. I was the only grandkid that didn't live with grandma full time, so I never learned it.
I don't cook Chinese food that often, especially since mine never turn out as good as mom's!
But I do a very good jook(congee), steam custard, decent black bean garlic steam spareribs, wontons.
Neither mom or grandma cook by recipes, they do it all by instinct, so nothing is written down. Even when my mom teach me to cook something, it's usually just a list of ingredients. I figure out if it's the correct amount by the smell and look.
Unfortunately, my brother is a by the recipe kind of cook, and in my (pathetic) attempt to ween him off greasy takeaway & delivery food, try to write down the recipes for him. He once thought to make jook, you used MORE rice to get the thickness...needless to say he made a big old soggy mess! We still laugh at him about it :D Anyways, I have the jook, wonton, custard recipes (somewhere eons ago) on my blog http://360.yahoo.com/apyf
We just returned from a short visit to Hong Kong last week (last we were there was 1996), and one of the things my mom made us smuggle back are precious aged dried citrus peel from grandma's village/area. They are precious because the area doesn't have many orchards any more.
If you do have large Chinese markets then next time you go then ask the staff where they have the dried herb section. Then there should be prepackaged herbs for soup. Then you could buy a couple of kinds and hopefully there is English instructions on the package. Many do not require black skinned chicken. Unless it says black skinned chicken then any chicken will do. Many required just a piece of pork for the pot.
Then after trying a package mix and you find it to your taste you should take the package to a Chinese herb store and ask them to pick the ingredients out of stock. You will find fresher and nicer ingredients there. The prepackage soups are not fresh or high end ingredients.
I am sorry to say I do not know of any cookbooks still in print with recipes. I once saw one a friend had from Taiwan (out of print for over forty years) which had nothing but herbal soup recipes. I have had friends try to find this book but no luck.
For those who still have Mother and Grandmother better get the recipes before they are gone froever.
Scunge: if you can't find the prepackaged soup herbs as mentioned by Yimster, here's what I always have around to throw into the pot for a simple Chinese soup -
goji berries AKA Chinese wolfberry (they look like little dry red seeds)
conpoy AKA dried scallop ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conpoy
My favorite go-to soup when I'm short on time is to place raw pork ribs in a pot of water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and skim the grossness that floats to the top. After 10-15min of constant skimming, the ribs and liquid it's been cooking go into my slow cooker, to which I add fresh corn chunks and fresh diced carrots. A handful of goji berries, 1 dried octopus cut into pieces, and 5-6 conpoy are added before covering the crockpot and setting it to cook on low for 7-10 hours. Salt to taste before serving (I find it generally needs very little), and you have a well-balanced way to end your day!
Also, if you do use a prepackaged herbal soup, check to see if it's chicken or pork that you need (it's very rarely any other kind of meat). Don't forget to remove as much chicken skin and fat as you can, as you'll wind up with a very oily soup otherwise - I do it as I like eating the soup right away, but if you have the time to let the fat congeal in the fridge you can skip this step. Just remove the layer of fat on top before reheating.
If this helps, my favorite prepackaged Chinese soups are generally by a company called Eu Yan Sang...those have English directions on the back.
Okay I'm replying in 2 spots because I have 2 things to answer. Here's a great link I found for making chinese soups as I decided it would be the next thing I tackle now that I've made alot of the Chinese new year recipes.
She has some great tips ...I can't even remember how I found her but I think I was looking for chinese soups and found her.
There's a lot of history and folklore about the herbal soup/remedies-- traditionally, soup made from black skinned chicken is considered a restorative but is thought to be harmful for people with certain medical conditions (ie. cancer). I'm not sure how much of it I believe, but thousands of years of experimentation can't be all be untrue. Anyways, my point is that you might want to do a little research before you start making/drinking a lot of herbal soups/remedies.
My grandmother didn't cook for us, although she did cook for herself--she lived alone in a second floor walk up till she was 93! The two things we always had when she came to stay with us (a week or two at a time) were jook (rice porridge) and Rice Krispies Treats. Sorry, no recipe for jook but you can find the Rice Krispies recipe on the box!
You know the thing is I'm pretty sure my grandmother never had written recipes, everything was from memory and experience.
Same way with my mom now, everything she makes is just by feel and intuition. Which is why to this day, I make sure I have my mom show me how to cook everything she knows, at least once. So far, I think I've mastered dumplings, stir-fried pickled mustard greens, mi-fen, beef noodle soup, and her own special chicken soup.
Not sure if many people would eat what my Chinese grandma cooks. Sorry, no recipes. These very basic peasant type meals include:
- steamed dried anchovies
- pickled veg braised with soy beans
- steamed meat patties
- steamed egg custard
- stir fried greens with fermented bean curd
- braised cabbage with dried shrimp
- dried bok choy soup
i love all those things, especially fermented bean curd and greens, they go best with crispy hallow greens i think, yum.
I would add:
-egg, scallions and tomato
-"kafu" (marinated gluten??)
-bitter melon and pork strips
-stewed pork shoulder with fat
-any time of steamed fish and ginger with soy oil drizzle
-homemade scallion pancakes filled with pork
it's funny cuz my non asian friends are scared to s*** of fermented soy bean. i also add it to friend egg sandwiches and shredded dry pork between toasted english muffins...and it's one of those things like spicy food, you could eat only a little at first, but then you develop resistance, so you have to eat more and more. i used to be only able to eat half a cube of fermented soy bean with porridge, not i practically need half the jar =P